Think you know all there is to know when it comes to the Vikings? Think again! Take a moment to pause your latest viewing of Thor or Vikings, and get ready to have your helmeted mind blown.
While Vikings have garnered a reputation as fearless warriors, they weren’t necessarily bloodthirsty savages. The Vikings were savvy seafarers with progressive ideals. In fact, if the Vikings existed today, they would most likely vote democrat and may even lead many a progressive movement.
These facts are far from the only surprising thing you’re about to learn. Click ‘Begin’ and take a look at these cool facts you didn’t know about the Vikings.
The Vikings’ Hygiene Skills Were On Point
Vikings are cool, but you probably wouldn’t want to be stuck on a subway with a bunch of these sweaty savages, right? The mere thought of that collective musk is enough to give you watery eyes. But the dirty Viking is actually something of fiction.
Although film and television often depict Vikings as perspiring, muddied brutes, these seafarers took grooming and hygiene very seriously. Multifarious tools used for hygiene and male grooming have been discovered. These tools included things like razors, combs, and ear swabs.
There is No Evidence That Vikings Wore Helmets With Horns
If you’ve gone to any renaissance festival or Halloween party dressed as a Viking — I hate to break it to you — you’re costume is wildly inaccurate. In modern culture, one of the most recognizable features of a Viking involves these men wearing helmets with two horns.
The thing is, there is absolutely no evidence that the Vikings ever wore helmets with horns. One likely theory states that contemporary Christians spread this rumor to make Vikings seem more satanic. HARSH!
They Didn’t Call Themselves Vikings
The Vikings never actually called themselves Vikings, and if you yelled “Hey, Viking!” at one today while walking down the street, chances are they would just keep on moving.
The term “Viking” was created as a way to reference any Scandinavians who took part in overseas expeditions. If Vikings referred to themselves in a collective way, they most likely called themselves “Ostmen” or “Astmen,” which translated, means “East-men.” The origin of the name Ostmen resides in Dublin. This makes sense, being that these East-men were Scandinavians who settled along the East coast of Ireland.
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The Vikings Were Not Part of One Tribe
Many Vikings didn’t know each other or even know of each other. They DID all originate in Scandinavia, there were several different groups of warriors that comprised who we know as Vikings.
There were several different Viking groups. Each group had a chieftain who would lead the group on their overseas expeditions. As each group was ruled by a different chieftain, it is quite likely that the members had zero knowledge of the each other. You could say that these groups were like long, wooden ships passing in the night.
They Didn’t Drink Out of Skulls
I hate to break it to you, but the Vikings did not drink from the skulls of their enemies and, NO, the cups they did drink out of did not contain the blood of their enemies either.
Excavations have never uncovered anything indicating that Vikings drank out of skulls. However, it has been found that Vikings drink from the horns of cattle — that’s kind of cool, right? Aside from horns, they also drank from boring old wooden and metal cups. LAME.
There Are Several Reasons for the Vikings Demise
I’m sure it would be exciting to think that the Viking age went out in a blaze of bloody glory, but that was unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) not the case at all.
More and more Scandinavians were subscribing to Catholic Christianity and the Catholic Church banned violence between Christians. Other Vikings settled in places like Normandy and Russia where they were forced to pledge allegiance to the kings and rulers of their new residence.
The Tomb of a Viking Power Couple Was Discovered in 2012
In 2012, the tomb of what is believed to be of a Viking power couple was discovered by engineers in Harup, Denmark. After being assessed, archaeologists concluded that the pillaging power couple was likely of high status judging by markings on the tomb, as well as a pair of keys that signaled the woman was of a noble birth.
According to excavation leader, Kristen Nelleman Nielsen, the axe was like a “machine gun” of the Viking age. Basically, being the owner of this type of axe meant you were NOT someone anyone wanted to mess with.
Who Run the Viking World? GIRLS! (Well, Sort Of…)
Think that these might warriors were all of the male persuasion? Wrong! Findings published in the American Journal of Anthropology detailed that remains found in Birka, Sweden, were that of a 30 year old female Viking of extremely high status and power.
