Black Vikings

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/norseman.jpg
One of them is not like the others (not the guy with no helmet).

This trope comes into play when an actor is cast for a role in a historical setting who would appear to be of the wrong ethnicity to portray such a role, usually because the population of any given place tended to be rather ethnically homogenous at that time period.

This is especially likely to happen when the writers don't know the actual ethnicities available, don't care about ethnicity, want to add diversity, have budget problems, or a myriad other reasons.

Depending on the time and place, this can actually be realistic. Trade cities have always been ethnic mash-ups, and soldiers and sailors have always been extraordinarily diverse lots. Some racial groups travelled farther from home much sooner than most people would assume.

It is possible that when a Black Viking appears in film or TV, the character is not intended to be seen as the same race as the actor. The actor used might have simply been the best available for the role, and the writers are merely asking us to use our imagination to make the actor's physical appearance fit the character's. This is actually standard doctrine for modern stage theatrical productions as is called "non-traditional" or colour-blind casting, referring to "the casting of ethnic minority and female actors in roles where race, ethnicity, or sex is not germane."

Named for 1978's The Norseman, starring Lee Majors, costarring the greatest pass rusher in NFL history, African-American Deacon Jones.

A subtrope of Politically Correct History. Compare with Not Even Bothering with the Accent, Race Lift.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • A late-1990s multimedia ad campaign for Three Musketeers candy bars portrayed the Musketeers in claymation and comic book art. One of the Musketeers was black. Later commercials replaced the short white Musketeer with a short latino. Alexandre Dumas was himself one quarter black.
  • One Capital One commercial features a black Visigoth. (Yes, they are supposed to be Visigoths, though they dress like stereotypical Horny Vikings.)

