THE VIKINGS

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The Vikings had significantly influenced the English language and literature. During the long winters, when people were confined to their homes, Vikings were kept alive for centuries in the hearts of the Scandinavians by the storytellers’. But this Viking culture and their stories began to fade from the people’s mind as most of the people illiterate. During 13th century, Christian churchmen taught the Icelanders to write and this rich heritage got fortunately saved by them. A great blooming of Viking age literature took place through the writings of Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic writer. Some of his works are Poetic Edda and Prose Edda (about Norse mythology and heroes), The Heimskringla, about the kings of Norway and most likely, Egil’s saga. Thus most of the things we know about the Viking Age comes from these Icelandic collections of poems, tales, sagas and stories. Most of this Norse literature was written in the vernacular, the language of Iceland, which was remarkable for middle age.

 

Let’s see who the Vikings were actually! Vikings were Norwegians, Swedes and Danes men who raided and traded wide areas of northern, eastern and central Europe during the late 8th to 11th centuries.The Vikings were known as Ascomanni (ashmen) by the Germans and Dene by the Anglo Saxons. They mainly speak the Old Norse Language. They had advanced seafaring skills and attacked many places on the coasts as they were easy to reach with their swift and easily landed ships. They looted and killed the communities so fast that there was no chance for even thinking about any defense or counter attack to be made. They usually raided when they were not busy in farming or plantation and usually came back in time for harvest. The people called Vikings were fearless explorers who quickly make Iceland it’s most important colony and were the first Europeans who actually reached North America under Leif Ericson, heir to Erik the Red and set up short lived settlements. Leif Ericson was the first known explorer to discover America even before Christopher Columbus.

The Vikings were also competent traders and merchants who traded furs, amber, iron, timber at North and silver, gold, silk and spices at the South. The Scandinavians totally changed the history of Ireland, England, France, Russia and other European countries. These aggressive men challenged and conquered many lands terrifying people for a significant period of time. For 300 years, churches and monasteries would pray to be spared the “Wrath of the Norsemen.” Vikings took slaves after raiding who were always welcomed in the slave markets of Constantinople and Baghdad and gained huge profits through slave trading. Their weapons were swords, axe, spears and round shield of protection along with the iron helmet. The most expensive weapon was the Iron sword. The warfare of the Vikings were often propelled by their beliefs in Norse religion, especially Thor and Odin.

Literary Influence:

By the late 9th century, Viking controlled virtually the whole eastern half of England that left a lasting impact on the English language. Many English words originate from Old Norse such as thrift, thrust, they, there, then, skirt, sky, skull, skin, skate, skid, anger, knife, leather etc. All these words reflected their lifestyle and origins. Even the names Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday are named after the old Germanic Gods that both the Anglo Saxons and Vikings believed in. Also several place names on the west coast of Southern France might also be the result of Vikings invasion.

The Vikings also have rich culture in stories, tales and heroic poems. There were two types of Norse poetry: Skaldic and Eddaic. Skaldic wrote verses honouring King or a patron whereas Eddaic poetry could be on any subjects such as humour, romantic, heroic etc.

Social Background:

The society was divided into three classes: Thralls, Karls and Jarls. Thralls were lower class or slaves. Karls were free peasants. Jarls were the aristocracy who engaged in politics, hunting and sports. Women were free and in absence of a male head, an unmarried woman with no son could not only inherit the property but also the position as head of the family. Those type of women were called Baugrygr. Women could divorce her husband and remarry and could also cohabit with a man and have children without marrying him, even if that man is married to someone else which is known as frilla. There was no distinction made between legitimate and illegitimate child. Women had active participation in poetry, medicine and trade. They can also be oracles and priestesses. But these liberties disappeared gradually from 13th century after the introduction of Christianity.

Their cuisines includes meat products, sausages, seafood, bread, dairy products, vegetables , berries and alcoholic drinks like beer, mead, bjorr (a strong fruit juice). They practised various types of sports like wrestling, stone lifting, mountain climbing, swimming, horse fighting, hunting etc. During festive occasions, storytelling, skaldic poetry and music would lit up the atmosphere. They considered music as an important art form and played various instruments like harps, lutes, lyres fiddles.

Vikings had same clothing styles: men wore a thick shirt known as a tunic over trousers. Women wore one long dress, floor or ankle length, with an apron-style dress over it. Underneath these woollen garments, both men and women wore linen undershirts or shifts. There is also slight evidence that Swedish Vikings tattooed themselves.

 

Therefore, The Vikings Age have such a strong influence in the European, American and Russian culture that even today they influence many creative works which includes novels such as Frans Gunnar Bengtssons’s The Long Ships, movies like The Vikings, Erik The Viking and also a recent popular historical drama TV series called  Vikings. There is also a Marvel comics superhero named Thor, based on the Vikings God and last but not the least there is also a music genre named Viking metal which is a subgenre of heavy metal music.

 

 

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