When people think about Vikings, a male-dominated population usually comes to mind, but these findings upend that stereotype. The really exciting thing about these findings is that it offers proof that women were extremely independent and battled just as hard as their male counterparts.
Move Over, Columbus
Every year, we celebrate Columbus Day to commemorate that time in 1492 when Christopher Columbus discovered America. But Columbus never actually discovered America. Enter Leif Erikson.
A dispute between Erik and his neighbor led to said neighbor’s death. Erik fled his home of Iceland and his journey led him to Canada. Upon his return, he encouraged his son, Leif, to explore these new lands, which led to Leif’s discovery of America. But Leif didn’t conquer the Native Americans, which kept his name out of history books.
Something Interesting May Have Happened During That American Voyage
Although they may not have been able to divide and conquer, it appears that the Vikings didn’t leave America without capturing at least one Native American woman. A DNA analysis of a group of families living in Iceland indicated that the meeting with the Native Americans didn’t end with the Vikings simply sailing away empty-handed. A genetic marker was found that indicates Native American ancestry in some Scandinavians.
The marker is over three centuries old, meaning that at least one Viking and one Native American woman became intimate at some point and conceived.
Vikings Used Human Waste to Start Fires
Despite their great hygiene habits, the Vikings had a less-than-sanitary way to start fires. Using fungus and urine, the Vikings were able to start fires, proving that these formidable seafarers were also really great when it comes to recycling.
Urine contains sodium nitrate, which was the critical component in Viking fires. Rather than start crackling fires with licking flames that would need to be contained to one location, the sodium nitrate in urine kept the fires at a smoulder. This allowed the Vikings to carry their sources of heat with them as they traveled.
They Believed Blondes Have More Fun
Popular culture often depicts Vikings with platinum locks, and that’s one thing people get right about these Norsemen and Norsewomen. But not every Viking was born a natural blonde, despite that hue often being associated with Scandinavians.
Many of the Vikings were brunettes and redheads. Because fair hair was held in high regard, those that weren’t born with it took matter into their own hands. To bleach their hair, they would use their very own handcrafted soap made from lye.
They Had Some Interesting Dental Habits As Well
They say that beauty is pain and apparently the Vikings got that message way back when. In 2009, archaeologists from Oxford University made an extremely strange discovery. A grave of Viking warriors containing decapitated skulls that showed signs of filings etched into the Vikings’ teeth.
The purpose of said filings isn’t clear, and archaeologists can only guess it was done as a source of intimidation or a sign of status. Tattoos are all the rage, so maybe the filings were to Vikings what tattoos are to us now?
They Enjoyed Some of Our Favorite Winter Sports and Activities
The Vikings knew how to fight but they also understood the importance of play. The Vikings’ recreation game was on point. They enjoyed both skiing and ice skating and are, in fact, thought to be the first people to partake in these activities as a form of fun.
Despite participating in these activities for enjoyment, the Vikings took their skiing very, very seriously. So seriously in fact that they actually worshipped a God of skiing, known as Ullr. According to Norse mythology, this God was all about outdoor activities.
Viking Women Were Allowed to Divorce Their Husbands
Viking women were allowed to actually peace out on their marriages when they deemed fit, and it didn’t even have to be for some grave reason. Women could even choose to walk away from marriage because of too much chest hair.
Not only that, but a divorce would require the husband to pay alimony. Keep in mind that Viking women were forced into arranged marriages between the ages of 12 and 13, so maybe they were just looking for any excuse to get out.
They Took Darwinism a Bit Too Far When it Came to Their Children
One tragic, darker side of Viking history involves child abandonment. If a Viking had a child that was weak or ill, they would have to decide whether or not to continue parenting their child and their decisions often led to neglect, abandonment or even death.
Viking children basically had five years to prove themselves physically and mentally capable of being strong, independent and ready for battle. But those that didn’t prove themselves were left to die.
