What comes to mind when you hear the word “Viking”? The first thing that’ll probably come to your mind is the picture of a giant kind-of man, strong, fearless with a crude weapon and a sack packed full wit looted properties. You might even think of a huge man dressed in furs, horned helmet with a broad-bladed knife in one hand and a crudely shaped ax on the other. Over the years, motion pictures have told many stories of Vikings giving us a little taste of what it means to live in the Viking age – where men roam free taking what they want with their strength and grit. This is probably why the first mental pictures you create of a Viking is of a man with mud and grit rather than a man with a garden fork and knife.
But, are all the things we have come to know about Vikings true or are they concocted stories? This piece takes us back in time through the history, beliefs, conducts and general way of life of a true Viking. By understanding the way of life of the past Vikings, we can grasp the reasonableness of being a Viking in this modern society of ours.
Overview of Viking history
Vikings are Norse seafarers that lived through the 8th and 11th centuries. They spoke the old Norse language and journeyed from place to place raiding and trading the loots along the way. In spite of the fact that they are usually perceived as barbarians, predators, and invaders, they also farmers and explores. This belief is probably based on the fact that the monastery of St Cuthbert on Lindisfarne was raided by Vikings in the year 793. Their endless charade of plundering and ransacking the towns in north-western Europe for over 200 years, made them infamous in the eyes of many westerners. Yet, raids and battles are not the epicenters of the Viking culture. Historians described Vikings as traders who travel far and wide across the shores of the Caspian Sea and Russia.
Before Sweden, Norway and Denmark decided to get their individual flags, there was Scandinavia, and that's where the Vikings lived. Basically, they lived in extreme rural habitats that were scattered across these three countries. In order words, they didn’t really have towns. They traveled from their homeland to other countries of the world using longships (boats that are specially designed to travel on inland and coastal waters swiftly). Vikings were ruled by chiefs, and they usually have to fight for dominance. Which brings us to the everyday life of Vikings.
Notable things about the lifestyle of a true Viking
- What the true Vikings wear
Generally, Viking men and women wear clothes that are both practical and simple. These piece of clothing are usually fabricated from wool or linen materials. These outfits usually include animal skins, which are put there to keep them warm during the cold seasons. Like men of the 21st centuries, Viking men also wear trousers, but their shirts are usually long-sleeved (tunic). The women, on the other hand, wear dresses that are somewhat loose on their body. This outfit usually includes an apron that hangs from their necks to somewhere below their knees. When the temperature drops and the weather becomes unbearably cold, Vikings (men and women) put on cloaks, which are fixed firmly with the aid of a brooch. Their footwear, however, is often fabricated with leather.
- Where the true Vikings live
As you would expect from 11th-century individuals, Viking homes cannot be described as lush residences. Instead, they are made with wood (timber), and they are built as long rectangular buildings. Nonetheless, in some regions of Scandinavia where timbers are not so easy to come by, Vikings build their homes with stone or turf. The roof of a typical Viking home is made of straw thatch or reed without provision for smoke chimneys. On the other hand, they usually create holes in their roofs where smoke can pass through easily (this is very common in the lush Viking homes). The only buildings that featured chimneys in the Viking villages are the Blacksmiths' forge. The home of Vikings who are not-so-rich usually has one room and a hearth in the middle of the residence. Since most of these homes are built without windows, they usually have gloomy interiors. At night, Vikings provide light for their homes with candles or oil lamps.
- What the true Vikings do every day
In spite of the fact that most people are more conversant with the warrior and rebellious side of Vikings, they are mostly farmers. Before they became seafarers and explorers, they cultivated crops like oats, barley, and rye. They also reared domestic animals like pigs, chicken, sheep, goats, and cattle. Some Viking men raised horses while others exercise their expertise catching fishes from the nearby rivers and waters. Viking fishermen are very adventurous, and they usually have their fun combing the sea for fishes and hunting down any whale that crosses their path. The women normally busy themselves with cooking, house chores, drying, pickling and salting food. Vikings place a lot of value on the salt since they use it to boost and preserve the quality of their foods. They purchase the salt from voyagers and merchants and use it to preserve perishable foods so that they can have food during the winter months.
- How the true Vikings communicate?