The first thing anyone learns about Vikings is that they had horns on their helmets. The second thing is that they didn’t. From there, surprisingly, things get easier.
And yet, it seems like most of pop culture skipped that second lesson. They skipped it so hard that this has become the easiest way to identify Vikings. Hell, at an uneducated glance, Vikings are only identifiable by a characteristic they didn’t have.
FYI, that second lesson goes a bit like this: horned helmets, if they did ever exist, were purely ornamental. In battle they add extra weight, for reduced utility. The second someone lands a blow on the horns, it will either jerk your head to one side, or chop the horn off. But they look *so majestic*!
Hell, the first thing modern culture does, if it wants to portray any kind of historical (or particularly fantasy) northerner, is whack a pair of horns on them.
My point is this; compared to almost any other foreign culture (remember these guys were pagans, from Scandinavia), they have endured incredibly well. They have made a significant impact on popular culture. And maybe that is, in part, because they are so recognisable.
I’d welcome your thoughts in the comments section. You might also be interested in this blog, where I trash the ‘Vikings’ series.