It Was Considered an Honor to Be Buried on a Boat
It was considered an extreme honor to be buried in a Viking boat. Not only was it a privilege, it was also a rarity. Boat burials were only reserved for the most respected and prominent individuals in Viking culture.
In these rare boat burials, the boats served as a coffin for the individuals. The Vikings who were “buried” in these boats were adorned with a variety of weapons and other treasured pieces. Less elite were cremated or had standard burials.
A Viking Diet Included a Ton of Variety
When you picture a Viking sitting down for a meal, you probably picture noshing on slabs of meat and drinking hooch from skulls. Although there were carnivorous elements to a Viking’s diet, they tended to follow the everything-in-moderation rule and partook in everything our food pyramids would have to offer.
Many Vikings were farmers, so they had easy access to some farm-to-table goods. The daily diet of a Viking included plenty of grains, vegetables, dried fruits, milks and cheeses, and meats.
Many Vikings Were Farmers
Although Vikings are most often thought of as bloodthirsty barbarians, not every Viking was a pillaging warrior. In fact, most Vikings were actually farmers. These skilled Viking farmers enjoyed a life of growing various crops and raising livestock for a dose of protein.
Agriculture on a Viking farm included pretty much everything imaginable and would likely rival the largest produce sections of today’s bougie grocery stores. Everything from beans, to cabbage, to leeks and turnips was grown. Various animals were raised and used for slaughter.
Vikings Played Board Games
Forget raids — game nights were a big thing in Viking culture. One board game that was extremely popular was called Hnefatafl. The rules for said board game were never actually written down, but you can still play it if you’d like to give it a go.
On a four-cornered board, pieces are placed to be the king and his defenders, as well as soldiers trying to overthrow the king. The objective is to get to one corner of the board if you’re the king and to capture the king if you’re an attacker.
Many Vikings Had Slaves
Vikings had slaves known as “thralls.” In fact, when it came to the iconic Viking raids, a purpose in many of these raids was to capture people from different areas and turn them into thralls.
Experts have posed different theories for Vikings feeling that they needed to have slaves. One theory suggests that captured slaves were women and that the less elite Vikings enslaved these women in order to make them their brides. Other theories include using thralls as workers who world help with farming and carpentry.
They Were Generally Small in Stature
Vikings weren’t tall, muscular men a la Chris Hemsworth in Thor. The average height for a Viking man, for example, was a little bit over 5 feet 7 inches. Moreover, they tended to be lean as opposed to burly.
Why was this? Part of the reason could be due to the short summer seasons along with economic difficulty. Resources could be scarce, forcing the Vikings to ration their food. This also serves as a motivator for Vikings to seek other lands for financial gain.
Vikings Had Their Own Unique Justice System
Any family or communal disputes and crimes were handled in a unique system of law and order known by Norse culture as “Althing,” which can be translated as “the Thing.”
People were required to attend regular meetings at the Thing, where a designated “law-speaker” would go over societal rules and settle different disputes. Sometimes disputes were settled through peaceful means and done with the help of an objective third party, similar to the courts of today. But other times law and order was decided through violent wrestling matches, some even leading to death.
A Well-Known Form of Viking Execution Probably Didn’t Exist
This list is all about busting myths about the Vikings, so it’s nice to know that along with being progressive, well-groomed and handy, they didn’t likely perform an execution known as the blood eagle.
What does a blood eagle execution involve, you ask? LOTS OF REALLY BAD STUFF! This infamous Viking punishment was said to involve opening the back of a person and cracking each rib one by one. The Vikings would then literally pour salt into the victim’s wounds and leave them to die.
They Were Extremely Crafty
Vikings loved their weaponry and part of that love was evident in how decorative they were when it came to swords, shields, ships, and even everyday items.
A Viking in modern times would most definitely have a booth at the Renaissance Festival and YES you would spend too much money there. Viking items were often swathed in intricate and ornate designs. Moreover, Vikings had a penchant for animals and would often create art that depicted things like horses, snakes, wolves, as well as fantastical animals of mythology.
