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The notion of a study titled “How the Scandinavians Became White” might sound scandinavian/american whiteface 41 slightly oxymoronic, but some historical evidence suggests that Scandinavian immigrants did not pass unproblematically into American whiteness. The first recorded “post-Viking” Scandinavian immigrants came from Sweden in 1638. In the name of the Swedish crown they founded New Sweden (in present-day Delaware), but the colony fell to the Dutch in 1665 and was later absorbed by the English.

In my reading of the film and the conditions of its production, Sjöström radically adapts and reimagines Leonid Andreyev’s 1914 Russian symbolist play He Who Gets Slapped (Tot kto poluchayet poshchechiny), as a deeply personal exilic narrative that expresses his own conflicted “foreign émigré / native son returned” situation in the United States. While Andreyev’s play took place entirely in one backstage set and never really explained who the clown “He” might have been earlier, Sjöström’s scenario entirely invents a back story and motivation for “He”—through the traumatized and exilic character of scientist Paul Beaumont.

When the fresh fires of youth burned in the blood of men . . ”23 The key suggestion of “blood” in implied racial terms emerges here, just as it did in the prologue for The Covered Wagon. ” The rhetoric reinscribes eugenicist notions of races as being distinct entities that organically and mimetically mirror the progressive arc of a human life. 25 The Viking channels these same sociocultural currents through its own gender politics. In the film’s opening scenes in a Northumbrian castle, Lord Alwin lives comfortably in a domesticated female world, surrounded by his doting mother and younger sisters, who are all either 26 chapter one singing, sewing, praying, or playing with kittens.

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