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, Nakago is blonde-haired and blue-eyed, yet lives in ancient China. He's explicitly stated to be a foreigner and later revealed to be a member of a tribe that lived in the Kutou region that tended to have those traits. There might be some factual basis to this. See the Real Life section for details.
  • Karin from UQ Holder! could easily pass as being Japanese, despite the fact though she's implied to be Judas Iscariot.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in an issue of The Sandman featuring the immortal Hob Gadling attending a Renaissance fair with his current girlfriend (and making a lot of cutting comments about it.) When Hob asks his girlfriend why she isn't the Queen of the Fair, she points out her ethnicity (she's black) and the fact that the fair is trying to be at least a little authentic (she specifically says, "There were no black Queens of England.") To which Hob immediately replies, "Catherine of Aragon. If she'd been living in Selma, Alabama in the early 60s, they'd have made her ride at the back of the bus." Presumably, he would have to have been referring to the "just one drop" rule since it has been claimed, although not substantiated, that Catherine of Aragon had a black (or Moorish) ancestor just a few generations back, considering that Catherine had red hair, blue eyes, and very fair skin.
  • At least once, the African-American soldier Gabe Jones, of Nick Fury's Howling Commandos, impersonated a German soldier. He appeared to have no greater or lesser difficulty pulling this off than any of the white Howlers, which is actually a case of Reality Is Unrealistic. Gabe's presence in the Howling Commandos is itself an example, though, as the US Army was segregated during World War II. The same can be said of Jackie Johnson in Sgt. Rock's Easy Company.
  • In Frank Miller's 300, King Xerxes of Persia looks more black than Persian. Less so in the movie.
  • In Truth: Red, White, and Black, a young black man tells a racist WWII veteran that his grandfather also fought in the war... for the Germans. He goes into some detail about Germany's black population, and how they'd been there for hundreds of years.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Secret of Kells has an Italian, British, Chinese and African monk living in the monastery in Ireland. As recounted in How The Irish Saved Civilization, though, refugees from all over the Roman world went to Ireland fleeing the barbarian horde, so the monks of Ireland at the time would in theory, be cosmopolitan. Not once, though, do the monks ever bring up religious topics, nor does a cross appear.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Norsemen features the late Deacon Jones as an African thrall (a.k.a. slave).
  • A Kid in King Arthur's Court had black people fully integrated into a Theme Park Version of King Arthur's court with no explanation given whatsoever. (Although considering the King Arthur of popular culture is a myth, which might excuse this.)
  • Moors in the Merry Men of Robin Hood, something introduced with the character of Nasir in ITV's Robin of Sherwood, and subsequently taken-up in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Azeem, and the latest series from The BBC (not to mention Achoo in Men in Tights). The BBC version takes this trend a step further, as there is at least one black character working for the Sheriff, and a black thief is taken seriously when she claims to be the leader of an order of nuns; unlike the Arabic characters, the black characters are portrayed as fully accepted members of medieval English society.
  • In the feature film adaption of Wild Wild West, Will Smith, a black man, is cast as the protagonist, James West, a U.S. Army officer in 1869. The first post-war black U.S. Army officer, Henry O. Flipper, was commissioned on his graduation from West Point in 1877. This is perhaps excusable given that the film also features a giant mechanical tarantula.
  • Both averted and played straight in Black Knight. When Martin Lawrence travels to medieval England and becomes a Fish Out of Temporal Water, he is called a "Moor" in a disrespectful tone and runs into conflict a few times because of his skin color. Yet when he arrives at the castle there is a black chambermaid there and nobody seem to care. It was all just a dream anyway.
  • In the film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, the character Don Pedro is the Prince of Aragon and played by Denzel Washington. While Spain was occupied for several centuries by the Moors, Medieval Spaniards were nearly obsessed with limpieza de sangreor "purity of blood", and the aristocratic class was the worst. It might have been a stylish choice to make his illegitimate brother's deep hatred for him more obvious. Otherwise, this would have to get across by Keanu Reeves's acting ability.
  • Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet has a few black people among the staff of the castle. Including one woman who was originally a "gentleman" in the play. In Denmark, in the 1600s. The film has a more 1800s style, but that doesn't change much. Although it would have been slightly less likely in the 16th century, the Virgin Islands were a Danish Colony until the Great War.
  • M*A*S*H, set during the Korean War, featured a black surgeon. Tthe TV show followed suit for a few episodes until the anachronism was pointed out to the producers). While ostensibly set in the 1950's, M*A*S*H was ultimately pretty much a mix of Vietnam War and (then-)Present Day Past, anyway. Presumably, the producers never bothered to check any sources about the 8055th MASH, the real unit in Korea the movie was based on which did have a black surgeon on staff. (The U.S. Army wasn't fully integrated until 1954, one year after the Korean conflict ended, but piecemeal integration had occurred in the 1940s and even earlier.)
  • Force 10 from Navarone does its best to avert this trope and use it too. Carl "Apollo Creed" Weathers unknowingly forces his way into the middle of a plane full of commandos flying to Yugoslavia to fight the Nazis. The frustrated commandos immediately point out how much Weathers will stick out in Yugoslavia, complete with a snide comment about a Zulu invasion. When they land, the leader of the native force they join up with is bemused by his appearance to the point of pretending to wipe the blackness off of Weathers' face.
  • Thor, based on the comic book, has two examples of non-whites among Norse Gods. In the movie, the idea is put forth that the Asgardians aren't really gods but extradimensional beings that the Scandanavians mistook for deities after seeing them battle Frost Giants on Earth. It's also a manner of the Asgardians in the Marvel universe not actually being exactly the same as real-world Aesir mythology. Amusingly, the Asgardian played by a black actor was Heimdall, described in Norse mythology as "the whitest of the gods".
    • A more straightforward example of this trope is the rumored casting of Tessa Thompson as the heroine Valkyrie for Thor: Ragnarok, who was in the comics a mortal Norse woman named Brunnhilde empowered by Odin to guide the slain to Valhalla.
  • The Julia Roberts film Mona Lisa Smile was criticized for not having a token black among the cast, despite the film being set in a New England College in the 1950's. Part of the problem was a bad line in the auditioning papers, where they wanted girls who were not too tan, to portray the time period accurately. Seeing as it was a real women's college that did have black women in the time period, the supposed ratio would have had about three tokens in a crowd of two hundred.
  • German actor Günther Kaufmann, whose father was an African-American GI, plays a Viking in Wickie und die starken Männer (Wickie and the Strong Men), thus making this a very literal example of this trope. Because to heavy Viking make up, Kaufmann's actual ethnicity is hard to tell, though.
  • In a version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat released on DVD, two of the brothers (Judah and Benjamin) are played by black actors. This is something of a continuity problem as the two were born to different mothers, according to Genesis. The other ten brothers are pretty much all over the apparent ethnicity map (the twelve had the same father, who had four wives). And Joseph's father Jacob did have concubines who may have been of different ethnicities than his two wives, who were sisters. Jacob having had black sons is not impossible. On the other hand, Benjamin is supposed to be full brother of Joseph. In any case, that particular version is a comedy.
  • In the 1973 film version of Jesus Christ Superstar, Judas is black. Some critics saw the casting as racist, but the filmmakers insisted that Carl Anderson was simply the best man for the role. (Ben Vereen faced similar criticism for playing the role on Broadway.) Jesus, meanwhile, is white, Mary Magdalene is Hawaiian, and the other disciples are all different races. (But then, the film makes no pretense at realism.)
  • In a flashback in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Fallen is attacked by various native ancient Africans. Among them is a white man.
  • Eartha Kitt as Freya the Norn in Erik the Viking. The casting helps portray her as somewhat "other" from the rest of the tribe, and it helps that she's Not Too Black to begin with.
  • 300 features quite a few high-ranking black members of the Persian Empire, implying that a significant population of the elites in Persia were black. This was not the case.
  • There's a whole Friendly Local Chinatown in Gangs of New York, and half the story is set in a Chinese cathouse, which historians were quick to point out the Chinese population was nonexistent at the time.
  • In Hoosiers, the state championship game features the Hickory Huskers playing the "David" role to the "Goliath" South Bend Central Bears. South Bench has a racially integrated basketball team, racially integrated cheerleader squad, and a black head coach, all in Indiana, in 1952. Although integrated schools were very rare at this time, the real-life legend Ray Crowe plays the black coach.
  • Played for laughs in Woody Allen's Love and Death, with a shouting black drill sergeant in 1812 Russia.
  • Played for laughs again in Woody Allen's Everything you Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were too Afraid to Ask, with a black sperm standing among all the white sperm about to be ejaculated.
    Black Sperm: What am I doing here?
  • In Kingdom of Heaven, Liam Neeson's character leads a small rainbow coalition of warriors back from the Crusades, one of whom is a black man. It's supposed to indicate how so many different cultures have been drawn to the fight over the Holy Land.
  • Invoked in-universe in Captain America: The First Avenger when Dugan observes that a fellow POW is Asian. Dugan asks, "Are we taking everyone now?" The Asian man, Jim Morita, flashes his dogtags and says "I'm from Fresno, ace." Japanese-Americans who were born in the USA were allowed to fight and did so in Italy, where the POW camp is located, though they did so in segregated units. His presence in the Howling Commandos is justified by its unique nature.
  • Queen Latifah as Mama Morton in the movie Chicago. A female African-American jail warden in charge of white prisoners in 1920s America? That wouldn't happen.
  • In Christopher And His Kind, there is at least one glack man in the gay club Isherwood frequents. Given that this happened in early 1930's Berlin, it is a little jarring, though possible.
  • Kenneth Branagh's version of As You Like It has a lot of white, black, and Japanese actors. You may be noticing he tends to do this a lot.
  • In the 2004 musical TV film of A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Present is played by the black Jesse L. Martin. Ditto for theater productions using color-blind casting.
  • Parodied in The Hooligan Factory with Midnight, stated to be "the original black hooligan. Actually, I think back in the day he was the only black hooligan."
  • Dogma plays the trope for laughs by introducing a thirteenth apostle of Jesus, who was left out of the Bible because he's black.
  • Centurion features Noel Clarke, an English actor with Afro-Caribbean heritage playing "Macro", a refugee from Numidia and a legionary from the second cohort of the Ninth Legion. Schoolboy error here, Numidia in modern-day Tunisia was populated by light-skinned Berbers and descendants of Eastern Mediterranean Carthagians. The writer probably mean Nubia, the country in modern day Sudan. The same Roman unit also features Riz Ahmed playing Tarak, the company cook, who "hails from the Hindu Kush", which neatly matches Ahmed's own Pakistani ancestry-although he could quite easily have been a Syrian or Iraqi (units from both areas did serve on Hadrian's Wall at some time).

