Longship and horned helmet are not optional.
"We come from the land of the ice and snow,
from the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.
The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying:
Valhalla, I am coming!"
(For extra effect, try listening to this
while reading this page.)
The more "metal" cousins of the Pirate
, native to Dark Age Europe
, who spend a lot of their time cruising in their dragon-headed longships, pillaging and burning
any hapless peasant villages that happen to get in their way.
Vikings in fiction tend to incorporate elements of The Berserker
(fitting, as the medieval Scandinavians were the progenitors of this fighting style and remain its most iconic users) and Proud Warrior Race Guy
, and always wear those spiffy horned helmets
. Vikings are always quite hairy, with long beards and longer Braids of Barbarism
flying in the ocean breeze. Being Nordic, most of them are blonde or red-headed, but black-haired Vikings are as common as they were in real life.
The trope name is a pun on Vikings' reputation for raping and pillaging
, and the horned helmets that they never actually wore except for ceremonial occasions
. The myth that they wore them at all times started with the Romans. Such helmets were not only impractical, they would actually be dangerous
if worn in combat (a helmet with such a feature could be grabbed by an enemy who could pull the wearer off-balance.) They sometimes suggested winged helmets as well, which were actually worn by the Celts, also only for religious ceremonies.
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- Capital One played with this trope by using Vikings as a metaphor for other cards over-charging (pillaging) customers. Some Vikings wore metal helmets with horns, some metal helmets without horns, and others with nothing at all on their heads. Later, the Vikings were looking for other jobs (since so many people were using the Capital One card) and still later, were using the card themselves.
Anime & Manga
- Jessie and James dressed up like these guys in the Pokémon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back. They even had Meowth acting as the figurehead on the bow. Thanks to Woolseyism: "I didn't know Vikings still existed." "They mostly live in Minnesota." (See Sports).
- Vinland Saga of course, though none of the vikings wear horned helmets. The fact that no living viking has been recorded to wear one is perhaps a testament to Vinland Saga's more realistic depiction of vikings than most other works-see Real Life below.
- Vicky the Viking, a 1970s German/Japanese colab about a viking boy who prefers to use brain instead of brawn to work out problems. The young viking in question is known as Wickie in Germany, Bikke in Japan, and Vicky in English-speaking countries. The ultimate origin of Vicky, however, is a Swedish children's book series called Vicke Viking from the 1960s.note
- One Piece: Word of God states that Vikings, (the ones in Vicky the Viking in particular) were the initial inspiration. They make in-story appearances in the form of the Giants of Elbaf.
- Honey Honey No Suteki Na Bouken: Honey and the gang encounter Vikings once in their journey across Europe who dress like this.
- Marvel Comics' The Mighty Thor embodied many Viking cliches. Except the helmet. Thor's helmet is winged, not horned. Thor's step-brother and nemesis Loki takes this up to eleven. He has huge horns.
- DC Comics had a Norse character, the aptly-named Viking Prince. Also the Viking Commando, a Viking warrior transported through a rift in time to World War II where he fought the Nazis.
- Astérix and the Normans has Vikings who "don't know fear" — as in, are they are unable to experience it, though they've heard of it. They sail to Gaulia to find someone to teach them how to do it. Specifically, they've heard the expression "fear gives you wings", and believe that by learning this "fear", they too will be able to fly.
- Mortadelo y Filemón: Parodied where it turns out that the Vikings they encounter are victims of one of Dr. Bacterius's experiments Gone Horribly Wrong, and the horns are really attached to their heads.
- Strontium Dog has Vikings are much like this, though only one of them has horns on his helmet.
- In the Doctor Who Storybook 2010 comic strip Space Vikings!, the Space Vikings have horned helmets, which the Doctor notes is completely wrong.
Sven: (seeing "Valhalla") It's unbelievable!
Doctor: Unbelievable is right, they've even got Valkyries! It's like they've done no historical research at all!
- In the German comic Werner: The actor in the Faxe beer TV commercial gone wrong around the end of "Sektenquatsch und Eiermatsch" in the book Alles klar?
- Played for laughs in the Capital One commercials. "What's in your wallet?", indeed. Especially the one involving them spotting Hollywood actors dressed as Roman legionnaires and chasing them.
