Viking Duels

Share this:

The Vikings settled disputes by Holmgang, a Viking Duel.

The Norse upheld a legal system much like courts, but not everything could be settled by talks and negotiation. This is when justice demanded the blood of another. A Holmgang was a duel and a commonly recognized way to settle disputes by the Norse. The word “holmgang” translates to “Island Walk” which refers to a hide or cloak which was about three meters long on each side that was staked to the ground of which was the boundaries that the participants had to stay in during the duel.

Viking Duels

Egill Skallagrímsson engaging in holmgang with Berg-Önundr. Painting by Johannes Flintoe (1787–1870).

Just like a duel, regardless of social status, a person could be challenged to settle a dispute by means of the Holmgang. The duel usually took place within three to seven days after the challenge and if one didn’t show up, then the other was considered the winner of the dispute by default.

If it was the challenger of the holmgang that didn’t show up, then they would be outlawed and labeled as a ‘niðingr’ (a coward that had no honor and was beneath everyone else – the lowest of low).

In some cases, a capable warrior could stand in behalf of a clearly outclassed participant of a holmgang. A person’s more capable son or someone from their clan to champion on their behalf.

The results of a holmgang was not considered murder and thus a weregild was not required to be paid by the victor, even though it was seen in the film “The 13th Warrior,” the victor of a duel had paid weregild after winning a duel.



by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing

Read more in The Vikings by Njord Kane

Example of Holmgang on YouTube from the film, “The 13th Warrior.”

Learn the History of a People whose culture groomed Legendary Warriors!
Find out: Who Were The Vikings?
The Vikings (The Story of a People) by Njord Kane
Available everywhere online or at your favorite book store!
Paperbacks – Hardcovers- eBooks

Did you enjoy this article? Buy me a beer!

Copyright © 2013-2018 Spangenhelm Publishing – All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced in any written, electronic, recording, or photocopying form without written permission of the author, Njord Kane, or the publisher, Spangenhelm Publishing. <visit website
Share this:

Related posts

Leave a Comment