Beast, berserker, blood, fantasy, folklore, Fool Moon, gods, horror, Jim Butcher, myth, Odin, paranormal, Rage, Rudolf Simek, Scandinavia, Shapeshifter, She-bear, Snorri, Supernatural, urban fantasy, Ursel, Vikings, werebears, weres, werewolves, writing
Since I am currently reading Jim Butcher’s Full Moon, this berserker post is in tribute.
A berserker has some connotative symptoms—most evidently is the term berserk, as in going berserk. A man that becomes beside himself with so much rage or fury that he doesn’t seem human anymore. One may say that this man has given his self-control and reasoning abilities to the beast within him. Supernatural strength is endowed on the enraged man either by the beast with in him or some other supernatural power and given him more strength and more deadly determination to harm and defeat his enemies than he had before he became so angry or berserk.
The berserkers were a name given to a tribe of warriors that tossed aside their armor during battles in savage joy, but wore only bearskin skirts to dedicate their fight to the goddess, Ursel, the she-bear.
Viking berserkers donned wolf coats as they charged into battle, howling like wolves to give their enemies warning that these men were a cross between beast and man. They were also believed to change their shapes and become more vicious during their attack.
However, the oldest reference to the berserkers was in the thirteenth century—a poem composed to honor the Norwegian king Harald Fairhair after his victory at Hafrsfjord in about 872. It read as such: “Odin’s men went [into battle] without armor and were as wild as dogs or wolves. They bit their shields and were stronger than bears or bulls. They killed many men but they themselves were unharmed either by fire or by iron; this is what is called berserkgangr [berserk-fury]” (Steiger 33). Snorri, the author, made a connection between Odin (the god of cult ecstasy), the berserkers, and the ulfhenoar (wolfskins), saying that these beasts were Odin’s warriors. Rudolf Simek speculates, however, that these beasts were formed from “special forms of old masked cults in Scandinavia, which manifest themselves in the existence of masked bands of warriors dedicated to Odin” (Steiger 34).
The berserker has made its way into popular texts, such as Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead novel, the film version of Lord of the Rings by Peter Jackson (the Urk army), and it has even made an appearance in a popular video game: Gears of War 3. This is when a player shifts his character into Beast Mode, or Berserker Rampage:
Want to know more? Here’s a link!
Steiger, Brad. The Werewolf Book: the Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1999. Print.