Viking Night: Erik the Viking
By Bruce Hall
June 18, 2013
All great things are said to have humble origins, and this column is no different. For so it was many years ago, I found myself among friends with nothing to do on a Friday night. We decided to have a Gen-X potluck - someone said they were bringing a rotisserie chicken, I drew beverage duty and my friend J was told to bring something on VHS (kids: this is like a DVD except the picture stinks and playback requires a bulky machine the size of a Prius). J called me to ask what movie it should be, and naturally I suggested something violent with lots of explosions. Meanwhile, he was babbling about a cerebral Viking warrior who gets tired of battle and embarks on an epic journey to bring peace and light to his people.
I replied that a Viking movie without battles might as well be Sleepless in Seattle.
And so a mighty compromise was reached. We would watch Erik the Viking, and I would make a very strong and culturally appropriate beverage (something called Glogg). Also, as we consumed the chicken we would hurl the bones into the fireplace, because Vikings. The event was a great success, and there was indeed much feasting, and verily did the Glogg flow that evening. In fact it went so well that it became a semi regular thing, and of those days there are many a great tale of merriment and dumbassery. But what of Erik the Viking? Was it good, bad, or meh? And how could a Viking movie with so little killing in it possibly be compelling to people whose primary interest in Viking culture was the bad table manners?
Well, there’s a reason we started calling it Viking Night.
First of all, easily the best thing about Erik the Viking is Tim Robbins, whose schoolboy earnestness is ideal for a character who's like a fish out of water among his own people. Erik is a forward thinking Viking who has begun to question the sustainability of a pillage-based economy. When we meet him, he's discussing this in the middle of battle with an unfortunate maiden named Helga (Samantha Bond), whom he just can’t bring himself to violate. He's attracted to her wit, her logic, and her quaint assertion that there must be more to life than conquest and destruction. Erik is strangely drawn to her, the way people are when they're meant to be together. So it's sad when he accidentally and totally stabs her to death, defending her from two of his horny comrades.
Stricken with guilt and disenchanted with the ways of his people, Erik takes to the mountains, where he consults with an ancient mystic. Freya (Eartha Kitt) tells him that war and darkness has descended upon the land, and only by finding a mythical artifact called the Horn of Resounding can he save his people. The question is, are his people worth being saved? After brief consultation with his unrepentantly barbaric grandfather (Mickey Rooney), Erik decides the answer is no - but he resolves to kill two birds with one stone. He will find the Horn, use it to banish the Darkness, but he will also bring Helga back from the land of the dead. Guilt over her death has convinced him he’s in love with her, and it's quickly obvious that Helga's soul is not the only one being saved here.