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Viking - Let Me Take You Through the Pages - Choose From the Themes & Aspects of the Series

Updated on May 7, 2019

Warfare and Bloodlust... What we associate with the Viking Age

Eirik Haraldsson, 'Blood-axe'. His reign in Norway was cut short after the murder of his half-brothers. He came to Jorvik late in the 10th Century to rule briefly. His reign was broken but he came back for a year, to be waylaid on Stainmore Common
Eirik Haraldsson, 'Blood-axe'. His reign in Norway was cut short after the murder of his half-brothers. He came to Jorvik late in the 10th Century to rule briefly. His reign was broken but he came back for a year, to be waylaid on Stainmore Common
The Vendel helmet found in a grave mound near Uppsala, Sweden. probably a king's or a nobleman's to judge by the intricate workmanship still evident after more than a thousand years
The Vendel helmet found in a grave mound near Uppsala, Sweden. probably a king's or a nobleman's to judge by the intricate workmanship still evident after more than a thousand years
Found near the Vendel helmet, the Valsgaerde helmet seems more 'recent' in appearance. Again a king's or nobleman's, the helmet shows the workmanship and style of the main Viking Age (around AD 800-1100)
Found near the Vendel helmet, the Valsgaerde helmet seems more 'recent' in appearance. Again a king's or nobleman's, the helmet shows the workmanship and style of the main Viking Age (around AD 800-1100)
Norse weaponry found with hoards showed deft craftsmanship by weaponsmiths, who were regarded as 'godlike'
Norse weaponry found with hoards showed deft craftsmanship by weaponsmiths, who were regarded as 'godlike'
A range of axes and spearheads shows the variety of styles from early to late Viking Age
A range of axes and spearheads shows the variety of styles from early to late Viking Age

Allow me to introduce VIKING, the series to take you from when they first raided the Northumbrian coast at Lindisfarne

From when they first showed as raiders off the Northumbrian coast at Lindisfarne, and sacked St Cuthbert's monastery there the Norsemen were variously identified as 'heathen', 'Danes' and 'Vikings'. Yet that raid in AD 793 was not the first instance. That was identified years earlier as being the killing of the shire reeve Beaduheard in AD 789 on the coast of Wessex (now Dorset) at Portland. Three ships entered the haven and, believing them to be traders, Beaduheard approached the crew of one about due taxes. From Hordaland in Norway, they were wrongly identified by a chronicler as being Danes... and so it goes on. Misunderstandings and legends grew. Iona was sacked next, AD 795. They returned in AD 802, AD 806 and again AD 807. In AD 814 the abbot decided enough was enough and moved the community to Kells in Ireland. A foolhardy group of monks stayed, to be attacked again in AD 825 when the prior Blathmacc was killed. Little did they realise that their precious gold-decorated books, candlesticks and other altar ornaments were the draw and in their isolated location they were 'ripe for picking'. These may have been Norsemen based in the Northern isles or Ireland, and probably knew from passing traders. One man's ornament is another man's currency,after all.

There was another purpose in the raids, a political agenda. The Franks under Charles 'the Great' (Charlemagne) were pressing on the Danes, ostensibly to convert them as they had done with the luckless Saxons near the Rhine delta. Being grossly outnumbered, King Godred sought to engage the help of his northern neighbours, to demonstrate to the Franks that their reach was equal. As it was Charles died and the Franks were riven by civil war.

This was another opportunity not to be missed either by the Danes or their Norse neighbours, and the Frankish kingdoms, as they had become, were beset by raiders. Meanwhile eyes were on the British Isles. Norse and Dane vied for Irish havens. The north of Scotland was occupied by Norsemen from Orkney, with Caithness and Sutherland 'colonised'. Lewis in the northern Outer Hebrides was another Norse outpost settled from Orkney, as well as the Isle of Man. Raids were then mounted against Anglian settlements in western Deira (now Lancashire) that overlooked the Irish Sea. Others raided, then settled on the coastal plain of the Lake District, then part of the Kingdom of the Strathclyde Britons, related to the Welsh.

Some settlement was made in the south-west of Wales in the area of Milford Haven, and north on Anglesey. The big push came from Scandinavia in the latter half of the 9th Century when the sons of the Danish king Ragnar Lothbrok ('Leather-breeks') came to avenge the death of their father. Initially they closed on East Anglia before taking the 'Micel Here' (the Anglo-Saxpn Chronicle's reference for the great heathen army as they also described the invasion) north to Deira and took on the weakened kings Aelle and Osberht. Aelle was the culprit who had imprisoned their father in a pit of vipers, and he was dealt with - according to legend - punished by the 'Blood Eagle' rite.

So travel back with me to a time when Christianity would eventually creep across Scandinavia from the south. Join me as I take you through Guthrum's campaign to capture the struggling Aelfred at Chippenham in the depths of winter, and chase him into the marshlands of northern Somerset at the Aethelney.

