A bit later than usual for this blog, but a good excerpt in the Scotsman from Robert Ferguson's The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the Vikings.
In the absence of historical documentation from Scotland to compare with the Annals of Ulster or the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Anglo-Saxon monk Alcuin's letter of bewildered distress to King Ethelred of Northumbria in the wake of a Viking attack in 793 on Lindisfarne must stand for the reaction of all those other communities on the fringes of northern Britain who were victims of the first furious onslaught of Viking violence over subsequent decades:"We and our fathers have now lived in this fair land for nearly three hundred and fifty years, and never before has such an atrocity been seen in Britain as we have now suffered at the hands of a pagan people. Such a voyage was not thought possible. The church of St Cuthbert is spattered with the blood of the priests of God."
Historians have taken Alcuin's astonishment at the Viking raid at face value, yet he went on to rebuke Ethelred and his courtiers for aping heathen fashions: "Consider the luxurious dress, hair and behaviour of leaders and people. See how you have wanted to copy the pagan way of cutting hair and beards. Are not these the people whose terror threatens us, yet you want to copy their hair?" Clearly these northerners were already familiar with their visitors. What was new was the violence, and it is reasonable to ask why it happened.
Has made it to my Christmas card list.