    Folklore 
  • An urban legend claims that a black man is depicted at the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the back of the American $2 bill. It turns out that the man is Robert Morris, a white financier who later became a Pennsylvania senator. His face appears dark because it is overly shadowed in the bill's picture, which is an engraved copy of a famous painting. In the painting, Morris is unmistakably white.

    Literature 
  • Arthurian literature has featured Moorish knights since Sir Morien in the 13th Century. And since Wolfram von Eschenbach introduced Percivale's half-brother Feirefiz (son of the Moorish queen Belacane, ancestor of Prester John) in Parzival, a work most scholars date to the 1310's.
  • In the medieval romance King Horn, Saracens invade Suddene (a mythical kingdom in the British Isles). This is probably a Race Lift as the villains act just like Viking conquerors, but by the time the story was written down Vikings had become passé and the Crusades were the new hot topic.
  • The later Sven Hassel novels introduced Stabsgefreiter Albert Mumbuto, a black soldier in the German army of WW2. However the website Porta's Kitchen mentioned a documentary where several black Germans were interviewed, including at least one soldier. Germany had had an African colonial empire until 1919 so there were a number of African-Germans long after that. This matter surfaces in Istvan Szabo's movie Mephisto, taking place in the 1930s, in which the protagonist, a famous theatre director, has an African-German mistress and is therefore chastised by an angry Hermann Göring. Though is might surprise a modern reader, Nazi racism towards blacks is well-documented and horrible, but it wasn't as systematic as their persecution of the Jews.
  • Lampshaded and Justified in Everworld:
    • There are Vikings of all different races because Everworld's Fantasy Counterpart Cultures have a vastly different geography from our world, so that Everworld-Vikings regularly raid Everworld-Aztecs, Everworld-Africans, and apparently Everworld-Asians; this results in many new people entering the Viking society as slaves (who may gain freedom and work their way up) or from mixed marriages between Vikings and captured women. Their king, Olaf Ironfoot, is actually black.
    • The Amazons are described as similarly having children with whatever men they happen to conquer. The queen, Pretty Little Flower, is mixed-race.
  • Inheritance Cycle has two black characters living in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture loosely based on medieval Europe, specifically Norse culture. It is later explained that "dark-skinned tribes" live in the desert to the southeast, and possibly the neighboring country. A few of them join with the Varden in the third book. Before that, characters do sometimes consider them unusual for the colour of their skin, but they do not act as if it was completely unheard of.
  • Day Watch, the second book in Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch trilogy (of four), has a group of Viking Others: blonde-haired, blue-eyed Teutonic types. Turns out that's just their Twilight forms. They're members of an old Norse cult, but ethnically there's quite a mix. Turns out the fact that there's a black one, a white one, an Asian one and the other one fits some Ragnarok prophecies quite well... Did someone just say "Horsemen of the Apocalypse"? Note though, these are people in modern times who are members of such a cult (Neo Vikings?) rather than Norse people in Dark Ages Europe.
  • A Black Moorish woman prosecuting attorney named Brunhild (!) appears in the eponymous Die Morin, written by German poet Hermann von Sachsenheim in the year 1453. She is supposed to prosecute love cases for the goddess Venus and her lover, King Tannhäuser (!!), who, according to legend, lived in a subterranean kingdom under some mountain in Germany. Probably Sachsenheim assumed that a servant of Venus was a pagan, and a pagan was a Muslim, and a Muslim was a Moor, and that "Brun-hild" meant "brown-maiden" (instead of "byrnie (=mail-coat)-warrior").
  • Averted in The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell. One of Arthur's lieutenants, Sagramor, is a black Numidian, in stark contrast to the Britons, Gaels and Saxons around him, but this is both acknowledged and justified. He was a former Roman auxiliary who joined Arthur's band after his own unit was dissolved.
  • A Peter David novel about King Arthur in modern times, Knight Life, makes Percival, the Grail Knight, a Moor. Everyone is totally surprised by this in the novel and a scholar or two "refutes" it in front of him.
  • Characters with red hair and blue or green eyes are fairly common in classic Chinese novels such as Water Margin. This may be justified given the ethnic makeup among the peoples of Central Asian regions bordering China during the Middle Ages, as described below in the Real Life section.
  • Ranec, from Jean M. Auel's The Mammoth Hunters, is a black Cro-Magnon living in Ancient Russia north of the Caspian Sea. Justified by the fact that, in his youth, Ranec's father made a long journey to the region that is now Ethiopia, married a woman there, and returned to Russia with his son after his wife's death.
  • Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road, which has protagonists that are a black Abyssinian and a very white Eastern Frank, both Jewish, who travel the world as bandits and mercenaries and end up in the Caucasus. The Khazars, a nation of Turkic Jews, also features heavily in the plot. It was Chabon's intention to explore the lesser-known branches of Jewish lineage.
  • Sanya, one of the knights of the Cross in The Dresden Files, is a black Russian. He himself notes that his color would turn heads in Moscow, and that he couldn't go to rural villages without causing traffic accidents.
  • Children's novel Surviving the Applewhites has, as one of the subplots, a performance of The Sound of Music with color-blind casting. This leads to, among other things, an ad-libbed line that the von Trapp children are all adopted.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Girl in the Fireplace" has a black noblewoman in the Court of Louis XVI. Some fans have attempted to explain this by pointing out the existence of the Chevalier de Saint Georges, a real eighteenth-century composer and musician known as "the black Mozart", who did in fact perform at Versailles. It's especially jarring considering there is an Orientalist portrait of Madame de Pompadour dressed like a Turkish sultana and being served by a black slave girl — an exotic possession, for crying out loud.[1] Angel Coulby, the actress who played the black noblewoman, also played Gwen on Merlin.
    • The episode "Human Nature", set in England just before World War One, averts this trope, as one of the students starts saying offensive things to Martha, and John Smith seems to find it utterly believable that Martha might not understand the concept of fiction. Smith's love interest understandably is rather incredulous when Martha claims to be a doctor, remarking that a woman doctor was conceivable but not "one of your colour" as said to Martha's face.
    • The titular character of The Next Doctor had a black female companion, Rosita, in 1851. She gets treated like anyone else in the story except for two brief, almost missable, moments. The first is when the villainess asks whether the Doctor "paid [her] to speak," which could be either a servitude reference or merely an implied suggestion that she thinks Rosita is a prostitute. The second is at the end when they live happily ever after and Jackson Lake makes a comment about her being his son's nursemaid.
    • Averted with Martha's presence in "The Shakespeare Code": Martha initially worries that being black in 1600s London will cause trouble, but the Doctor laughs it off, assuring her that London has all types of people. In this case he's right. Elizabethan London had a significant African population—large enough that Elizabeth complained about it on multiple occasions.
    • Isabella and her father from "The Vampires of Venice" are an exception. As a nexus of trade all across the Mediterranean, Venice would have been home to all sorts. (But she also has modern-day straightened hair.)
    • Richard Nixon has two black agents in his security detail in The Impossible Astronaut. (In reality, Nixon really did have at least one.)
  • This is all over Mortal Kombat: Conquest. While the series is set in ancient China, Kung Lao is the only one of the protagonists who is actually Asian. The rest of the cast is suspiciously multicultural. The only justified one is Raiden, who as a god could conceivably take any form he wished. But then why is he a white guy?