Travel across the Atlantic with Eirik 'the Red' and his son Leif via Iceland to Greenland and the New World, 'Vinland' on the mouth of the St Lawrence River. Follow me from Iceland with the warrior poets Kormak and Egil Skallagrimsson, skirt the Channel coast and raid as far as Paris with 'Ganger' Hrolf (or Rollo).

On the subject of travel there are two pages that take you into the design and building of the vessels that enabled the Viking Age, that eased an age of discovery... up rivers, across oceans, to different cultures and brought about an outlook on the world that shaped their beliefs, their tolerance of other cultures that the incoming Christianity virtually destroyed. Ship architecture in the Viking Age employed many sciences. The shock of their sudden appearance on the world stage influenced Aelfred 'the Great' in the building of his own navy.

Look into the world of the gods, the beginnings of Odin, Asgard and the Aesir. Watch as the sly Loki lies, cheats and plots his way to Ragnaroek or the World's End. Follow the kings, Olaf Tryggvason, Olaf Haraldsson and his half-brother Harald Sigurdsson through battles with their own underlings to a sticky end.

The Varangian Guard is covered, with their origins in Sweden, and the changes rung down the centuries by events beyond their control or perception. In the same region, follow the course of Rus control over the eastern Slavs in what became Russia. See how the slave trade grew, the circumstances that allowed it to flourish even after Christianity took hold in the Northlands.

The 'Orkneyinga Saga' takes you from early days of raiding around Scotland, skirmishes and pitched battles with Scots' kings Macbeth and Malcolm 'Canmore', battles with Norman lords on Anglesey and Irish kings in Leinster and elsewhere around the Emerald Isle. The Orkney earls were in at the death of the Viking Age in the 12th-13th Century when the power of the kings of Scotland brought about a civil war.

This, then, and more, is the offer of the VIKING series, to enthrall you and transport you to Inwhen the Norsemen, the Swedes and their Danish neighbours spread their tentacles from the Atlantic to the Black Sea.

The Norsemen were also about crafts and trade, across Europe from Ireland to Constantinople and beyond

The Danish kingdom of Jorvik was seen by Wessex as a potential threat, although it was also the centre of flourishing crafts and trade, with links that stretched far to the east, north and west
The Danish kingdom of Jorvik was seen by Wessex as a potential threat, although it was also the centre of flourishing crafts and trade, with links that stretched far to the east, north and west
Jorvik, the thriving city and centre of a commercial empire where you could buy luxury items such as furs, fine combs of walrus ivory, amber... thralls
Jorvik, the thriving city and centre of a commercial empire where you could buy luxury items such as furs, fine combs of walrus ivory, amber... thralls
Thor''s hammer, Mjollnir was mass-produced at all Norse centres before conversion to Christianity. Even so, many still wore the amulet to ward off evil spirits '
Thor''s hammer, Mjollnir was mass-produced at all Norse centres before conversion to Christianity. Even so, many still wore the amulet to ward off evil spirits '
Havamal, a Norse 'How To Behave' manual for the well-heeled
Havamal, a Norse 'How To Behave' manual for the well-heeled
The Gotland Stone, a memorial put up to a warrior depicts fighting men amongst a plethora of figurative images associated with heroism
The Gotland Stone, a memorial put up to a warrior depicts fighting men amongst a plethora of figurative images associated with heroism | Source

Politics, politics...

Dane Svein 'Forkbeard', son of  Harald 'Bluetooth', seized power from his father and screwed thousands of pounds of gold from Aethelred. He brought younger son Knut in AD 1013 to wrest the crown from Aethelred but died at Gainsborough a year later
Dane Svein 'Forkbeard', son of Harald 'Bluetooth', seized power from his father and screwed thousands of pounds of gold from Aethelred. He brought younger son Knut in AD 1013 to wrest the crown from Aethelred but died at Gainsborough a year later
See below for description
See below for description | Source

If you only buy one book about Norse history and culture, it should be the Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age. John Haywood has compiled a guide to a misunderstood age. Follow the Vikings from early times in warfare, the development of their ships, trade, culture, poetry and beliefs.

The preface gives you an overview of the Viking Age from the raids on Lindisfarne and iona to the Norse settlement of Greenland and Vinland on the east coast of the New World. Trade with the Arabs did not only take place beyond the Caspian Sea but at Birka (Sweden), Hedeby (Denmark, now North Germany) and Kaupang (southern Norway). Kings and Jarls achieved fame through sagas passed down orally and laid down by Icelandic clerics such as Snorri Sturlusson, the conquests they made recorded in Irish, Scots, Angle and Saxon chronicles. The Russian Primary Chronicle tells of the arrival of Rurik and his fellow Svear warriors, the Rus or Vaeranger, of Jaroslav 'the Wise' entering into an agreement with the Byzantine Emperor Basil 'the Bulgar-slayer' and the establishment of the Varangian Guard.