Climate Change Was in the Vikings’ Favor During the Medieval Warm Period
Some like it hot, and for the Vikings, heat played an important role in their survival during a time known as the Medieval Warm Period. This period lasted between the years of 950 and 1250 A.D. During this time, the Vikings migrated from Iceland to Greenland in order to settle into new land. Oceans laden with ice weren’t going to make these trips easy.
During the Medieval Warm Period, ice melted and sites that Vikings settled in enjoyed warmer temperatures, whereas the elements would have made things unlivable had things not warmed up.
Some Vikings Went Berserk Before Battle
This “berserking” involved the Viking in question being taken hold of by an otherworldly power that would incite a fury that seemed so great, it was almost as if it had been spurred by some omnipresent power. But looks can be deceiving, which was the case for this particular type of rage.
Scholars believe that this rage could have been caused by substances like mushroom alcohol that left these warriors to hallucinate. It is also possible that these histrionics were the product of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Beserking Was Sometimes Done Deliberately
Vikings would consume “magic mushrooms” in order to alter their consciousness in a way that would lead to hallucinations. Theoretically, these hallucinations prompted Vikings to mindlessly butcher anyone who got in their way during battle.
Of course, you’ve learned now that there were plenty of misconceptions when it comes to the Vikings and that beserking could have also been a product of PTSD, a devastating disorder that can easily develop during and after times of war. Unfortunately, diagnoses and mental health treatments weren’t exactly plentiful during the fifth century.
The Vikings Really Could Sail on the Cloudiest of Days
Legend has it that Vikings were able to sail through the roughest of waters and the darkest of skies with ease. We know that Vikings were expert sailors and they had an interesting way of ensuring that their overseas expeditions were successful.
They could actually find the sun thanks to the use of a sunstone, known as the Icelandic spar. Vikings would hold this up to the sky and find the sun thanks to the stone’s ability to react in a way that creates a visual effect known as Haidenger’s brush.
They Also Had a Special Compass to Navigate Through Fog
While engaging in trade with China, the Vikings obtained the mineral magnetite, which is crucial in the creation of magnetic compasses. Having such a compass was extremely important during overseas expeditions.
These types of compasses were extremely important for general navigation and were particularly helpful when the Vikings sailed through heavy fog. Even the savviest sailor can find themselves lost at sea when cloaked in cloud mist, so compasses were critical to coasting toward their next location (how’s that for alliteration?).
The Vikings Basically Invented Rap Battles
Long before Grandmaster Flash entered the hip-hop scene and Eminem was seen dropping beats in the movie 8 Mile, the Vikings were mastering their own rap battles. The Nordic rap battles were known as flyting. Flyting involved a poetic and ritualistic swapping of insults.
Similar to modern-day rap, flyting could often be laden with provocative subjects, including things of a sexual nature. Flyting took place in feasting halls and a winner would be decided based on the crowd’s reaction — just like modern rap battles!
Viking Soup Was Used for Battle Wounds
After returning scathed — but alive — after battle, Viking women would feed their male warriors a hearty soup that consisted of a broth containing a medley of onions, leeks and herbs. Sound delicious? It was, but what happened after the feeding wasn’t so appetizing.
After their wounded warrior consumed the soup, the women would smell the wound to see if they could smell the broth. If they could, that meant that the wound was fatal and death was near.
The Vikings Inspired The Lord of the Rings
Yes, it turns out that the Vikings were an inspiration for the iconic book series and movies. J.R.R. Tolken was extremely inspired by the story of the Andvari’s Ring. Andvari’s Ring is a Norse legend that revolves around a ring that will curse anyone who wears it.
The legend takes place in a universe known as Midgard. Midgard also means “Middle-Earth,” so it’s clear where the inspiration for the entire world that makes up the Lord of the Rings franchise came from.
Viking Weddings: They’re Just Like Us!
