Vikings is a TV show that is created around Barbarians and of course, Vikings back in ancient days. When most of us hear or read stories about those times, we have visions of horn-helmeted men pillaging, raping and raving throughout the land. They are blonde, dirty and in my mind’s eye, smelly too.
When it comes to the Vikings, those visions couldn’t be any more wrong. The images of Vikings have long been misconceived. They populated their part of the word from the 8th century until the 11th century, which considering the impact they left on western society, was a short time. Here we are going to attempt to clear some of the misconceptions that people today about the Vikings of yesterday.
Vikings – A Nation
Some believe that the Vikings were a whole nation, when in fact there were several groups of explorers, merchants and warriors within the Viking group. They existed at time that Denmark, Norway and Sweden were all one country called Scandinavia. Each group lived in a small area that was ruled by a Chieftain.
Vikings – Dirty and Wild
Vikings are depicted in books and movies as dirty savages that are wild-looking, when in reality they were vain people. The Vikings are credited with developing combs, razors, tweezers and “ear spoons”. It is believed by those who travel and work the Viking Age on excavations that these people also made soap and were known for weekly bathing (an excess in those days). They did this weekly bathing on Saturdays, which brought us the term “washing day”.
Vikings – Big and Blond
By the things we’ve read and watch, it would appear that Vikings were all men, they were all big and had long blond hair. The fact is that Vikings were of small stature, around 5’7” and many of them used a special soap to bleach their hair. The Vikings absorbed others as they raided villages and such, making the people they kidnapped their slaves and a part of their population. The Vikings would actually have a diverse group of French, Italians, Portuguese, Russians and Spaniards.
Vikings – Skull Cups For Beverage Vessels
In 1636 a legend was created that said “curved branches of skulls” were used by the Danish warriors for drinking. During all the Viking Age excavations that have taken place, not one skull cup has been discovered.
Vikings – Crude Weapons
Vikings have been shown to use clubs, crudely made axes and other unsophisticated weapons. The truth is that the Vikings were actually very skilled weapon smiths, using a pattern welding method that allowed them to create swords that were flexible and sharp.
Vikings – Scandinavia Bound
As mentioned above, the Vikings came from the Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Over time, they began settling in other places as well, like North Africa, Constantinople, North America and Russia. What motivated them to expand is unknown, but the most common of all theories is the agricultural of their homeland was no longer enough to feed their people. Yet another theory claims that the profitability of their old trade routes had declined after the Roman Empire collapsed and they moved on to create new routes that gave them international trade.
Vikings – A Hated Group By All
Because of their raiding and ravaging acts, it is believed that nobody liked the Vikings. However, it is said that some people actually had respect for them, such as the French King Charles the III. It is said that he gave them the land they had settled in what is now known as Normandy. He also gave the Viking Chieftain Rollo his daughter in exchange for protecting France.
Vikings – Barbaric and Bloodthirsty
There is no doubt that the Viking raids were extremely violent. But considering the times, it was an age of violence and non-Vikings were just as barbaric and bloodthirsty. Such as Charlemagne who exterminated all of the Avars people and ordered over 4,000 Saxons to be beheaded.
What many don’t realize is that the Vikings targeted religious valuables such as Christian monasteries, churchmen and holy sites. Thus it made them hated by those who were religious and when people saw them coming ashore, fled their cities and towns.
Vikings – Pillaged For A Living
Not all Vikings were warriors. More of them were craftsmen, farmers and traders. The pillaging they did as they sailed was just one of many goals they had on the high waters. For the most part, they settled peacefully in Greenland and Iceland and became international merchants.
Vikings – The Helmets
This most misconceived notion of the Vikings is their helmet. The fact is that there is no record of the Viking wearing horned helmets ever. The Norse God Thor is said to have had wings on his helmet that could be misconstrued as horns.
So as you sit back with a cold brew to watch another episode, or play another round of your viking inspired game, picture a more peaceful, quieter Viking at the helm. Welding the swords and selling their vegetables.