It's all there to give you direction - where to look for knowledge on whom you might want to look for in an age of violence, of trade and craftsmanship.

John Haywood, Thames & Hudson - ISBN 0-500-28228-5

Hoards

Numerous hoards of coins from as far away as Baghdad, gold, silver artefacts, hand-crafted ornaments and drinking vessels have been found around the British Isles, their owners scattered to the winds or fate
Numerous hoards of coins from as far away as Baghdad, gold, silver artefacts, hand-crafted ornaments and drinking vessels have been found around the British Isles, their owners scattered to the winds or fate

The first score-and one... Twenty-one pages on the Vikings to get you started

Twenty-one pages of straight-talking Viking history, from when the sails suddenly showed against the horizon... to the 'Orkneyinga Saga'. Delve away and watch for the sudden flash of steel!

1. THREAT FROM THE SEA, The Onset of the Viking Age;

2. NORSEMEN AT LARGE, Making Inroads... ;

3. IRELAND, The Hiberno-Norse Connection;

4. IN THE HIGHLANDS & ISLANDS - Takeover Bid...?;

5. WALES, Vikings Along The South-west Coast...;

6. IN THE PAY OF EASTERN EMPERORS, Varangian Guard;

7. FORMATION FIGHTING, Shape & Wiles Of Battle;

8. NORTHLAND CLASHES, Fall Of Kings;

9. MISSIONARY RAIDER, Olaf Tryggvason;

10 HARALD THE HARD-RULER, Defeat To Glory...;

11. SEAFARERS, Marine Technology (1);

12. SEAFARERS, Marine Technology (2);

13. STRENGTHENING WALLS, Defences, Call To Arms...;

14. PARING NJORD'S SALTY FURROWS, Mobility...;

15. LEADERSHIP SKILLS, Ganger Hrolf & Egil Skallagrimsson;

16. DARK BEFORE THE DAWN, Misreading his Underlings...;

17. TO THE LAND OF FIRE - Escape The Taxman's Purse;

18. "GO WEST YOUNG MAN!" Norse Exploration...;

19. ORKNEY, A Saga To Rival Dallas;

20. ORKNEY, Jarl Brusi & His Troublesome Brothers;

21. ORKNEY, Olaf's Verdict...

That's got you started on the way to Valhol... or Seventh Heaven. See below for the next score...

Keeping mobile, the Viking way...

Craft moored in a haven. Ships were kept out of the water in winter for maintenance, to make ready for the next season - raiding or trading
Craft moored in a haven. Ships were kept out of the water in winter for maintenance, to make ready for the next season - raiding or trading
At sea ships were light, easily manoeuvred. They had to be taken out of the water in the east, however...
At sea ships were light, easily manoeuvred. They had to be taken out of the water in the east, however...
Between rivers across the vastness of the Rus lands on the way to Miklagard the way to gain access to the next riverhead or around rapids was by portage, where logs were used to roll the ships
Between rivers across the vastness of the Rus lands on the way to Miklagard the way to gain access to the next riverhead or around rapids was by portage, where logs were used to roll the ships

Have you ventured to the Jorvik Viking Centre yet?

Situated close to the Castle Museum, the Jorvik Viking Centre on Coppergate transports you back in time to when the Danes came in AD 866. Eavesdrop on the conversations - if you understand Old Norse - and take in old Jorvik on your way around.
Situated close to the Castle Museum, the Jorvik Viking Centre on Coppergate transports you back in time to when the Danes came in AD 866. Eavesdrop on the conversations - if you understand Old Norse - and take in old Jorvik on your way around.
See below for description
See below for description | Source

'The Chronicles of the Vikings' is the Norsemen's view of themselves. The historian by an large resorts to the views of 'third parties', using documents written by those who saw themselves as the 'victims' of Norse attention.

Chapter One is titled 'Getting to know the Vikings'. Here we see into their world through their own sources, not in books but in rune carvings or notches cut into wood or iron. As far away as Constantinople we can see records of Norse presence. In the case of Constantinople or Istanbul it is a name scratched in runes into the balustrade of the Hagia Sofia - until AD 1453 Santa Sofia Cathedral. It is a 'marker' if you like, to the effect 'Halvdan was here'.

We see them through their sagas, sometimes victorious, sometimes at a loss, often cheerful in the face of insurmountable odds. Phlegmatic. In poetry they portray themselves as heroic, their enemies no less. After all, it is better to beat or be beaten by a worthy foe than have to see off an unworthy.one, a coward or sneakthief. It makes us look better, does it not, if our enemies are fearsome, with terrifying reputations and then we beat them?