Like us, Viking weddings required friends and family from all over to come into town to witness the nuptials. There was careful planning that went into the ceremony, like ensuring that enough food and drink would be provided for guests and that the wedding took place during a time that bad weather hopefully wouldn’t rear its ugly head.
Unlike us, Vikings had super long engagements, with a three-year waiting period keeping Vikings from Iceland from tying the knot quickly. Weddings would also last a week.
Viking Weddings Included Some Strange Rituals
For example, Viking women had to strip off any evidence of their unwed selves — such as clothes, symbols of virginity, etc. — and store them away as a symbol of their entrance into married life. Men would undergo their own pre-wedding rituals, entering a grave and reemerging with a sword to symbolize a death and rebirth.
The Viking groom and bride were legally required (yes, LEGALLY required) to binge drink honey-based mead before being escorted up to their bedroom at the end of the night.
Vikings Live on Among Us, in a Way
The English were eventually able to conquer the Vikings and force those remaining in England to assimilate into their culture and abide by their laws.
One Viking king known as Harald Hardrada ferociously attempted to reclaim his power in England by igniting one final fight known as the Battle of Stamford Bridge, but died in battle. Vikings who had assimilated to English life peacefully continued on there, marrying and having children. So we have many people among us with Viking ancestry — you could even be one of them!
Basically, the Vikings Were Complex
They were extremely hygienic, intelligent craftsman, merchants and farmers who used their skills to thrive during their time. Moreover, Vikings proved to be extremely progressive for the time period in which they lived.
Women were given far more rights than would be expected, having the freedom to fight alongside men and divorce them if they found themselves unhappy in their marriages. It just goes to show you that, as much as you may think you know about a subject, history can prove to be very surprising.
They practiced democratic views
Vikings were way ahead of their time in a variety of way. They practiced democratic views and even decided who got to be king via a voting system that operated like a presidential election.
In most cases, the majority always ruled and all voting results became law. In terms of punishment, no man was ever sent to prison for his crimes—instead, they were made to pay a hefty fine. For those who felt like they didn’t want to be a part of the society anymore, they were more than welcome to “leave”.
They were, like, totally chill
Contrary to popular belief, the Vikings were not all about burning homes and stealing everyone’s stuff. While it is true that there were groups who used force instead of fairness to win disagreements, not every run-in ended up in a blood-soaked battle.
In reality, there were a variety of Viking groups that used peaceful practices in areas like Greenland, Iceland and smaller islands. They placed emphasis on farming over fighting in fact, preparing farm to table meals that were beyond delish!
What’s for breakfast?
Breakfast consisted of mostly leftover stew, bread and fruit, while the kids would eat some porridge and dried fruit. The night meal included some type of protein, such as fish or meat, stewed together with some vegetables grown from their crops.
A dessert likely included some more dried fruit with honey, and the main beverages included ale, buttermilk and mead. When it came time to host a large feast, the Vikings essentially ate the same foods, except in larger portions. Where was Martha Stewart when they needed her?!
Viking cribs were seriously well-made
Both men and women in Viking colonies spent a lot of time at home and on their farms, so they needed homes that would stand against time and bad weather.
Their homes were usually built from local materials such as wood, stones, moss and turf.
To keep out cold winds and rain, the walls of the home were built strong with intertwining sticks. This layer was then covered in mud, and any other strengthening materials they could find. For the most part, the houses were only designed to have one room, with one fire cooking in the middle.
They preferred talking instead of tweeting
There isn’t a lot of documented history straight from the Viking’s mouth, however, because they preferred to talk instead of write things down.
Whether this is because they were illiterate or simply disinterested, a lot of the history about these people is lacking.
Since their enemies never got to experience the Vikings in their natural, peaceful homes, there is more about their pillaging and violence than anything else. But we now know they were much more than barbaric fighting.
The Viking language gifted us with some pretty lit words
Although the Norse language is quite different from present-day English, there are actually quite a few words that have made their way into our dictionaries, thanks to the Vikings.
