Our modern picture of the Vikings was created by Scandinavian writers and artists during an age of nationalism, as a means to establish a distinguished, honourable past for Swedes, Danes and Norwegians. That interpretation not only gives us a false picture of our history, it also obscures historical and archaeological facts and discoveries which, if we had chosen to accept them, would have provided us with a significantly more colourful and nuanced view of our past.
Dick Harrison explains
Whenever a Swede starts to discuss their country’s history with people from abroad, the conversation turns almost immediately to the Vikings. It’s usually the only thing they know about Sweden’s past. And if an interest in history has brought them here, they will almost always want to see remains from Viking times. To put it bluntly: the Vikings are how the world sees us. And yet they are also one of the most lied about, misrepresented figures in our country. Almost nothing that the tourist industry mentions about the Vikings is true, with the omnipresent horned helmets as one classic, ineradicable example. Sweden in general and Stockholm in particular have long had a need for an accessible tourist attraction that presents our Nordic ancestors in a correct historical perspective, and what is more, attracts visitors who would normally not take the time to visit a more traditional museum. I can scarcely think of a better solution to this than Vikingaliv.