  • An early episode ofRobin Hood has Guy of Gisbourne's political scheming against the Sheriff's current Master at Arms. The fact that the Master at Arms is black in 12th century England is never mentioned nor influence the plot. The producers have mentioned that originally there was no intention for the character to be black, but that the actor gave such a damned fine audition and performance that they felt he could pull it off regardless of the fact that that he would seem out of place, and gave him the part as-written, without any changes to make reference to his color. In Season 3, Friar Tuck is black.
  • The start of Season 2 of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World has an episode where several modern people are transported to the plateau. Even though the main characters are from the start of the 20th century, they don't seem to notice that the helicopter pilot is black and treat him like anyone else.
  • NBC's Gulliver's Travels miniseries: In contrast to the lily-white Lilliputians, Brobdingnag is home to many black giants (including Alfre Woodard as the Queen) looking a little out-of-place in 18th century powdered wigs. This is actually consistent with the Utopian nature of the island and probably a way of playing up its superiority to both Lilliput and Gulliver's England.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody had Brenda Song playing an ancestor of London Tipton... during the American Revolutionary War. Hilariously but subtly lampshaded in that she seems to be (or believe that she is) French. Whether it was intentional and she really was supposed to be London's French paternal ancestor, it was intentional and she was absurdly somewhere in London's Thai ancestry, or it was completely unintended, it was completely Handwaved by being All Just a Dream had by Zack. Also, Mr.Mosby, who is black, is seen as a rich man. Most blacks in the revolutionary war were slaves, but it is possible he was a freeman.
  • In The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nóg, set in pre-Christian Ireland, one of the heroes is black — but it's justified by having him come from Atlantis, which, being mythical, can have any ethnic mix it wants.
  • Like The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, the short-lived Roar, which starred Heath Ledger, is also set in pre-Christian Ireland, and still features a black character named Tully amongst Ledger's band of Celtic chieftains. Unlike in 'The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog'', there's no justification given.
  • Both Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess had black Greeks. Knowing the extent of the Mediterranean trade in the Antiquity, there was a slight possibility for Ethiopian, Nubian, or darker-skinned Egyptian people to settle in Greek lands, even more so in port cities, as traders, sailors, mercenaries or former slaves. However, their numbers could not be great. Given that both shows are filmed in New Zealand, whenever they needed "ethnic" mooks (for example, to represent Egyptians), they would usually cast Maori or other Pacific Islanders and hope that audiences perceived them as just being Ambiguously Brown.
  • Suggested but not confirmed in Power Rangers Samurai, as out of five descendants of Japanese samurai, only one is Asian. It's either this trope, or the equally unlikely scenario that the families mingled with other races in just the right way to make a Five-Token Band. Don't bother thinking about it too hard as history has never been the franchise's strong suit.
  • On the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Warrior of the Lost World", the guys remark on how the gangs of hats include black Nazis and white ninjas.
  • A sketch on the CBBC show Horrible Histories about Vikings actually featured a Black Viking as an extra.
  • Rome shows Egyptians as Black. Although the matter is still subject of debate and Egyptians were obviously not white European, few scholars would consider this plausible. Probably a mixed race which (for the time of the series) already have a lot of Nubian blood. (Nubians themselves very often have lighter skin, blue eyes and different facial traits than other Africans.) Cleopatra (a woman of Macedonian descent in real life), on the other hand, is played by English actress Lyndsay Marshall.
  • Inverted to avert controversy in a History Channel documentary about the US Civil War. While discussing "the men whose money allowed the Confederacy to survive as long as it did", Virginia patriot Alfred Samson Bell is mentioned and profiled. In the documentary, he is depicted by a white actor. The problem is, the real Alfred Samson Bell was black, a plantation owner, and a slave owner who threw his entire fortune behind the war because he was "a true son of Virginia".
  • In The Musketeers, Porthos is black. According to Word of God, this is a tribute to Alexandre Dumas's actual black ancestry (his paternal grandmother was a black slave in Haiti). It isn't a case of colour-blind casting, as in several episodes his racial background is an explicit driver of the plot. It finally turns out that, like Dumas's father, he was the product of a nobleman's affair with a black servant woman, and he was brought into the Musketeers by a friend of his father who felt guilty about helping his father to discard his black mistress.
  • The trope is discussed in an episode of Psych. When the creators of a play defend their all-white cast on the grounds that the show takes place in 1880s London, Gus gets annoyed and asks if they think black people hadn't been invented yet.
  • Black Sails includes a Japanese member of a Caribbean pirate crew in 1715. While improbable, a Japanese sailor in the 18th century Caribbean is quite possible. The first documented Japanese presence in the Americas was in 1613, when Date Maru, a galleon built by the Japanese to Spanish specifications, arrived at Acapulco, Mexico, with a mostly Japanese crew. Japan also maintained contact with several western countries during their isolationist period, both officially and unofficially: The Dutch were permitted an embassy and trade port at Nagasaki throughout the period. The Spanish in the Philippines and the ports of the future United States had also long conducted trade with smugglers, and recieved trickles of immigrants from the persecuted Japanese Christian community.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Andromeda, the Damsel in Distress in the myth about Perseus, is the daughter of the Ethiopian king Cepheus. But in most illustrations, her skin colour is decidedly very un-Ethiopian. (NSFW, if your boss doesn't like nipples!) Although: According to the Tangled Family Tree of the Greek mythological characters, she wasn't ethnically Ethiopian anyway, at least not 100 %. (Her father's ancestry can be traced back to Poseidon, but there is no information about where her mother Cassiopeia comes from.) Also, some people speculate that Cepheus' kingdom wasn't that Ethiopia.note 
  • Depiction of Jesus tend to make him resemble the artist's local population more than would be historically accurate. As a Galilean Jew, and one whose appearance is described in the The Bible only as being completely ordinary, Jesus would mostly likely have had a darker olive complexion similar to that of modern Middle East peoples.
  • It happens with other major figures of The Bible, such as Abraham, Moses, David, etc, who look almost exclusively pale in European artistic depictions.
  • Due to its syncretic nature and the loas' ability to change shape, the Vodou pantheon is filled with Black Vikings. Some loa like Ogoun and Erzulie Dantor appear as black Africans. Others are caucasian, like Mademoiselle Charlotte and Mama Brigette, who's a foul-mouthed Irish redhead. Others are shown as Native American like the Agua Dulce family of loa adopted from the Taino Indians.
  • Buddha is also often represented with Asian traits in many Far East countries like China and Japan, even when Buddha was born in Nepal and probably looked more Caucasian.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Get of Fenris from Werewolf: The Apocalypse tend to be of Nordic descent (as implied by the name). However, the less Nazi-esque of them will breed with physically superior specimens of humanity from almost any background. Black/African-descended Get are not quite uncommon enough to be Special Snowflakes, but they do get the All of the Other Reindeer treatment a bit.

