Mythical Monday: Berserkr Bloodlust by Mae Clair

Happy Mythical Monday, friends! Let’s start today with a question–how would you like to face a towering, snarling, foaming-at-the-mouth Norse warrior whose sole purpose in life was to bring destruction and death?

No? Well, “Berserkrs” as they were known, lived for the sole intent of wreaking havoc on their enemies. Brutal, blood-thirsty kill-at-all cost havoc. These guys were specialized warriors who normally dressed in a shirt or coat made from the pelt of a bear–which they probably mauled to death with their teeth and hands. Okay, author opinion. Point is they were lethal.

bigstock-Sexy-powerful-warrior-screamin-39922279As much as I’m a fan of Norse mythology, the legend of Berserkrs is not one I can warm up to. When under the influence of the berserkergang (the fit of madness that drove normally sane men to become killing machines), a Berserkr didn’t have the mental capacity to tell friend from foe. Bad news if you had one in the family.

The fit could befall them in battle but also when engaged in physical labor. Intense toil of any kind paved the way for a trance-like state, during which the Berserkr could perform feats impossible for mere mortals. The onslaught usually began with a bout of shivering and teeth-chattering. The man’s face swelled and changed color, all signals for anyone in the vicinity to hightail it in the opposite direction. Once consumed by the berserkergang, the man flew into a blind rage, howling like an animal, destroying everything in his path. Neither fire nor iron had any effect on a Berserkr. Clubs and blunt instruments were the best defense, but the odds of bringing a Berserkr down were slim. When the episode was over, the man succumbed to a feeble state of mind which could last for days.

There are some people who attribute the werewolf legend to Berserkrs, one an offshoot of the other. In some tales, a Berserkr is able to change into animal form and become a bear or wolf. It’s also rumored certain medical conditions or consuming food or drink with psychoactive drugs was responsible for creating the berserkergang.

Some Nordic warriors deliberately sought to induce the madness by working themselves into a blood fury before combat. Many times they strode naked into battle but for a bear skin. Reputation and terror were great for leveling a battlefield. If you saw a gigantic nude warrior charging toward you howling like an animal, impervious to swords and fire, you’d hoist the surrender flag and turn tail. Exactly what many of the Norsemen’s foes did.

I enjoy reading about Vikings. I especially love a good Viking romance with a Norse hero. Just leave the berserkgang tendency someplace else please. What about you? Are you a Viking girl/guy  or do you prefer another type of hero/heroine in your stories?

26 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: Berserkr Bloodlust by Mae Clair

  1. I happen to love the vikings… Norse warriors (at least in my imagination) were something to behold and I love a good romance where they are the hero… However, I can also fall quite easily for a knight in bent up, beat up, tarnished armor….

    Great post Mae…. And, I too, will stay away from the Berserkrs…those guys are crazy…

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    • LOL! They definitely do seem hard to warm up to. I’m with you on a good Norse hero though. And knights are nice too. Or even Rangers from the Revolutionary War era 😉

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  2. LOL, I love the whole berserker myth since Karen Marie Moning touches on them in her Highland romances. I love the idea of a rampaging madman made insane by any threat to his woman!

    I can see how berserkers are a lot like werewolves, turned into monsteres for a short time by outside factors. Great post!

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    • Thanks Jessi. It’s definitely interesting how the werewolf legend and Berserkr legend have cross over. Hmmm…Karen Marie Moning. I’m going to have to look up those Highland romances 🙂

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  3. I have mixed feelings on the berserkers. My good commonsense says, “Stay away!” but I also find them fascinating, as I do with many dangerous things, I’m afraid. In any case, it begs the question, what were their private lives like? Were they truly feared or revered behind their backs? That to me could make an interesting story. I’m already concocting some twisted, dramatic things to inflict on my poor berserker.

    As to Viking romance, I don’t know. I have never read one, but I very much want to. I love Vikings. It’s only logical that I would probably enjoy a romance featuring them.

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    • As far as we know, the cause for berserkergang was attributed to the consumption of muscaria mushrooms, a fungi that grows in the Scandinavian region, which releases a powerful hallucinogenic toxin called bufotenin (which is contained in some poisionous frogs as well).

      The way bufotenin works is it blocks seretonin (thus they would feel no pain) and it constricts the blood vessels (color in their face changing).

      This would not effect their personal lives however. The mushrooms would only be consumed before battle, so there would be no imminent danger to any loved
      ones or innocent bystanders.

      As far as if they were feared or revered behind their backs, to the Norse, becoming a Berserker was not for the faint of heart, but they were the most revered warriors in Norse culture. They were essentially the Viking “Special Forces” equivalent, seeing as how every man, woman, and child had some form of combat training, so there were no “specialized battalions” of any kind, which in all honesty made the Norse that much deadlier. The Norse were trained in one on one combat, that was how they fought. Against armies that only knew how to fight in a unit such as the Romans, they had the ultimate advantage through the use of divide and conquer, as well as scare tactics.