- The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis. While there aren't too many horned helmets, every other cliche is turned Up to Eleven (including throwing axes to trim the pigtails off a young lady, the burning ship funeral, and hundreds of people shouting "Odin!" as they attack or die).
- Erik the Viking is set in the Viking world and mines it for laughs. And subverts and sometimes averts this trope. For instance, no horned helmets.
- Pathfinder: The Vikings are portrayed as Always Chaotic Evil. The movie also turns their language into the Black Speech (in fact, they are speaking Icelandic, but in a very guttural fashion).note The whole movie is one giant viking Cliché Storm.
- That being said, the filmmakers acknowledged that Vikings didn't actually wear horned helmets. They were portrayed this way, because that's what people expect and it made them scary looking.
- Beowulf touches on this trope, more in the film, since it's a legendary British work that's actually about Vikings set in Denmark. Complete with Badass Intro Music showing the hero standing astride his vessel in a raging storm.
- The Lost World film Island at the Top of the World features explorers finding a lost Viking city in the Arctic. Oddly enough, horned helmets is pretty much the only cliche they didn't use.
- Parodied in the History of the World Part I segment "Viking Funeral," where the Vikings took off their helmets, revealing that the helmets weren't horned, the Vikings were. Everything up to the punchline was a clip from The Vikings mentioned above.
- Outlander is set in ancient Norway. In lieu of seafaring and pillaging, there's warfare between two Viking clans, and hunting a giant alien lizard.
- The 13th Warrior is about Vikings and one well traveled Arab vs. Neanderthals!
- Only the author's notes to the book describe specifically Neanderthals. The films' antagonists look like plain savages.
- How to Train Your Dragon has an entire village of Vikings fighting dragons instead of pillaging, while the main character trains a dragon. The main character gets a helmet Made out of his deceased mom's breastplate. His dad has the other half.
- Possibly justified for once, as these particular Vikings fight dragons, not other humans. Wearing spiky things on your head is probably good protection against getting said head bitten off.
- Also, all the adult Vikings speak with a Scottish accent, while all children speak with an American one. This is done intentionally, though.
- The Long Ships, written in Sweden in the 1940s and set around the year 1000 is the definitive viking novel. Includes characters of myth and history, casual slavery, casual warfare, casual religion switching for pragmatic purposes and plenty of Black Humor.
- The Ironborn of A Song of Ice and Fire are a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the Vikings. Natives of a small group of islands with poor soil and rich mineral deposits, the Ironborn choose to reave and pillage rather than make their own wealth (indeed, to pay for something with money as opposed to to taking it by force is viewed as extremely dishonorable). To drive the point home, they live in the Northwest, somewhat roughly analogous to the real life location of Scandinavia, their homeland is cold (though not icy)and they have named like Gelmar, Ragnor, and Agarr. They're also the most war-like people in the setting and have arguably the most physically powerful warrior among their ranks and worship a God who's basically Odin + C'thulhu + Poseidon and their idea of an afterlife is basically Underwater Valhalla.
- The Wildlings are the 'non-seaborn, settled Norse' version to an extent. With names like Tormund (who is sometimes called the King of a meadhall), Torreg, and so on. With a love for axes and living in the snow.
- The Northmen are a proud warrior race of snow-dwelling, wolf-revering, honour loving sort of proto-Norman or settled Danish version of this in some respects. Their ancestors could be roughly considered to be the Saxon invaders who drove out/marginalized the original Celtic occupants of Westeroes who are known as the Children of the Forest. However, their religion is Celtic and they're thematically closer to medieval Northern England than Danish or Norman. (Though there are indeed Danish influences in the fomer, from an historical standpoint)
- The term "the old gods" is the term the norse pagans used after the introduction of Christianity. It's now used by modern pagans.
- As are Tamora Pierce's Scanrans.
- The Fjordlanders in Discworld.
- In Christopher Stasheff's Warlock of Gramarye series, the Lost Colony of Gramarye eventually gets some neighbors in the form of "beastmen"— coastal raiders in horned helmets and dragon-prowed ships. The twist; they are actually genetically engineered psychic Neanderthals put there by time travelers as part of an Evil Plan to allow their faction to conquer Gramarye and prevent a future Utopia.