    Theater 
  • Increasingly common in theater nowadays, in America and the UK. Many productions of Shakespeare in the UK are colorblind, which aside from historical accuracy sometimes results in some unlikely familial relations (cousins or even siblings being different races, etc).
  • In the 1999 Broadway revival of The Lion in Winter, African-American actors Laurence Fishburne and Chuma Hunter-Gault were cast as (British) King Henry II and his son Richard Lionheart, respectively. The actors who played Henry's two other sons and his wife were white.
  • Judge Brack in Hedda Gabler is often played by a black actor, as James Earl Jones played the part in otherwise all-white production.
  • Toni Braxton played Belle in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway from September 1998 to February 1999.
  • Broadway's colorblind casting frequently results in this. Case in point, Norm Lewis as Les Misérables' Javert in the 2006 Broadway revival as well as the 2010 25th Anniversary Concert. While it's far from impossible that there were black people in France during that time period, indeed, a black actor is playing Enjolras in the current Broadway revival, it's not likely that one could have risen to Javert's rank in the police department. As in the film, the Broadway production of Chicago has often cast an African-American actress as Mama Morton. A few black actors have played Billy Flynn as well.
  • Famous playwright August Wilson openly defied this trope in his life and writings. Specifically, Wilson was against the idea of colorblind casting and stated that to deny the reality of race when writing or planning a show was to (pun intended) whitewash history. He refused to allow white actors play any part he had written for African-Americans (although he did allow a Chinese production of his play Fences).

