A Question of Vikings and Stripey Trousers.

Last year, purely by accident (my carrying some part-painted Axemen of Lossarnach past him at the end of my lunch break) a co-worker spotted my “little men” and actually recognised what they were – specifically LotR models. It turned out that after (sort of) working together for a year or so (we work in different areas of the workplace), unbeknownst to each other there was another hobbyist in the place. Skipping over why we still haven’t managed to schedule a game yet, we’ve traded some odds and bods each way, and late last year he cornered me and rather generously insisted very strongly that I accept some of his unused Viking models – wanting me to take an entire SAGA warband’s worth of them. I was hesitant to accept, since I’ve got a ton of stuff already, but eventually he wore me down and I accepted. Since he asks me every so often if I’ve started painting them, I’ve now decided to paint them up a dozen or so at a time and hopefully help to motivate him to do some painting as well, as he’s been planning to knock out a big block of 50 Vikings in one hit over a fortnight off for at least 6 months now. I’ve told him about the monthly challenge on Dakka, and he’s warmed to the idea of completing a dozen models a month as a more realistic goal.

My WIP Vikings. Just add colour!

So last week I started these. Doing about half an hour of “monkey work” each night after work. Filing metal bases, gluing them down to plastic rounds, adding acrylic putty to the bases, spray undercoating, sanding the bases, then painting the sand. Blacking out the metal parts, drybrush, highlight drybrush, wash…

Stripey and colourful Foundry Vikings. Image stolen from Alternative Norse Miniatures article on Frothers. Check it out!

But now I’m a bit stuck. I want them to look reasonably realistic. They’ll still retain my overall “clean” style, but I want the colours to be appropriate. Browsing various galleries of Viking miniatures tends to show them painted in the same way that many Celt models are painted. Very bright colours, stripey trousers… I dunno. It just seems like they might be barking down the wrong tree.

The same sort of palette (though more muted) can also be found on Gripping Beast’s website.

I know I wasn’t worried about being historically accurate with the Spartans recently and was happy to go for a “Hollywood Style” combination of Lambdas and Corinthian Helmets, though I was wanting to be reasonable with the colours. I did the same with my T-34s for Bolt Action simply because I wanted to get some Red iconography on them despite most Red army tanks of the period and type not having red stars, etc. For whatever reason, I want to get the Vikings more accurate than that same “Hollywood Style”. Television teaches us that “The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants”, after all… 😉

The Vikings, from THP gallery/Elizabeth Sneed

My googling found me quite a good article on Viking clothing on The Hollywood Reporter’s website of all places (yes, really), including an attached gallery. No stripes to be had, but a smallish variety of muted colours.

I’ve got access to Osprey Elite 3 (Vikings) where Angus McBride’s wonderful colour plates only show striped trousers on a Rus/Eastern Viking (pictured on the cover), and Osprey Men at Arms 85 (Saxons/Vikings/Normans) where once more, the plates (G.A.Embleton) again show a variety of muted colours, but no stripes.

Of course, the models I have here are the nicest ones from the batch given to me, and many of them have capes or look like leaders in some form or another, so a unit destined to provide my Hearthguard in SAGA – and as elites in other wargames. So they’ll be painted a little fancier than others. Still, I’m wanting to know if I should stay with mono-colours on their clothing, with perhaps a differently coloured hemline or some patterning on cloaks at the most – and is striped clothing the historical no-go that it seems to be, despite being painted so often on seemingly everyone’s Viking models?

I know there are at least a few people who read this who are far more well-versed in this than I am. Any ideas?

12 thoughts on “A Question of Vikings and Stripey Trousers.

  1. Well, not being one of the more well-versed to which you refer, I’d say that I prefer the idea of a more historically accurate approach… that said, it does sound like they might end up a bit bland for table top viewing… Why not try the mono/accurate approach on a test piece and trust your eye?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. On painting vikings my only and wisest advice is: put on some Amon Amarth, pump up the volume, crack open darker color pots and let the mood guide your painting. You can’t go wrong =)
    On Saga, I strongly recommend the game. Great system, really. To the point I love the game even if usually I’m not interested in historical games at all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Actually the Vikings were very flamboyant. Those that had gone on plunder or traiding trips wanted to show off what they got. They got silk from China and journeyed to Constantinople so any bright patterns would be used for making clothes with. Gaudy, bright clashing colours were very popular and worn if you wanted to show off. Basically, those wearing muted earthy tones would be serfs (slaves) or farmers of lower status.

      However, not all dyes were colourproof so they often ended up faded and pastel-like — red turned pink for instance — so wearing clothes that were not faded (either new or re-dyed) showed you were wealthy.

      The Viking TV-show is very wrong on many accounts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Some good points. I’ll probably give the Warlord and parts of the Hearthguard more lavish clothing while leaving the completely drab stuff for the regulars and levy. That should work nicely enough for distinction between different “types” of model/troops on the table. On the TV show, I’d naturally expect any TV or film production (and not a few docos to boot!) to have inaccuracies, but this show does seem to have done more research than many. Which of course doesn’t mean that it’s 100% accurate, but more elements will be accurate than a lot of other dramatic depictions – and so not a bad source of inspiration to paint toy soldiers as long as it’s tempered with other sources.


    • Just checked out their “Deceiver of the Gods” video on YouTube. Some great imagery, and they’re clearly fans of the whole LotR/D&D genre as well, but the music’s just not my preferred brand of heavy stuff. I’m on a Soundgarden/Audioslave kick right now, so they’ll have to sub in instead. 😉


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