‘Vicky the Viking,’ a hero of (very) early morning kids television when I was growing up, had me utterly mesmerised as I watched the small cartoon boy and his dad sailing the high seas in search of adventure. I wanted to be Vicky, who, at the time, I thought was a girl… I wanted to wear a supercool hat with horns, fight Viking lords and have awesome adventures. I wanted to BE a Viking!
Skip ahead to my first year away at uni – I was beside myself with excitement to discover a leaflet in the Tourist Info Centre boasting a ‘Walking Tour of Viking Norwich’. Wow – my hometown of Colchester had the Romans, which was cool enough, but Norwich had VIKINGS?! I had to do this tour. Sadly, there were no actual Vikings, instead I was faced with lots of bridges and waterways where the Vikings “may or may not” have once sailed. In a word, the tour was ‘lame’.
No matter, jump ahead 5 years to 2006 and I found myself dressed as a Viking in the authentic smelling ‘streets’ of Jorvik in modern day York.
I was in my element. The connection that I’d felt with Vicky the Viking as a child came swimming back to me. The metal helmet, the sword, the shield – there just had to be Viking blood coursing through my veins. And this feeling was still strong when I visited York again in 2016.
Imagine my delight when it was announced in the media that a link had been found between the Vikings and Multiple Sclerosis. As flimsy a link as it appeared to be, this was one causal theory that just had to have some truth in it! ‘The Viking Hypothesis’ claims that wherever Vikings journeyed there is a higher incidence of MS – the theory being that promiscuous Vikings spread a mutant autoimmune gene throughout Northern Europe and beyond*. The Scottish island of Orkney has the highest rates of MS in the world and also played host to one of the larger Viking settlements back in the day. Surely it is no coincidence that my own ancestry (verified by DNA testing) is very Scottish with a nice (un)healthy dollop of Scandinavian thrown in for good measure – turns out I’ve been a Viking all along!
*There is, of course, a much stronger argument for the prevalence of MS in Scotland being linked to lack of Vitamin D and distance from the equator, but I personally find the Viking theory way more interesting.