- In Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories series they are almost always referred to as 'Danes' or 'Northmen'. Only when they actually start raiding coastal villages are they ever referred to as 'Vikings'. Horned helmets are absent, but they still possess beast-headed longboats.
- The naming is accurate; "viking" was a specific term referring to Northmen who went out pillaging.
- The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers includes a small group of middle-aged Vikings who have improbably sailed their ship up the Danube River to Vienna, having sensed the possibility that the prophesied final battle of Ragnarok will take place here.
- How to Train Your Dragon takes place in the Inner Isles where Viking tribes reign supreme. There is indeed seafaring, horned helmets,
unsuccessful raids, not to mention the added inclusion of DRAGONS.
- The Skaldi of Kushiel's Legacy have definite Viking elements. Their longboats are mentioned but never seen.
- Harry Harrison's The Technicolor Time Machine is about a movie studio's attempt to use a time machine to make a viking picture with real vikings.
- Harrison's Hammer and The Cross trilogy focuses heavily on vikings, including Lodbrok and his sons (see below)
- The Icelandic Sagas are prose stories written (mostly in Iceland, but not exclusively so) c. 1180-1350 AD, in which the medieval Icelanders fondly commemorated the life and times of their Viking Age forebears. Almost every fictional depiction of Vikings that is not locked in clichés draws inspiration from these texts. Sagas that are prominently concerned with Vikings:
- Dragonships: Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's novel series takes place in a fantasy world, the protagonist is from a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Vikings.
- Dreamscape: The Wanderer mentions the Langsyne; a race whose names and battle tactics are very similar to those of Vikings. No horned helmets though.
- The short story The Haldenmor Fugue from the Doctor Who Storybook 2010.
- The Thalesians are the Elenium's Viking Fantasy Counterpart Culture. The Genidian Knights (based in Thalesia) wear horned helmets as part of their formal armor. Justified in that the horns in question come from ogres, and are much harder than steel; they're additional head protection.
- The Vikings also have their own theme song: "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin.
Our CEO's a legendary Viking entrepreneur
We're conquering the world with our self-assembly flatpack furniture
- Pretty much every song ever written by Manowar that isn't one of the songs that makes them a Trope Codifier for Heavy Meta (and some of the ones that are).
- Each song of the "Secret of the Runes" album by Therion chronicles a different level of Norse cosmology. Well, except for the ABBA cover.
- "Eric the Awful" by Ray Stevens, whose titular character even has "hairy hat, shaped like a big bullet with horns comin' out the sides"
- Many Scandinavian and Finnish heavy metal bands, especially the viking metal subgenre (originally a form of Black Metal), do songs about vikings, though generally more realistic (vikings are less one-dimensional in their culture for obvious reasons).
- Týr is one of the most famous viking metal bands. Not only do they write their own songs, they also do traditional songs from the Faroe Islands (their home country, it's not really part of Denmark but is mostly controlled by Denmark, kind of like the relationship between Scotland and England) arranged as heavy metal.
- Death metal band Amon Amarth, despite taking their name from The Lord of the Rings is a viking themed band. Not that Lord of the Rings wasn't itself quite inspired by Norse Mythology.
- "Swedish Pagans" by Sabaton.
- Turisas did an album about Varangians going from Scandinavia to Constantinople. It is one of the only instances of Scandinavian warriors of that era in popular culture not being sea raiders.
- The music video for Jason Forrest's "War Photographer" features Vikings fighting a seaborne battle of the bands with tasty guitar licks and Humongous Mecha.
- Tub Ring has "The Viking Song".
- Zakk Wylde
- Ceann's "Blame the Viking", in which the singer insists that all his mistakes were actually caused by an elusive Viking "friend".
And they don't drink beer from skulls. And they never wear horn hats.
And if I didn't know a Viking personally, then you tell me:
How the hell did I know that? How the hell did I know that?
- "Invaders" by Iron Maiden
- Hägar the Horrible note is the title and the name of the main character of a syndicated comic strip by Dik Browne. If a Viking lies, his horns fall off. (Hagar tends to go through a lot of helmets because of this.)
- The horns also show their emotional state, somehow, pointing upwards normally but pointing downwards when Hagar is sad.