      But I digress. Berserkers were normal people in their everyday lives. Farmers, blacksmiths, fishermen. But on the battlefield they were some of the most feared warriors in history. The Norse believed that the only way to Valhalla was through an honorable death in combat, but fear in the face of battle is inevitable, it’s a human emotion. Berserkers, through the use of the hallucinogens, were able to remove any trace of fear or remorse, and essentially become a perfect fighting machine.

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      • Thank you for all of that info, Phillip, I did stumble across the information of muscaria mushrooms while compiling this post. It made me think of peyote and how it plays into many Native American myths. Hmmm… I must delve into some of them.

        I find so much about folklore mesmerizing, especially the roots of where these legends originated. Thanks for dropping by my blog and checking out the post!

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    • Yes, I think you would probably love them 🙂 I didn’t realize you had a Berserkr story in the hopper. Now I’m really intrigued and will eagerly be looking forward to learning more about that! BTW–Happy Release Day for RED AND THE WOLF. I hope you’re having a great one!!

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  4. Sorry about the double post Mae! I thought my last comment didn’t go through! If you need any help in your research, whether the historical or mythological side, let me know, I’d be more than happy to help!

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    • No problem, I appreciate the information you shared. Your comments just got hung up in my pending queue. It won’t be a problem now that I’ve approved them. I’m actually writing a contemporary, although I love myth and enjoy sharing tidbits about it on my blog. Looks like Laura has a beserkr character in the works! You definitely shared some great info for her to draw upon!

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      • Well I’m very happy I could help! 🙂 I come from a long line of Norse ancestors, so teaching and helping others with all of their Norse needs is one of my passions

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  5. I don’t fancy running into a beserkr. Now if a Viking along the lines or Eric Northman from True Blood was to wander my way, I’d be quite happy to welcome him.

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  6. Your take on them made me laugh. Yes – I can see how they’d be frightening, but what an awesome sight to behold (from a distance) if they were defending your town instead of attacking it!

    I’ve read at least one Viking romance novel… years ago. Hmmm… maybe I should find it and read it again.

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    • Hi, Lorraine. Glad you enjoyed my post 🙂 They would be something to see ….from a distance, LOL. Having a guy like that defend you would be utterly amazing. Yum! Oooh, Vicking romances!.whenever I see a new one come along I always check it out. I don’t read all of them but there are some great ones out there!

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  7. Hi Mae. I used to read a lot of Johanna Lindsay back in the day. And there were plenty of hunky Norsemen. I don’t think they were berserkrs though. Thanks for the great post. I wonder if you have a touch of the writing berserkr in you, as I don’t know how you keep up with your writing, your blog and everything else.

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    • Hi, Mary! I think I’ve read a few Johanna Lindsay back in the day too, though I can’t remember a specific title. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 And hmmm…I like that aspect of having a bit of a berserkr in me. There are times I’m really not sure how I keep up with everything, LOL. I guess it’s because I love writing and blogging so much. Thanks so much for commenting!

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  8. Total coincidence…I just happen to be reading a book about a berserkr – Kresley Cole’s Dreams Of A Dark Warrior from the Immortals After Dark series. In it the Berserkrs goes through berserkrage when the woman they feel is “theirs” is being hurt, threatened, or taken from them by another male. The “Bear” in them takes control and they will do anything to protect what is theirs. Great post with great timing Mae! 🙂

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    • Wow, that IS great timing. I’m going to have to check out the book. I’ve heard of Kresley Cole’s novels before. Definitely sounds like a series I would like. Thanks for sharing, L.J.!

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  9. Well, I never heard of berserkers before. Guess that’s where “going berserk” comes from. Very interesting, especially the connection to warewolves.
    I have a Viking romance in my eBook TBR file, by Michelle Styles. I should move that up to the top of the list.

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    • Yep, I would imagine “going berserk” came from that Viking mythology. Interesting how it all connects. Oh, and Viking romances are always a good read. I have a few tucked in my TBR pile too!

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  10. Yes to Viking– absolutely ‘heck nah’ to this beserkr guy! Although I swear one these beserkr dudes was in a car behind me today.
    Again, Mae–you really bring us the most interesting tales on Mythical Monday! Sounds like this one though, won’t be getting a starring role in one your books. 🙂
    Very interesting the background Phillip shared with us about the mushrooms. I could really see some Hero packing ‘shrooms to handle his business though– forcing his own transformation into a beast but never hurting his love ones. Hmm? Sounds very interesting.

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    • I agree 100% with your way of thinking, Venice–Yes Viking; No Berserkers. Funny about the guys in the car behind you today. Eesh! Of course, we don’t want them going into berskergang and road rage!

      Phillip was great, wasn’t he? He really had a lot to add. You’re right though, I don’t think a Berserkr will end up in one of my books any time soon, LOL!

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