Vikings: Fact or Fiction?
Posted: July 2, 2018
Vikings lived in Scandinavia (modern-day Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) from about AD 700 to 1100. What comes into your mind when you think of this people group? Are your thoughts based in fact or fiction? Find out!
Fact: Vikings went on brutal raids. “To go Viking” literally means “to go on raids.” Vikings traveled in boats to attack cities. The Vikings’ first known attack took place at a monastery in Lindisfarne, England. That was in 793. The Vikings killed many monks there and took others as slaves. They then looted the monastery, grabbing all the valuables they could carry. They attacked many more monasteries, where they found all kinds of treasure: gold, jewels, books, food, clothes, animals, and tools. By the end of the 800s, Vikings controlled much of England. Historians believe many settled in Russia as well.
Fact: Vikings built great boats. Ingeniously built Viking war ships were long, narrow, swift, and could navigate shallow water. That made them ideal for raiding. Vikings could sail right up to the beach, steal valuables, and leave quickly. Eventually, some Vikings began demanding gold for not attacking. The English simply paid them to go away! When a prestigious Viking died, he or she was placed in a ship and put out to sea. The Vikings believed warriors on their way to the afterlife would travel best in their own boats.
Fiction: All Vikings went on raids. We don’t know for sure why Vikings went on raids. But we can guess. Icy Scandinavia was a hard place to make a living off the land. Even so, many families farmed instead of raiding. Even very young children fed animals and gathered firewood. Winters are long, cold, and dark in Scandinavia. To keep animals alive and to help keep family members warm, longhouses were often built with animals at one end and people at the other. Viking children didn’t go to school. They helped with chores. Boys practiced fighting. They were expected to go into battle by the time they were 15 or 16 years old.
Fiction: Vikings wore horned helmets. Imagining Vikings as dirty, horn-helmeted savages? Forget it! Evidence shows that Vikings valued cleanliness. And people have discovered only one authentic Viking helmet. Guess what? No horns!
A one-eyed god named Odin rules the kingdom of Asgard. Thor, god of thunder, swings his mighty hammer. Loki the trickster god gets the other gods out of terrible trouble . . . which he caused in the first place.
Norse myths are pagan religious tales from Viking culture.
What exactly happened when King Harald Bluetooth moved his people away from believing these stories? We can’t know for sure how many Vikings really became Christians. But evidence shows us that symbols of Christianity became common during King Bluetooth’s reign. Coins from that time period show three crosses placed on top of a triangle. These represent the hill Golgotha and the crosses where Jesus and the two robbers were crucified. (Matthew 27:38)
Some myths even echo the Bible. For example: Odin was sacrificed. He was hung on a tree and pierced in the side by a spear. Sound familiar? Jesus died on a cross to atone for sin. His side was pierced.
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. — 1 Peter 2:24