Voyagers, fishermen, traders, merchants, and more may not be what you think of when you hear the word Vikings. You probably think of large muscular men and women that were barbaric and who would steal or fight anything that walked or sailed into their paths. Vikings were around for hundreds of years, dating back to the seventh century. They have made a significant impact on our world today, and many are fascinated with them.

While Vikings throughout history were portrayed as savages, this is just a myth. And while some Vikings may have been ‘bloodthirsty,” others lived a peaceful life, living as farmers, traders, and merchants.

What are Vikings?

When you think of a Viking, you might imagine them being tall with beefy shoulders and powerful features. But not all of them were like that. Vikings were Norse seafarers. Mainly speaking Old Norse, they were known for raiding and trading from their Northern European homelands. They traveled to such faraway lands as Central, Northern, Eastern, and Western Europe. They colonized Greenland, Iceland, and even North America.

The term Viking is the Old Norse equivalent of “pirate,” and of course, not all of the Scandinavian seafarers raided other coasts or countries. The everyday life of the Norse mostly consisted of farming crops and keeping the farm animals up to par. They mainly lived in wooden houses, but in some areas where lumber wasn’t available, they would use cobblestone as an alternative. There were also those that worked as fishermen or traders.

Their clothing was made of woolen or linen cloth. Men mainly wore long-sleeved shirts and pants, while women primarily wore dresses. While both women and men wore helmets in battle, those silly horns that you see in Viking movies today didn’t exist.

Vikings in our midst: Jorvik Viking Center

In modern times, more people are fascinated with how Vikings lived long ago. You can enjoy this experience at Jorvik Viking Center in a museum in York, England. The Jorvik Viking Centre opened in 1984, shortly after the dig that brought all of this to life. If you visit, you can expect the smell of pig sites, fish markets, and even restrooms. This experience really illustrates what life was like for Vikings.

In the early 2000s, the attraction went under renovations. “A new and improved” version opened in 2017 that expanded the schedule.

Is There a Vikings TV Show?

There are several television shows about the Vikings. They aren’t always historically accurate, but they can be as close as the old Nordic sagas allow. Because of the scarcity of detail in the records, producers rely on myth and legend. This pulls in more viewers with each season but isn’t always accurate.

Vikings, from The History Channel, is the most popular of them. The show premiered in 2013, and more than 2 million people view the show each season. Rotten Tomatoes rated the overall series at a whopping 93 percent.

The Vikings TV Show was inspired by well-known legendary Norse heroes. Writer and producer Micheal Hirst based the story on the sagas of Viking hero Ragnar Lothbrok. Rising to power by convincing his fellow Vikings to sail west, Lothbrok becomes known as the scourge of England as he begins the nearly 300 years of Viking raids on the British Isles.

Hirst, famous for his screen version of the story of Henry VIII in The Tudors, shows Lothbrok as a young farmer and family man who becomes frustrated with his Jarl (chieftain). The Jarl only wants to raid into Russia, where the inhabitants are just as poor as the Norse. With help from his friend, the mystic and slightly mad Floki, Ragnar builds faster and sleeker ships, making it easier to sail West to richer lands.

The series portrays the Vikings as savages. So goes the mythical idea of the Vikings. The series has five seasons, with a rumored sixth season coming.

Watch the Season 1 trailer for the show below:

Famous Vikings in History

There are many famous Vikings, such as Eric Bloodaxe, Harald Hardrada, and even the daughter of Eric The Red, Freydís Eiríksdóttir who earned her Viking warrior princess title by chasing off Vinland natives by herself. However, the three Vikings we are going to discuss stand out even more. From a king to a man who found North America, they are truly incredible.

Duke Rollo of Normandy

The first Viking we are going to talk about is Rollo, Duke of Normandy. Rollo was the first ruler or duke of Normandy. The Viking leader Rollo led raids on France in the 9th century. In a treaty with Charles the Simple, king of the West Franks, Rollo was granted Normandy (Northman’s land). Another descendant of Rollo was William the Conqueror, who became the first Norman king of England until his death in 1087.

Vikings sailing across the sea, ready for war.

Image CC0, by Dieterich01, via Pixabay 

Leif Erikson

The second Viking who stands out in history is Leif Erikson. The son of another well-known Viking, Erik the Red, Erikson was born around 970 A.D. Leif Eriksson found North America 500 hundred years before Christopher Columbus. Leif left home to voyage to what is now North America in 1002.

On this voyage, he discovered North America. He fled back to Greenland around 1005. He then told people about the land he found. And while other Vikings visited the area, Leif only made a single trip back to gather more supplies such as lumber and cobblestone. Sadly, shortly after that, he later died in a battle.

Sweyn Forkbeard

Sweyn Forkbeard is England’s forgotten king. People overlook him because he did horrible things to his people. After burning alive women and hanging men from their genitals, people killed Sweyn. He was an evil man.

The Viking Legacy

The reputation of the warriors that changed our way of life has been denigrated as savage. But not all Norse were Vikings, and not all Vikings were as savage as you would think. Their backstories and sagas show much more than what enemy historians wrote about them.

With a rich tales about their gods and the creation of the world, like most people during the Dark Ages, they did what they had to in order to survive. Their exploits on the sea changed the world, whether they went to raid or trade, creating a vast network of across the Western world.


Featured Image: CC by SA 4.0, by Chemical Engineer, via Wikimedia