- The Far Side uses Vikings as a common subject.
- In Pearls Before Swine, Pig has a set of viking action figures that are apparently sentient. They subvert the trope, however, from acting more like preteen girls than anything.
- Prince Valiant: The Prince was the Viking prince of Thule.
- John Nord, whose name fits this trope perfectly, took his emulation of Bruiser Brody (who used Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" as his Theme Song in Japan) into full-on Viking territory. When he entered WWE in 1991, he was originally given the name "The Viking," before settling on the Berzerker.
- Former CHIKARA wrestler Tursas, a huge (6'8, 376 lbs.) Wrestling Monster who was a member of the Heel faction Die Brüderschaft des Kreuzes (BDK), portrayed a masked Nordic viking character. One of the BDK's Finishing Moves, performed by Tursas, Claudio Castagnoli (Antonio Cesaro) and Ares, was called "Ragnarok."
- The American Football team the Minnesota Vikings. Their helmets have the horns painted on and their logo is a mustached, braided long haired blond man with a horned helmet. And in keeping with the pun title of the trope, the Vikings NFL team was caught in a major sex scandal aboard (what else?) a party boat.
- George Carlin stated they were real bad news.
George Carlin: We come from that northern European, basically the northern European genes, the blue eyes. Those blue eyes. Boy everybody in the world learned real quick, didn’t they? When those blue eyes sail out of the north, you better nail everything down. Nail it down, strap it down, or they’ll grab it. If they can’t take it home, they’ll burn it. If they can’t burn it, they’ll fuck it.
- The HERO Games catalog of alternate universes known as Champions in 3D included a brief description of Mad Viking World, where horned helmets, heavy drinking and incredible overenthusiasm were the order of the day, even when crossing the street.
- The GURPS supplement GURPS Alternate Earths 2 included the alternate world of Midgard, where Vikings captured Greek Fire from the Byzantines and came to dominate the European world and a good part of America by the 15th century. No horned helmets here, but plenty of the other classic activities, especially fighting and raiding. (A joke in that world asks "How do you tell a Viking raider from a merchant? If you're armed, he's a merchant.")
- The Space Wolves in Warhammer 40,000 are basically Super Soldier Vikings IN SPACE. No horns, though. Horned helmets are reserved for the Evil Super Soldiers.
- According to Word of God, they were originally intended to be an amalgamation of all the berserk warrior types, Celts and Germans as well as the Vikings. Nobody notices, given the fact that they live on an ice world, are amazing sailors, and all have names like Ulrik, Bjorn and Ragnar...
- The Norscans in Warhammer are basically Vikings in imposing heavy plate and intimidating horned helmets who worship the Chaos Gods. Love battle, slaughter and warfare like the French love their wine. Also have a penchant for being marked by the Chaos Gods in various ways.
- The dwarfs have a strong Scandinavian influence in their artwork, and feature both the stereotypical horned or winged helmets of the Vikings, as well as the more realistic "spectacle" helmet.
- The background also mentions the Norse Dwarfs of Kraka Drak, who are a combination of the two. It was implied in the Tome of Corruption supplement that after living in a state of constant siege from the Norscans, some of them have been turned to Chaos.
- In Pathfinder, the Lands of the Linnorm Kings are home to warriors who are actually called "vikings" in-universe. Horned helmets are a Defied Trope, though—the vikings only wear them in plays and ceremonial events because of how unwieldy they are.
- The Northern Reaches in Mystara are very obviously based on medieval Scandinavia.
- Lampshaded in Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego. When you are in the time of the Vikings, you'll find a helmet in one part of the level. Clicking it will have your guide mention this trope, and a nearby Viking will then scoff at the idea of having a horned helmet.
- The Lost Vikings games.
- Civilization: For some reason, the games often call the Scandinavian civ "The Vikings", even though not all Scandinavians actually went out on ships and raided hapless peasant villages. Civilization V goes more realistic by featuring Denmark as a viking civilisation (though with one industrial-era unique unit) and Sweden as a Reneissance/Industrial warfare juggernaut with no viking elements at all.
- Mace The Dark Age: The Viking character from the old N64 game fitted this trope to a T. His name was Ragnar Bloodaxe.
