A berserker was a fearsome Norse warrior who fought on the battlefield with barely controlled fury. The word berserk name is believed to derive from the Icelandic names for the wolf pelts that they wore in battle. Although berserk first appeared in English at the beginning of the 1800s, it was only some thirty years later that it entered common usage. In his novel Yeast, Charles Kingsley describes a man prone to “bursts of fierce berserk madness”.
Perhaps it is only in the last 20 years that the word berserk has fully entered the mainstream with many films, video games and novels using the word as a handy label for wild untamed madness. Video games featuring berserkers include Final Fantasy, Baldur’s Gate, Dual Masters and Nox. And the popularity of the Lord of the Rings films reintroduced a modern audience to JRR Tolkien’s Uruk army of berserkers, seven foot tall monsters that might have frightened even the hardiest Norse warrior.