I rollespil kan man spille bersærkere, men hvad er en bersærker? Nogle fremtryller billeder af vikinger, der spiser svampe, og som går amok i kamp i en blodrus, og har man spillet D&D ved man, at bersærkere er kriger-typer, som enten frivilligt eller ufrivilligt går amok i kamp, så de får øgede angrebsevner og ekstra livspoint, men bliver lettere at ramme, og alt efter hvilken variant er de ukontrollable i kamp, så hvis de ikke har flere fjender at slå på, begynder de at angribe deres allierede.
Jeg vil ikke ind på myten om fluesvampe og bersærkere, men i stedet vil jeg citere et par uddrag fra kilderne omkring bersærkere. Vi begynder med Egils saga, hvor Egil konfronterer bersærken Ljot. Vi begynder med ‘forhistorien’:
Then Gyda went to Egil and said: ‘I will tell you, Egil, how things stand here with us. There is a man named Ljot the Pale. He is a Berserk and a duellist; he is hated. He came here and asked my daughter to wife; but we answered at once, refusing the match. Whereupon he challenged my son Fridgeir to wager of battle; and he has to go to-morrow to this combat on the island called Vors. Now I wished, Egil, that you should go to the combat with Fridgeir. It would soon be shown if Arinbjorn were here in the land, that we should not endure the overbearing of such a fellow as is Ljot.’
Kombatanterne skal mødes, og det sker på en lille ø:
They now start, and soon come to the island. There was a fair plain near the sea, which was to be the place of combat. The ground was marked out by stones lying round in a ring. Soon came thither Ljot and his party. Then he made him ready for the combat. He had shield and sword. Ljot was a man of vast size and strong. And as he came forward on the field to the ground of combat, a fit of Berserk fury seized him; he began to bellow hideously, and bit his shield. Fridgeir was not a tall man; he was slenderly built, comely in face, not strong. He had not been used to combats. But when Egil saw Ljot, then he sang a stave: […]
Vi springer digtet, som Egil kommer med, over, og Ljot opfordrer Egil til at møde ham i kamp. Der kvædes lidt mere fra Egils side, mens han og Ljot gør sig klar til kamp, og nu mødes de endelig:
Then Ljot came forward on the field and declared the law of combat, that he should ever after bear the name of dastard who should draw back outside the boundary stones that were set up in a ring round the field of combat. This done, they closed, and Egil dealt a blow at Ljot, which Ljot parried with his shield, but Egil then dealt blow upon blow so fast that Ljot got no chance for a blow in return. He drew back to get room for a stroke, but Egil pressed as quickly after him, dealing blows with all his vigour. Ljot went out beyond the boundary stones far into the field. So ended the first bout. Then Ljot begged for a rest. Egil let it be so. They stopped therefore and rested.
Efter pausen og et digt mere kaster de to kæmpende sig over hinanden igen:
Ljot sprang swiftly to his feet. Egil bounded at him and dealt at once a blow at him. He pressed him so close, that he was driven back, and the shield shifted from before him. Then smote Egil at Ljot, and the blow came on him above the knee, taking off his leg. Ljot then fell and soon expired. Then Egil went to where Fridgeir and his party stood. He was heartily thanked for this work.
Om bersærkergangen læste vi “a fit of Berserk fury seized him; he began to bellow hideously, and bit his shield“, og det passer godt med billedet af bersærken, bortset fra at dette sker før kampen, og der er intet i beskrivelsen af kampen undervejs, som tyder på bersærkergang, i stedet er der en pause i kampen. Den såkaldte bersærkergang synes snarere at være en optræden inden kampen for at skræmme modstanderen.