- The Vykrul in World of Warcraft are nine foot tall vikings who have allied themselves with the Lich King.
- Age of Empires series.
- The Vikings in Age of Empires II have the Berserker unique unit which sports the horny helmet.
- In Age of Mythology Norse heroes, raiding cavalry and upgraded frost giants wear horned helmets. The rest of their units stick to more compact designs. Not to mention that they earn favor with their gods by killing.
- Final Fantasy series
- Although there aren't actual Vikings, you can stick a Viking helmet on some of the characters in The Sims 2.
- One of the Soldier's unlockable hats in Team Fortress 2 is a Viking helmet that covers his eyes, with the left horn broken off about halfway down its length.
- The Nords, as you could guess from the name, were the Viking expies of The Elder Scrolls series. Sailors, fighters, berkserkers, drinkers, rapists and raiders, all (though not necessarily in that order). If you took the TES Orcs and made them corn-fed Caucasians, you'd have the Nords. Indeed both groups get along well, when they aren't raiding each other.
- Skyrim takes place in the titular Nords' homeland. The Dragonborn featured on the publicity photos is a Nord dressed in furs and wearing a iron helmet with horns pointing downwards. And at one point, the protagonist even journeys into Sovngarde, the Nordic version of Valhalla.
- However Skyrim is a deconstruction of the image of Nords being nothing more than lawless thugs, the common view of most in Tamriel. Instead, the Nords are shown to be a thoroughly civilized, proud warrior race with a strong bardic element, who greatly value honour, family and tradition. Those who engage in murder, rape and pillaging are simply the criminal elements on the fringes of their society, and are actively loathed by their kinsmen for giving Nords a bad name to outsiders.
- Mount & Blade : The Fantasy Counterpart Culture, Nords, of are a subversion, being settled-down and more similar to Danish-like Vikings or proto-Normans. The "Sea Raider" type of bandits fill the niche of the more classical, northerner Vikings, being stereotypical Rape, Pillage, and Burn Proud Warrior Race Guys. Both Nords and Sea Raiders use normal undecorated helmets, mainly the conical and "spectacled" Scandinavian-esque ones.
- Cultures: This strategy game and its sequel are about (mostly peaceful) vikings. And they wear horny helmets.
- The Fremennik people of Runescape.
- Standish from Dubloon. He even has a guitar to boot.
- In Para World, the Norsemen tribe (if the name wasn't a giveaway) are, basically, Vikings with dinosaurs, sabretooths, mammoths, and tanks.
- League of Legends has Olaf, The Berserker. A steroetypical viking from Lokfar complete with a metal hornet helmet, yellow beard and fur and leather vest. He was on a plundering trip when stuff went to shit, and he's turned to the League in return for their help getting home. Does that mean he trusts anyone in the league? Not a chance in hell, He's disgusted by how easilly they've wrapped their Island, Valoran, around their finger-waggling, and fears that if they'd do the same to Lokfar if he ever tells them anything about it.
- His playstyle is that of a berserker: The more he's hurt, the more he'll hurt right back. Most champions will retreat when hurt, with Olaf, getting hurt to about a quarter health just means it's time to cut loose.
- Dark Age Of Camelot is a MMORPG that featured 3 playable realms fighting for control of the world. The Albion realm was an Expy of Arthurian-age British legends, Hibernia was the Celtic Expy and Midgard was the Viking one. The Midgard realm actually averted most of the more timeworn cliches and the developers even included things like having the various priests and priestesses of the Gods referred to as "Gothis" and "Gythias," the actual terms used for male and female clerics, respectively. Much of the lore provided to the player when talking to various NPC that wasn't created specifically for the games own storylines are reasonably faithful retellings of Norse lore.
- The Crusader Kings II expansion The Old Gods pushes the timeline of the game back to allow the player to take control of various Norse warlords at the height of the Viking invasions of Europe. It also introduces special raiding mechanics to reflect their disposition towards Rape, Pillage, and Burn.
- The brilliantly named Snomads, a horde of villainous Funny Animal Vikings, from Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze .
- Played with by Kate Beaton
- Featured in this strip.