If they were devil-may-care, the gods that they looked up to had to be plucky too. It follows that Thor undertook many improbable ventures, such as being taken in by a giant king and drinking the sea dry. Or single-handedly fighting the Frost Giants. Odin the Allfather went out into Midgard and through the Nine Worlds in search of wisdom or to belittle the unworthy and help young heroes to their just rewards. With his ravens, Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory) bringing him news from around the worlds the Allfather was well-informed, the Old World city businessman who followed the markets on his app.

See the world the way the Norsemen saw it. See them as they saw themselves, courtesy of Professor Page, through their chronicles.

R J Page British Museum Publishing (britishmuseum.org/publishing) ISBN 978-0-7141-2341-7


Gods and lore

Odin, the Allfather rides Sleipnir the eight-legged horse given to him by the mischievous Loki to atone for a wrongdoing.
Odin, the Allfather rides Sleipnir the eight-legged horse given to him by the mischievous Loki to atone for a wrongdoing.
Thor brandishes the hammer Mjollnir that he can throw at the heads of the Frost Giants and escape their clutches
Thor brandishes the hammer Mjollnir that he can throw at the heads of the Frost Giants and escape their clutches

Another score - and more - to round off the treat...

Got this far? There's staying power for you! Let's carry on then with the second half, the next twenty pages :

22. THE GODS, From Unlikely Beginnings;

23. YE GODS AND OTHER BIG FISH In The Norse Sea Of...;

24. GIANTS, DWARVES And Assorted Monsters;

25. MIDGARD & MANKIND, Fanfare For The Common...;

26. RAIDS ON FRANKIA, Before Normandy's Rise...;

27. SILVERDALE HOARD, Another Chance Discovery;

28. CUMWHITTON NEAR CARLISLE, Norse Graves;

29. SAGA OF MAN, Manx Crosses & Kings of Man;

30. SLAVERY, THRALLDOM, Trade Origins & Routes;

31. SLAVS AT THE FRINGES, Russians, Wends, Croats;

32. WHO WERE THE VIKINGS, What Brought Them...?;

33. KORMAK, Ill-fated Wordsmith;

34. FREYJA CRAVES THE BRISINGAMEN, Loki's Tricks;

35. BINDING FENRIR, Tyr Loses A Hand;

36. LODDFAFNIR LOOKS IN ON ODIN... A Man From Midgard;

37. WHO STOLE IDUN'S APPLES? Loki Up To His Tricks Again;

38. BALDUR'S DREAM, Dawn Of Ragnaroek (World's End);

39. SON OF RIG (RIGSTHULA), Heimdall Visits Midgard;

40. RURIK AND THE RUS, Russia, A Norseman Founds A State;

41. GRIMNIR FORESEES A KING'S DOWNFALL, Gotar Gain A New King

42 JORVIK VIKING FESTIVAL For Winter Colour, Feb. 20-26th, 2017

That should keep you busy for a while. Savour the read! (Next go on to the Poll)


England's Drama: The Final Viking Age Act

Harald Sigurdsson, 'Hardradi' , seen here leading his men to victory at Gate Fulford a few days before his ignominious end at Stamford Bridge with an English arrow in his thorax
Harald Sigurdsson, 'Hardradi' , seen here leading his men to victory at Gate Fulford a few days before his ignominious end at Stamford Bridge with an English arrow in his thorax | Source

Some say the Viking Age died with Harald Sigurdsson

Nicknamed 'Hardradi' or 'Hard-Ruler' Harald first came to light fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with his half-brother Olaf Haraldsson at Stiklestad in Norway against a citizen army backed by Knut Sveinsson, king of the Danes. Badly wounded, he was spirited away through Sweden with the help of King Anund Jakob to Novgorod. Passing on to Kiev he met and fell for Jaroslav's daughter Ellisif. However he felt he had to prove himself and enlisted with the Varangian Guard, winning renown against the emperor's many enemies in and around the Byzantine Empire. He fell foul of and was imprisoned by the Empress Zoe. A vision of half-brother Olaf helped him escape with treasure earned over the years of service as a captain of the guard. Returning to Kiev he wedded Ellisif and took her with him back to Norway.

Snorri Sturlusson tells us of Harald's feats, his guile and his fearsome stature - said to be over seven feet tall - in his 'King Harald's Saga'. The end comes unexpectedly although perhaps not unforeseen at Stamford Bridge near York on 25th September, 1066. Standing at least a head taller than those around him in the depleted Norse shield wall, an English arrow found his throat and he died an agonisingly slow death amid his suddenly demoralised men. Snorri mistakenly wrote of the English on horseback in the battle, perhaps confused by accounts of men who were offered quarter and fought beside King Harold and his brothers near Hastings. Harald Sigurdsson was succeeded by son Magnus, his son by concubine Thora.

The Vikings, an eye opener... or closer?

Have you enjoyed your visit, will you come again?

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© 2016 Alan R Lancaster

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