Viking Legends – Gunnar the Hero

Gunnar Hámundarson was a 10th century Icelandic chieftain. Gunnar, also known as Gunnar of Hlíðarendi (Old Norse: Gunnarr á Hlíðarenda), lived in Hlíðarendi in Fljótshlíð, a southern region in Iceland, and is featured prominently in the first half of Njáls Saga, an Icelandic sagas which tells of many blood feuds and the chain of events ultimately leading to his death in battle. Gunnar was the son of Hámundr Gunnarsson and Rannveig Sigfúsdóttur (according to Njáls Saga) or Rannveig Sigmundardóttur (according to Landnáma). He had two brothers, Kolskeggr and Hjörtr, and one sister named…

Read More

The Christianization of the Norse

The Christianization of the Norse took place between the 8th and the 12th centuries. It was a gradual process that took considerable effort by Christians. Christian clergy attempts to convert the Norse proved to be difficult. The Norse people were quite content with their own gods and simply did not wish to be converted. In many cases, conversion was only achieved by force. Prior to Christianization, the traditional religion of the Norse people was firmly in place. The Norse religion wasn’t just a form of worship, it was a part…

Read More

Devastating Viking Weapons: The Dane Ax

One of the more popular battle axes used by the Norse was the Dane Ax (Danish Ax). It was an ax that consisted of a wide, thin blade that was ‘pronounced’ at both the toe and heel of the bit with the toe swept inward for better shearing power. The cutting surface of the Danish battle ax varied between 20 centimeters to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 inches) and the average weight was around one kilogram to two kilograms (two to four pounds). It was lightweight and resembled more of…

Read More

Viking Battle Tactics: The Boar Formation

One of the battle formations that Norse warriors formed to break through the enemy’s lines was called the “svinfylking” (boar formation). The svinfylking was a battle formation where a group of heavily armed warriors (usually 20 to 30) would interlock their shields to form a wedge that had the center pointing towards the enemy’s formation. The triangular wedge tapered back on each side from the center point to make a tight spearhead. The Viking warriors would get in a “boar formation” wedge and then charge forward in this tight interlocked…

Read More

The Bloody Trail of Erik the Red’s Daughter

Freydís Eiríksdóttir sailed to Vinland (North America) in the early 1000’s and was the daughter of the famous viking, Erik the Red. She is described as being Leif Erikson’s full sister in the Saga of the Greenlanders (Grœnlendinga Saga) and as being his half sister in the Saga of Erik the Red (Eiríks Saga Rauða). She also had two other brothers, Thorstein and Torvald. It’s unknown when she was born, but probably between the years 970-980 AD. Freydis was married to Torvard, (described as a weakling) and that they lived at Gardar. Freydis participated in two trips…

Read More

Norse Trade, more Bang for the Buck

For as long as history can trace, the Norse have been well known as great traders. Their trade reach extended all the way to the Far East, through Russia and the Black Sea, to the Middle East. Regular trade thrived throughout Europe and in the Mediterranean. The Volga trade route along the Volga River connected Norse tradesmen all the way to the southern shores of the Caspian Sea to trade with Muslim countries, sometimes as far as Baghdad through the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers trade routes. The reach of the…

Read More

Norse contact with Native Americans before the Viking Age

When the Vikings reached the New World, they called the native inhabitants (American Indians or Native Americans), “Skræling.” There has been much debate as to what exactly this word or label meant. Some translate it as “skin wearers,” which may be true as to how they described them. The Norse generally wore woolen or linen clothing and North American Natives generally wore animal skins. There was one thing that is puzzling about the Norse describing their interactions or meeting the Skræling. The Viking explorers weren’t curious or baffled by these…

Read More

The Viking Sword

A good sword was the obvious weapon of choice by the Viking Age warrior. That is, when they could afford or acquire one. Swords used by the Norse have been found throughout Europe and it was common for a sword blade to be imported from a Frankish workshop with the hilt fittings made locally. The most coveted of all Viking swords was a sword with the letters ULFBERHT inlaid into its blade. These very well made, high quality blades were often called an Ulfberht sword. The secrets behind the making of this…

Read More

Norse Law – the Vikings had a ‘Thing’ for it

Law and order is a necessity among all civilized people in order to peacefully live amongst each other. The Norse, like all other people, made their own laws to uphold peace and justice between them. At a gathering, they made their laws and passed their judgments on the law breakers at an assembly called the Thing. The Thing (þing) was a public assembly of which all freemen would have a say in the governance of the land and people. The old Norse clans formed the Thing as a balancing structure…

Read More

Less Commonly Known Viking Weapons – The Atgeir

The Atgeir was a ‘spear-like spear’ that was used before and through the Viking Age. One reference to the atgeir comes from Icelandic Sagas about the Viking hero Gunnar Hámundarson whom used an atgeir in Njál’s Saga that would “sing” by making a ringing sound when it anticipated ‘bloodshed’ when it was used in battle. Gunnar was a great warrior.  He is described as being nearly invincible in combat. According to Njál’s Saga, he was a powerful, athletic man “capable of jumping his own height in full body armor, both back and…

Read More