- Thistil Mistil Kistil
- Scandinavia and the World is primarily about modern Scandinavia, but the main characters occasionally go back to their roots by putting on horned helmets and beating up England.
- In Nodwick, the heroes dealt with Vikings like these, who wanted them to slay a sea serpent. In fact, that led to this interesting exchange after Yeagar tried using a cow as bait, which Piffany naturally objected to:
Piffany: Now let's try a plan that doesn't get anyone hurt, especially cows!
Yeagar (aside, to Artax): Does she not know where Vikings get the horns for their helmets?
Artax: Let's not burst her bubble just now...
- VeggieTales, "Lyle the Kindly Viking": Cutest. Vikings. Ever.
- And The Backyardigans, "Viking Voyage", easily matches them. With a mermaid added in to boot!
- In the Earthworm Jim cartoon, Santa Claus is one of these. (No, really.) In his youth, St. Nick was "Woden, Norse God of Justice", and while he's gotten a lot calmer and nicer in his old age, he's still willing to pull out the old pillaging suit and big sword if something really ticks him off. As Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-Filled, Malformed Slug-for-a-Butt finds out when he breaks free of her mind control after she uses him to try and ruin Christmas.
- Viking Santa isn't too far off the mark, actually. In Norse mythology, Odin traditionally went out hunting every Yule, and rewarded children who left out a bootful of sugar with toys and games. Hence, the modern traditions of the stocking and plate of cookies.
- The Lord of the Rings: Apparently, Boromir from Bakshi's version is a viking. Certainly he has the helmet, shield, and ... uh ... battle dress (no pun intended). This, of course, runs face first into Fridge Logic, when you consider Gondor is A) except for the river, totally landlocked, and B) to the south.
- Spongebob Squarepants: Spongebob encountered a tribe of underwater vikings, all of whom were named Olaf, and their leader, who was, of course, named... Gordon.
- The Life and Times of Juniper Lee: Juniper has been possessed, along with all her friends and acquaintances, by a horde of dead Vikings.
- The Secret of Kells features absolutely terrifying vikings, portrayed as huge hulking horned blocks with deep guttural voices, growling out their desire for gold and wealth.
- Fanboy and Chum Chum: Fanboy and Chum Chum's friend Thorbold the Red, brother of Olaf, conquerer of Sweden and fifth-highest score on Whack-A-Dragon.
- An episode of DuckTales "Maid of the Myth", the Vikings abducted Mrs. Beakley when she was an opera star.
- In Kick Buttowski Kick's right hand man Gunther apparently hails from Nordic descent. In one episode Gunther's parents even open a viking themed restaurant, Battle Snax.
- Gargoyles seems to avert this trope for the most part, the Vikings depicted in the cartoon being bereft of the stereotypical horned helms, axes and berzerker attitude, though they are still all about the pillaging.
- The second Robbie the Reindeer special featured a lost tribe of pint-sized Vikings, all of them named Magnus.
- Homestar Runner: Homestar wore a Viking helmet in at least two animations.
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire: The "Viking prologue" deleted scene. What's unique about this deleted scene is the fact that it is actually the only colorized scene of its kind to ever be made specifically for an animated Disney film (all others, including the rest of the deleted scenes for this movie, are all done using a sketchy, simplistic artstyle). This opening was used for the film's tie-in video game (which is apparently supposed to be a prequel to this movie), however.
- Modern day Vikings appear in the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode, "Northern Lights Out" when vacationing in Norway.
- Tangled: The Snuggly Duckling thugs.
- One episode of Total Drama World Tour was about Owen donning a horned Viking helmet and speaking like a pirate.
- Some Transformers have horns on their helmets in robot mode, therefore giving them a Viking-like appearance.
- An episode of The Care Bears had them dressed like this, trying to help empower a neurotic sea-serpent named Shaky, as well as fight the bad guys.
- I Am Weasel had an episode where the main characters were vikings. Considering that they have been pretty much everything else, from egyptians to undead, this was inevitable. The King and Queen of Nopantsland kidnaps them because he wants to be pillaged, and they have to spend the entire episode teaching him how to put up a fight so they can pillage him properly. Seriously, this was a weird show.