Some of the harsher words that we’ve adopted include “anger”, “hell”, “skull” and “slaughter”. Other dark words that we use on a daily basis include “ugly” and “weak”. It’s not all bad news, however. The Vikings left us with some fun words to use as well, including “freckles”, “husband”, “wife”, and our all-time favorite, “cake”.
They had many options in the after-life
While some people see the after-life as only having a Heaven and Hell, the Vikings were a lot more creative with their options. They had a strong belief that the way you spent your time on Earth would decide where you went in death.
Brave warriors who fought valiantly were thought to end up in the best possible place, called Valhalla.
Other admirable places to end up after death included Helgafjell and Helheim. Helgafjell was considered a lovely place to go for anyone who had led a good and admirable life
Helheim, on the other hand, was a place reserved for the “dishonorable,” which could even mean dying of old age in bed. Tough break!
Not to be confused with Knattle IKR?
One of the Vikings favourite games was an ice hockey like sport known as knattleikr, which is very close to what is played today. Now imagine the Vikings squaring off with hockey sticks instead of swords and shields, and know, the horned helmets still wouldn’t work.
Think about this though, no one would want to be in the middle of a Viking ice hockey game and have a foul called. The fights would probably be a hell of a lot bloodier than what we see on television.
Food Gotta Eat
They used quick and out-of-the-box thinking to develop ways of life conducive to their environment and needs. This was no different when it came to preserving food for their harsh winters. Think about standing waiting for a bus or train in below zero weather. Sufficiently freezing?
It was not the easiest job to raise livestock in such cold conditions, when grass to feed them was such a tough thing to come by. Thus, fish was salted and dried, meats smoked and cured, and common vegetables like cabbages and peas were stored in dry areas to preserve.
On the Runway
Nowadays, we can’t get enough of whatever new Fenty fashion comes our way, and if Kanye drops an aerodynamic hoody or some other out there garment tomorrow, even his haters would be first in line to purchase. In the Viking community, they were much more practical.
As they were excellent weavers, they made all their own clothes, and even children got into the activity, helping their parents turn wool into yarn. In colder weather, they added a cloak to their ensembles, and leather shoes to keep their feet warm. Dare you to be that minimalist.
Let’s Talk War!
The Vikings often had fights among themselves between people of different regions, and would rob their own and enslave the defenceless. Of course, this only happened when they were not off raiding. You can stop saying, “I told you so,” as even though they had in-house wars like this, they were always rules.
Rules of engagement were no joke in Viking communities. For example, they did not attack those they considered unworthy foes. For a proud community like theirs, it would have been seen as a disgrace to attack a place that had no means to defend itself.
Work Hard, Play Hard
While “Sunday Funday” might be a regular part of your weekly activities, the Vikings’ lifestyle had a bit more going on than mimosas and brunch with friends. They utilized their time with work and play, in ways that bolstered their community spirit from village to village and kept them fit, healthy, and as always – ready for war or attack.
Towns were always a hive of activity, especially during the day time. People ate together, drank together, and enjoyed each other’s company. And guess what? There wasn’t a cell-phone in sight.
A New Empire
It isn’t clear why the Vikings began their raids when they did, or how they chose their target areas. However, based on the history of the time, experts have made some conjectures.
In the 9th century, Charlemagne had come into power and started brutally and without mercy forcing the conversion of pagans to Christianity. At the same time, the Roman Republic had fallen, leaving a great deal of Europe fractured and defenseless, as well as unsettled politically. That might have spurred the Vikings to act.
No, not the Beatles – this was more than a millennia prior to that. The Vikings seemed to have been obsessed with conquering England, though other than conjectures about it having fruitful land, there’s no real explanation. For 80 years, they held back and only seemed to invade the British Isles, Scotland, and Ireland.
But eventually, the “Great Heathen Army” landed in Northumbria and marched on northern England, capturing York and settling. Battles for the territory continued for centuries, and their conquests led to various lands.
