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Being a Viking ain’t what it used to be

Hagar the Horrible, 7/26/04

As a former professional historian in training, I can assure you that the Vikings were a thoroughly nasty lot. They pillaged, destroyed, raped, maimed, enslaved, and looted their way across northern Europe for several centuries. There was a set prayer in the Irish church’s prayer book that went, “From the fury of the Norsemen, oh Lord, protect us.” Thus, I have to believe that the spirits of thousands of Viking warriors in Valhalla moan with disgust every day when they read Hagar the Horrible.

Two aspects of this strip caught my eyes. First, the flag: frankly, I’m impressed that Chris Browne executed a semi-decent Scandinavian flag here. Hagar supposedly lives in Norway, so maybe that’s what the flag is supposed to be, though the shoddy coloring job makes it look as if it’s the flag of Normandy. If we take the Old Norse sagas as our guide, though, it’s probably more accurate to imagine that it’s his own personal banner, and that as Hagar says, he’s carving out a private chiefdom for himself in this bleak and deserted land, where he will preside over his men’s council as they spar over women, fight their blood enemies, and loot the weaker races around them. Thus it’s all the more disappointing that Hagar talks real estate with the first local he sees, rather than roasting him alive in a sacrifice to Odin.

Which brings me to my next observation. What exactly is the deal with this guy’s outfit? People in Hagar the Horrible have very specific clothes based on their profession, so I’ve seen this get-up before, but I can’t for the life of me tell what it’s supposed to represent. He looks not unlike a goth pastry chef, to be honest.

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