I read the famous line describing Nicole from Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

"Her face, the face of a saint, a viking Madonna, shone through the faint motes that snowed across the candlelight, ..."

I looked up Wikipedia and it says "Madonna is a medieval Italian term for a noble or otherwise important woman, and has long been used commonly in reference to images of the Virgin Mary".

But, what is a "Viking" Madonna?

1 Answer 1


Madonna = young woman, young mother (often with child) in (Italian) Renaissance painting.

A lit candle is between him and Nicole. Its light casts her face in a soft light and frames it, and the light reminds him of the way those paintings portray the faces of young women.

Viking here could mean "with a northern European fair complexion and blonde hair".

Viking may have other connotations. The Vikings plundered villages and towns throughout Europe and the Baltic during the early middle ages. But to go there would go too far into literary criticism, so I won't.

  • Maybe someone like the fat lady who sings qualifies?
    – user16335
    Apr 20, 2015 at 12:29
  • 1
    Bathe her in candlelight if it pleases you.
    – TimR
    Apr 20, 2015 at 12:34
  • Because of the violence of the Vikings, it could suggest that she looks physically powerful. Feb 11, 2019 at 6:02

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