    Video Games 
  • The Nazi GGG Ghostapo organization in BloodRayne has an Asian woman as one of its leaders. Vaguely semi-justified in that she's Tibetan, and the Nazi racial science considered Tibetans to be an Aryan race. Oh, and she's also half vampire, which the GGG seems to consider a plus.
  • Metal Gear Solid:
    • Averted and lampshaded: The Mole, while discussing her background, mentions that her Japanese-American grandfather was an FBI agent under Hoover. Although he doesn't say anything about it for several scenes, Master Miller immediately knows she's lying, realizing that the notoriously prejudiced J. Edgar Hoover would never have allowed a man of Japanese descent as an agent.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3, a Black man named Sigint was recruited by Zero in 1960s America for his skill and not because of his color. Notable in that Sigint was recruited during the final year of Jim Crow Laws, which barred Blacks from using the same facilities as Whites in America.
  • Enforced in Resident Evil 5: there are an awful lot of white people in Africa because people complained about Unfortunate Implications with all the Majini being black. Then again, there are an awful lot of white people in Africa if you know where to look.
  • In the SoulCalibur games, Zasalamel is black, and while his country of origin is never directly stated, it's implied that he's supposed to be Sumerian, as many of his moves have names that reference the Sumerian gods. Granted, since he's an immortal who reincarnates every time he's killed, it's entirely possible that the body he appears with is not his original. Although in his ending, where he is in the modern era, several hundred years after the game's events, he is still in the same body. Which implies that he merely comes back to life each time he dies, and doesn't body hop when he reincarnates.
  • In Crusader Kings II, it's possible (though updates have made it more difficult) to turn your dynasty into the most literal version of this trope. Some figurative versions are significantly easier.
  • Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love features Sagitta Weinberg/Cheiron Archer, an African-American female lawyer in the The Roaring Twenties; while college-educated black professionals were far from unheard of since the early 1900s, what's odd is that this character never has to fight prejudice or racism in the series (which instead would have been likely). Even for an Alternate History, this is just stretching it a bit.

    Web Original 
  • A Scotsman in Egypt has repeated mentions of Middle Easterners with red hair caused to Scotland's World Domination starting in Egypt and spreading from there. Of course, as one Scot proudly proclaims, the Scots are good at two things: fighting and making more Scots.

    Western Animation 
  • The Ambiguously Brown Sir Bryant in The Legend of Prince Valiant looks like an example, until it is explained in a centric episode that he is an exiled Moorish prince that joined King Arthur's knights after arriving in England and suffering quite a few misfortunes there too, among them the assassination of his wife and son by thieves.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Carl portrays explorer William Clark (of course, Lenny is Meriwether Lewis). As an inversion, Lisa portrays Sacajawea. It also turns out that Carl is Icelandic.
    • In fact, The Simpsons do something like this quite often, when the story takes place in a historical setting (e.g. Treehouse of Horror stories). It seems that the main criterion is, which of the established characters fits the role best personality- and relationship-wise.

