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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April 2005, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Norwegians recruit cuddly Vikings
Viking at Shetland's Up Helly Aa festival, Jan 2005
The Norwegians want to soften the Vikings' warlike image
A Norwegian heritage site is keen to recruit friendly, playful Vikings - so axe-wielding vandals need not apply.

Lars Kobro, manager of the Midgard Historical Centre south of Oslo, says the Vikings' reputation as wild, murderous looters is a distortion.

"We know they were like us - farmers, traders, skilful at handicrafts," he told the BBC News website.

The centre needs staff to act as Vikings "who have a good sense of humour and like to play", he said.

Exotic food

The centre in Vestfold county was opened in 2000. It gets about 25,000 visitors annually and wants some 50 part-time Vikings to provide a realistic experience for tourists.

Viking food will be one of the attractions.

"Their cuisine had lots of exotic ingredients because they travelled. They used garlic, herbs - it wasn't a primitive cuisine," said Mr Kobro.

"We will be barbecuing whole sheep," he added.

Knowledge of old Norse is not a requirement of the job - but modern Vikings must speak English and German, he said.

He said he was inspired by the UK's Jorvik Viking Centre in York, England, which holds an annual festival in February.

And how do you train Vikings? Not a problem, Mr Kobro replied.

"We have lots of hobby Vikings who do ordinary jobs, but act as Vikings in their spare time, for festivals," he said. "We just need to gather them together and give them roles."

He dismissed the notion that real-life Vikings could turn the Midgard Centre into a Disneyland-style theme park.

"We are experts in the Viking period. We want to stick to archaeological accuracy - so no helmets with horns."

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