A Lasting Mark
The dogged exploration of lands and pursuit of glory led the Vikings to create or expand major cities across Europe. In Ireland, Wexford, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, and even Dublin began as Viking colonies. Viking descendants in Russia founded Smolensk, Novogorod, and more. Travelers created the city of Rekyavik, and their settlements in England influenced culture and heritage, especially in York but really across the entire country.
The coast of France even became the “Land of the Northmen”, or those who would eventually be called the Normans (hence Normandy).
Gods, Gold, and Good Food
Their entire culture was shaped around their religious beliefs in hundreds of gods, goddesses, and ruling heroes to worship. They had access to rich cloths and jewelry, with chieftains wearing silk and uniquely crafted trinkets.
And as you’ve learned their diet was incredibly rich and diverse. Between their hard work and the way they ate, it’s no wonder these people were so strong and vibrant. Even the dead were celebrated with riches and sent off in valuable longboats based on their spiritual beliefs.
When you look at popular culture, you’ll see that the Vikings heavily influenced spirituality for centuries and are still recognized today with their rich stories of heroes and gods providing a basis for some of the most revered comics and movie franchises today. Odin, Thor, Loki, Freyja, and so many more characters in Marvel were derived from actual gods in the Norse pantheon.
Also, consider the fact that even the days of the week are named after these gods – Thursday (Thor’s day), Wednesday (Woden/Odin’s day), Friday (Freyja’s day).
The Class System
Jarls were chieftains and makers of the rules. These ‘nobles’ were wealthy landowners and merchants directly tied to the king and controlled a very large workforce.
Beneath them were karls (also the derivative of the English ‘earl’), or freemen. This was the vast majority of the population, who could own land but not property and they farmed and built and lived a life dedicated to their chieftains but not particularly under their thumbs. Lastly were thralls, which were slaves we mentioned earlier.
More Violent Than Football
Today, rugby, hockey, and perhaps even UFC are considered extremely violent sports, but none of these hold a candle to the games Vikings played. Their playfulness was extremely violent, making today’s rougher sports look like games of cricket by comparison. In fact, it was common for men to be seriously injured and even die during these little ‘games’.
But because the Vikings were prideful people, it often kept them from ‘tapping out’ early enough to save themselves the brutality that could cripple or kill them.
No Blood is Too Thick
They say blood is thicker than water, but there were times when this wasn’t the case. The Vikings valued strength above all else. Therefore, it wasn’t uncommon to devalue anyone weak or infirm to the greatest extent.
What this boiled down to was that if a child was born with a defect, was extremely weak, or grew very ill, they would be abandoned – completely cast out as useless. While we might see this as horrendous today, it was common and helped the Vikings stay strong, much like aiding natural selection.
Have you heard of Harald Bluetooth? Jim Kardach has. He’s the guy at Intel who invented Bluetooth technology. He named it after one of his favorite stories out of Viking mythology.
Harald Bluetooth was a Viking king of Denmark, centuries ago. Unlike other kings, Harald managed to bring different Viking tribes together. Since Kardach considered the new technology to be all about uniting, he decided to name his invention Bluetooth. Even better? The Bluetooth symbol blends the Nordic runes for ‘B’ and ‘H’, the initials of Harald Bluetooth.
A lot of the information about the Vikings that’s been gathered was based on what their enemies recorded about them. The excavation of archeological sites and true scholarly study of the Viking culture has only truly been undertaken in the last century, not really beginning until the 1900s.
New translations, study of artifacts, and a keen interest in dispelling dramatic myths in favor of the truth have spurred the effort, so more is still being learned about the intriguing men once thought to be complete heathens.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
It seems like the main reason the Viking Era came to an end was simple burnout. Some scholars theorize that more and more Scandinavians were being converted to Christianity, which banned their violent practices.
Others point to the settlements in other regions of the world – where eventually, the Vikings simply fully assimilated to the local lifestyle. What we know for certain is that, after a long and prestigious reign, the Vikings seemed to fade away in 1066, when the last great leader, Harald Hardrada, fell when invading England.