    Real Life 
  • Geirmund Helajarskinn (Hel-Skin) was a viking and early settler of Iceland. His mother was from Siberia (presumably of mongol descent) and when his father called him Hel-Skin because of his dark skin. DNA-analysis of people the area of Iceland which he settled who could trace their ancestry to the original settlers, showed the presence of siberian-mongol DNA.
  • Some recent research on a BBC documentary suggested that one of the Roman regiments deployed in what's now Northumberland was recruited from Egypt and Syria and may have included black African legionaries as well as those with Mediterranean skin tone. This leads to the slight Mind Screw of "ethnic minorities" having lived in England before the Anglo-Saxons arrived.
  • One claim holds that the legend of King Arthur was partly inspired by Persian mercenaries serving with the Roman army in Britain, as the contemporary Persian cavalrymen (and cavalry horses) wore full chainmail armor.
  • Black Irish and Black Russians are famously brought up. However, some argue that they are actually People of Hair Color. It's claimed that Black Irish are either (a) descended from Moors, or (b) descended from the same stock as Basques. There are Sephardic Irish Jews, but they aren't usually identified as Black Irish.
    • Incidentally, the story of how Moors got there would make them almost literal Black Vikings.
    • As for the Black Russians, the word "black" is actually used in Russian to refer to dark-haired and darker-skinned peoples such as the Chechens or the Armenians (both Caucasian) as opposed to Africans like in English, so this may be the case of Lost in Translation. While there are rare cases of Russians being of African descent (including Alexander Pushkin himself), the overwhelming majority of the population is white, and even those who are not are predominantly Mongoloid, not African.
  • The "Ivory Bangle Lady"; a high-status black woman who received a lavish burial in 4th century York. The Times states:
    Archaeologists have discovered that wealthy black Africans lived in Roman Britain in one of the country's earliest examples of multiculturalism. "Analysis... contradicts assumptions about the make-up of Roman-British populations as well as the view that African immigrants were of low status... The link between slavery and Africans is an early modern one. In the Roman world this simply was not the case. Slaves in Roman times could come from any area." ... African men had immigrated to Britain, invariably with the Roman Army, and had brought their wives and children. "We're looking at a population mix which is much closer to contemporary Britain than previous historians had suspected. In the case of York, the Roman population may have had more diverse origins than the city has now."
  • In southern Egypt and northern Sudan live tribes of either Black or Arabic-looking ''Magyars'', thousands of miles away from Hungary, all because the Ottoman Turks recruited a military unit of Magyars in the 16th century to fight in Egypt.
  • On Haiti, there's quite a number of people who consider themselves to be Poles. In order to crush the Haitian rebellion, Napoleon Bonaparte sent his Polish allied troops there, some of whom switched sides and settled down on the island. Their descendants are more like Ambiguously Brown nowadays. The depictions of Voodoo goddess Erzulie seem to be based on the effigies of Virgin Mary those soldiers brought with them.
  • (Mostly) Muslim Tartars have been an important part of Polish nobility and military since the Middle Ages. They are descended from the Mongols of the Golden Horde (who ruled over the Russian lands) many of whom signed on as mercenaries under rulers of Poland and Lithuania, and later, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Some of them were part of the Polish-Lithuanian contingent that served under Napoleon. There were Tartar units in the World War II era Polish army, including the Polish Army in exile that fought alongside the British after Poland fell. Given that the "Mongols" of the Golden Horde actually drew from the wide mixture of populations that made up the world-spanning Mongol Empire, the Polish Tartars may well have included persons of even more exotic backgrounds.
  • The Mongol rulers of China drew mostly from their Central Asian and Middle Eastern subjects to govern the Chinese subjects, while Chinese generals and administrators (such as General Guo Kan, although his ancestry is disputed) were signed on by Mongol rulers elsewhere (e.g. Middle East and Russia) for their campaigns (e.g. Guo was instrumental in the conquest of Baghdad). The descendants of the Central Asians and Middle Easterners in China remained Muslim and constitute a sizable minority in modern China.
  • DNA analysis has recently suggested that not one but four or five African and Indian groups may be (as they claim) Lost Tribes of Israel. Besides the famous Ethiopian and Ugandan Jews who got airlifted by Israel in the 1970s, a full-blown tribe in Tanzania recently had themselves tested to prove their claim that the tribe itself were a lost tribe of Hebrews, since the Roman era. (Being cut off, they didn't know any other Jews existed, so they adopted local language and customs.) And the Indian group had become a caste claiming Hebrew descent, although they had more contact with the west.
  • Kaifeng Jews are descendants of Jewish traders who settled in China, the B'nei Menashe claim to be descendents of the tribe of Menashe who ended up on the border between India and Burma, and Baghdadi Jews and Cochin Jews are the descendents of Jews who came from Baghdad (hence the name) and settled in Mumbai (who were incidentally very important in starting up Bollywood) and Cochin.
  • DNA analysis of Icelandic people has recently revealed that the Norse may have brought back a native American woman with them to Iceland, well before Columbus. Native American Viking indeed.
  • Yasuke, a black slave who served Nobunaga. Legend has it that his appearance in Japan, which was (and is) one of the most ethnically homogeneous nations on Earth, was so alien to the locals that several people were trampled to death as they rushed forward to get a look at him. Oda Nobunaga himself thought Yasuke's skin had been covered in black ink and ordered him to be washed. Nobunaga took a liking to Yasuke after confirming that his skin color was real.
    • About a generation later, William Adams, also known as Anjin Miura ("pilot of the Miura"), was stranded in Japan by a typhoon. Despite his English ancestry, he becamse both a samurai and one of Tokugawa Ieyasu's key advisors. John Blackthorne, an important character in James Clavell's Shogun, is based on him.
  • Victorian Britain is portrayed as being completly white, yet Caribbean people have been living in Britain since slavery was abolished. They are possibly overlooked because many in power preferred not to mention them.
  • There was a sizable Indian community present within Victorian society. In fact, the first Indian restaurant in Britain was set up even earlier, in 1810. It's no wonder then why later on, South Asians found the UK a preferable place to immigrate to.
  • African German Hans Hauck was a soldier in the German Wehrmacht during World War II. There were quite a few African Germans in Nazi Germany, either descended from people from the colonies or the children of black French soldiers from the 1923-25 Occupation of the Ruhr, so called Rhineland bastards. Indeed, as they were considered inferior and not fit for military service, but not a threat like Jews and Slavs, black Germans were more likely to survive the war than ethnic Germans. There is also the story of Hans Jürgen Massaquoi whose autobiography was put to film. This made him one of the better known Afro-Germans in Germany.
  • Owing to ancient migrations of Indo-Europeans throughout Eurasia, people with "European" traits can be found in some surprising places.
    • Green eyes are common in some tribes in Afghanistan, the most famous example being Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic.
    • Blue eyes can be found in India.
    • There are blond Iraniansnote , blond Pakistanis, and even blond Mongols (Genghis Khan himself was said to be green-eyed and red-haired).