- The Norse people enjoyed the peak of their power between the 8th and 11th centuries, in what is called the Viking Age. Real Vikings did not wear horned helmets into battle. In fact, only a single horned helmet has ever been excavated, dating several hundred years before the Viking Age, did not have cow-shaped horns, and was clearly ceremonial. At most, Viking helms often featured the distinctive "spectacle-guard" around the eyes and nose, a style common amongst the peoples in the region.
It would have been hard for genuine Vikings to wear horned helmets in battle — Viking warfare was based on the shield wall and other close-quarters styles of fighting (including naval combat which involved a lot of boarding actions), and horns would have put allies at risk of impaling an arm or hand on the protrusions. Or more likely, as any helmet is designed to deflect blows, putting horns and other ornamentation on a helmet would give a weapon something to snag and direct the force of the blow to the wearer's head, defeating the purpose of helmets.
The ancient Norse were also surprisingly civilized, although remembered mostly for their offenses towards women and monks
in battle. When not raiding or pillaging, their interests immediately turned to trade and colonization. Areas under the Danelaw quickly became centers of industry and cultural exchange, thanks to wide-ranging Viking vessels.
Vikings were the direct ancestors of the Normans once the people further up the Seine realised it was easier to buy off these Danish hooligans with land at the mouth of the river, rather than have them raid what would later become Paris every once in a while. Indeed, William the Conqueror was the great-great-great-grandson of Rollo, the founder and first ruler of the viking principality that later became Normandy. It is one of the ironies of history that feudal society has its roots among the descendants of vikings, but feudalism never truly caught on in Scandinavia when the cultural influence of the Normans began to spread (people accustomed to electing their kings were not too impressed with the notion of a society run from the top down - among many other things).
Viking lords really did
have awesome names
like Sveyn Forkbeard, Ivar The Bonelessnote
, and Erik Bloodaxe.
It should also be noted that "viking" was a job description, more or less, rather than an ethnicity. It was a word for their method of raiding. (These warriors could be hired for a right price - just ask the Roman emperors
). The vast majority of the people were farmers, craftsmen and traders. Population boom + limited farm land = lots of men with energy to burn. The solution? Have them amass wealth and status some other way. Also, far from being filthy and unbathed, their personal hygiene bordered on OCD (well, for the time, anyway). This makes sense as, when it's too cold to sweat ever
, you definitely don't want any dirt or grime sticking to you for long periods of time.
- Among the excellent documentary evidence for Vikings' cleanliness: a letter from a Saxon bishop, complaining that the pagan Norse settlers were luring away Christian women by washing and combing their hair.
- Horned Helmets are surprisingly rare in Real Life, but it turns out that one of the few tribes that did have them was a biblical tribe that used cow horns, pointing downwards. They looked ridiculous.
- Samurai did have the famed Horned Helmets. Likewise, The Teutonic Knights of Northern Europe (founded a century or so after the Vikings' raids ended, for the most part) frequently stuck horns on their elaborate helmets, along with wings, crests, spikes and lord knows what else. The best part? They knew full well that adding bells and whistles to their helmets was at best a hindrance in battle and sometimes even a liability. But it made them look badass, so what the hell. Rule of Cool.
- It did help that the lower-ranking samurai retainers—that is, the ones who shouldered the majority of the direct combat burden not taken up by the ashigaru—tended to have helmet crests that were much smaller and less awkward than the ones on their lords' helmets. Sometimes, they didn't even have crests at all.
- The blind singer/composer known as "Moondog" used to walk the streets of New York City in Viking garb.
- Viking men did carry their weapons in normal life, even when doing the most routine everyday activities.
- It depends what you mean by a weapon. Like a US frontiersman's Bowie knife, an early Scandinavian's Seax (a straight single-edged blade like a belt-sized machete) was a practical tool for a farmer and hunter, which also served as a weapon in a pinch.
- The seax was much more important and ubiquitous among the Saxons, as it's both from which their name is believed to derive and also a mark of being a free man or woman. Furthermore, in any culture possessing a defined warrior aristocracy, carrying your weapon was considered part of your normal dress. Samurai and European knights of later eras would actually not be considered dressed if they went out without their sword at their side.
- And in fact, this is where the difference between naked and nude came about. One described a state of undress. The other described a state of being unarmed.