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Debunking Stereotypes About the Vikings

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The Vikings were a group of people that came from the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. They travelled, traded and explored western Europe from the 8th through to the 11th century. They were known for being fearless warriors, daring explorers and smart traders. But they were also known by some to be blood thirsty raiders who pillaged and killed innocent people from one country to another. This isn’t necessarily an accurate impression of them, and research conducted shows that they were a civilized society of farmers, advanced ship builders and tactical warriors who battled no more than any other society that lived in the Medieval Age.

Short (1999) explains that the Vikings lived in an honor-based society, which meant that feuds and duels were a normal part of life in an attempt to defend their name. They were always armed and ready for battle, irrespective of whether they were working on their farms or whether they were sleeping. Shying away from a battle was often seen as cowardly behavior. As such, all men had shields to protect themselves and carried at least one type of weapon, the most common of which was an axe or spear. As iron was very expensive, only the very wealthy Vikings owned a complete set of weapons and armor, which included a sword, sax, bow and arrows, spear, axe, shield, helmet and chainmail. The access to weapons aided their confidence when going into battle.

Although weapons played a central role in Viking society, they were by no means a military society. Instead, they were a society that focused on agriculture as they had to grow their own food. Farming proved to be difficult as the Scandinavian landscape and climate was far from ideal. The mountainous terrain and low temperatures made it extremely difficult to farm the land and crops often died in the extreme cold. With their families growing in numbers, the Vikings had to explore other options to feed their families. This led to them seeking better farmable land in neighboring countries. The Vikings were very status driven. According to Grabianowski (2008), wealth was a symbol of their status, and they desired livestock, coins, art and treasure, which they often acquired through trade. But, their travels to acquire more land combined with their greed for wealth and warrior like tendencies meant that they often found themselves in places and positions where they could take whatever they fancied. They were able to conduct many successful raids as they had the ability to travel between countries by sea.

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The Vikings were expert ship builders and skilled navigators. The had very sophisticated ships, called longships, which were long, slender, light and fast. With both oars and sails, they could land anywhere on the seashore or travel inland on rivers. This meant that nobody could predict when and where they would conduct a raid. The Vikings were also great warriors who were trained in fighting techniques from a very young age. Failure to take part in a raid was often regarded as cowardly and seen as being weak so this meant that they never backed down from a raid. Viking raids were mostly successful as they always maintained the element of surprise.

It is important to remember that the Middle Ages in which the Vikings lived was extremely violent and brutal. According to Kaeuper (2001), “Medieval Europe was a rapidly developing society with a problem of violent disorder”. The Vikings were part and parcel of these times, so their violent tendencies were not unusual or uncommon in comparison to other societies that lived during these times. There was a constant battle for expansion and wealth amongst all societies, and pillaging and killing were merely means to an end.

Historically, the Vikings have been stereotyped to be blood thirsty, savages, but my research indicates that they were much more than this. They were successful farmers who provided for their families. They were experienced tradesmen as seen in the ships they built. And, they were tactical warriors. They did conduct raids, steal and even killed people, but no more than any other society that lived in their times.

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Debunking Stereotypes About the Vikings. (2023, September 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“Debunking Stereotypes About the Vikings.” Edubirdie, 08 Sept. 2023,
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Debunking Stereotypes About the Vikings [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Sept 08 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from:
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