    • Actually, scratch that. Central Asia was (and is) famous for being a region where practically everyone mixes in here and there, being home to at least four different linguistic groups (the Mongols, the Tungusics, the Turks, and the Finno-Ugrics) whose sole raison d'être, at least until the modern day (and sometimes even then), is to ride horses that take them to a new part of the world with actual living being a second priority. Add this with the sedentary Indo-European groups with light hair and eye color who came in, intermarry, and eventually assimilated themselves with them (actual Indo-Europeans are quite rare in Central Asia nowadays, except in Tajikistan), and the rest is history. Common mixtures include those having hair so blond, eyes so blue or green that people would mistake them as, say, Germans; those having jet black hair and slanted brown eyes that people might mistake them as Chinese or Japanese; or people with Caucasian features but darker skin that people might mistake them as South Asians or South Arabians.
    • Further west, auburn (brown-red) hair is known to exist among Levantine Arabs (Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, and Palestinians). Since they live in the lands closest to ancient Israel/Judaea and are partly descended from the ancient peoples of that region, it's fairly likely that red hair is probably an occasional ancestral trait among Jews, so depicting Jesus with auburn hair wouldn't be entirely implausible.
    • Convesely, there are people with black hair, brown eyes, and Asiatic features in places like (gasp) Northern Europe. And no, not just the Native American Vikings mentioned above; they're actual, indigenous peoples. Most significant in traditional eugenics are the Finno-Ugric peoples, who primarily have dark hair and slanted brown eyes in their native Ural Mountains home; modern Finns, Estonians, Hungarians, Samis as well as Komi who live in the corner of Ural and Arctic Seas are actually oddities who have assimilated themselves with the white Turkic and Indo-European neighbors, causing them to have Caucasian features and (in the case of Northern Europeans), light hair and eye color. Even then, their original traits haven't gone forever, which is why one can sometimes find Finns with "Chinese-looking" eyes, unlike anywhere else in northern Europe where this never happens, even though they otherwise have blond hair, and it's not because foreign Asian features would increase towards east where those genes come from. For example, https://www.google.fi/imgres? these women are fully-blooded Finn, this is very common Finnish look that you wouldn't find in Scandinavia.
    • Light-skinned, light-eyed Caucasians (as in, from the Caucasus) settled in Egypt, the Levant, and Iraq en masse after the Russian Empire kicked them out of their native lands in the 19th century (they were accused of helping the Ottomans). They intermarried with the locals, and as a result it's not uncommon to find Levantine Arabs, Iraqis, and Egyptians with lighter skin and blue or green eyes and occasionally even blond hair. Even if the hair isn't blond, it's much more likely to be a lighter brown or tinged with red (chestnut beards among men are particularly common). They're particularly prevalent in Syria and Jordan; the Circassians of Jordan are a very prominent and wealthy community and are an important part of the Hashemite kings' power base.
    • Many Crusaders who came to the Levant in the Middle Ages never left but settled down and assimilated into local Christian populations, adding even more complexity to the gene pool. Some of Arab Christian surnames today are Arabized variants of French or Germanic names, reflecting their ancestry.
  • The existence of very light-skinned Israelis (obviously, descendants of displaced Jews who got "bleached" by living amongst Europeans for so many centuries) often has other Middle Easterners accusing Israel of the Mighty Whitey stereotype. Of course, these people can back up their ancestral claim to the Holy Land (as any DNA test will prove), but it can still be jarring to hear light-skinned, sometimes blond Jews refer to Mediterranean southwestern Asia as their "ancient home."
    • All of the cases mentioned above where Arabic people can possess traditionally "white" characteristics applies just as much to Jews from that area, meaning it's not just Ashkenazi Jews who can have lighter skin and blond hair
  • The Black Seminoles are a controversial section of the Seminole tribe who are descended from escaped American slaves who sought refuge with the Seminoles in Spanish Florida. Many interbred with the Creek descended natives, while others remain genetically separate. The debate continues today as to whether they count as a true part of the tribe as they have little or no genetic connection, but upwards of two hundred years of cultural connection.
  • Russian poet Alexander Pushkin's great grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, had been an ennobled Black Russian (born in Africa). And a former slave to the Ottoman Turks, to boot. Which makes him the first African Black and the first liberated slave to attain Major-General rank and noble titles in modern history, 4 decades before the below-quoted Dumas.
  • General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a Black half-Haitian and son of a French Marquis and a slave woman (and as such, according to laws of the era, technically both a Marquis and a slave), became a hero of The French Revolution and The Napoleonic Wars and sired the more famous Alexandre Dumas père (who also inherited dark skin and Black features). To a guy who insulted his racial heritage, Alexandre answered: "My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends." (Technically, it was his grandmother who was black, as his grandfather was a French marquis.)
  • The famous mummies found along the Silk Road in Western China often have blonde or red hair and other Caucasian features and artifacts found with them suggest blue or green eyes as well. Incidentally, as late as the Tang Dynasty (8th or 9th century AD) the Chinese generally described the alien peoples along their Northwestern frontier as "red haired, green-eyed barbarians" and such descriptions may be justified given these archeological findings. Since many people from these tribes, along with those from even further west, (including the first Christians in China) settled in Chinese heartland, blond, blue-eyed Chinese may have been not a completely unfamiliar sight in medieval China as depicted in classic Chinese novels, as noted above.
  • Joseph Pierce, a Chinese orphan from Canton, was adopted by Connecticut ship captain Amos Peck. Pierce enlisted in the army on 26 July 1862 and became a part of Company F of the 14th Regiment of the Connecticut volunteer infantry that became part of the Second Brigade of the Third Division of the Second Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac. From 1862 to 1865, Pierce took part in many important events of the American Civil War, fighting in major campaigns in Antietam to Gettysburg. He was present at Lee's surrender at the Appomattox Court House. Pierce achieved the highest rank of any Chinese American to serve in the US Army, reaching the rank of corporal. Pierce's picture hangs in the Gettysburg Museum. In 2007, the US House of Representatives passed a legislation honoring the actions of Pierce and other Asian-Pacific Islander soldiers in the Civil War.
  • Afrikaners (also known as "Boers") sometimes half-jokingly describe themselves as "the only white tribe in Africa" which is - given the other examples on this page not exactly 100% accurate, however, they are still a sizable minority in South Africa and Namibia and speak a language closely related to Dutch.
  • Namibia was a German colony for about three decades and even today many Namibians (both black and white) speak German. A historically important (and still extant) opposition party is called the "Democratic Turnhalle Alliance" after the place of their founding. One of the most interesting groups of Namibians with a connection to Germany are the GDR children of Namibia who grew up in the GDR during the time when Namibia's now ruling party SWAPO was an underground movement allied with the Warsaw pact.
  • According to tests done to his mummy Egyptian ruler Ramses II had red hair.


Alternative Title(s): Black Viking, Black Irish, Black Russian, Norse Of A Different Color

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlackVikings