Vikings have long been a fascination for a lot of people. For one, there’s a top-rated tv series about the conquests of a fictionalized Viking, called Vikings. There’s also a popular video game coming out named Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which takes players into what a Viking would do in the past.
Most of the time, the Vikings we see in the movies are enormous brutes wielding greatswords and battle-axes while wearing animal pelts and horned iron helmets. These Vikings are vicious, unforgiving, and bloodthirsty. Perhaps one word we often hear with Vikings is “Pillage.” Pillage or Pillaging means raiding a village or settlement and taking away resources. In the media, we often hear about Vikings that pillage villages for no good reason at all.
To cut things short, no pun intended, Vikings were condemned as sea-fairing barbarians. However, are Vikings all about Pillaging and destruction? Here are some surprising facts about the Vikings that you should know about:
Believe it or not, Vikings aren’t the brutes that most people associate with bloodlust and eternal combat. One of the more surprising Viking facts that you should know about is that these people actually had social classes within them. These social classes were: Jarls, Karls, and Thralls.
The Jarls were considered as the royalty of the Viking people. Jarls were influential, wealthy, and owned many lands within their society. Karls were the middle class or the freemen. Lastly, the Thralls were at the bottom of the social classes. Thralls are slaves who were responsible for all the menial tasks in the Viking society.
Another surprising fact that most people don’t know is that you can become something in Viking society. It’s not just swords and shields; the Viking world also had politics involved. As mentioned earlier, there are three social classes in Viking society. If you were a Karl, then you had a chance of moving up and becoming a Jarl.
Contrary to popular belief, thralls had rights that their owners would follow. In the movies, a Viking would kill slaves in an instant. The truth is, owners could not do such an act. If slaves worked hard enough, they could earn their freedom by becoming Karls.
Traders, Not Raiders
Although Pillaging is a real activity that Vikings took part in, their primary professions were seafarers and traders. Due to their extensive knowledge of the seas and boat building, the Vikings were able to reach faraway places like Constantinople and Baghdad. From there, they set up trading posts that became important in establishing trade routes in the European continent.
Aside from being traders, Vikings are also known as explorers. By sailing through new territories, Vikings discovered the modern-day countries of Belarus, Ukraine, and Western Russia.
The Blood Eagle
If you’re a fan of the tv show “Vikings,” you might have come across a brutal execution method known as the Blood Eagle. This method was used by Vikings to honor their gods in a sacred ritual. Although we’re not keen on explaining what the blood eagle is because of its violent and graphic nature, it’s safe to say that many people find the ritual as something straight out of a horror movie.
The Blood eagle was a ritual that was written in skaldic poetry. As horrible as the blood eagle was, many historians believed that the ceremony was born out of wrong interpretations and fantasy. There is even doubt that the ritual was even practiced in Viking society. The truth is that no one knows what blood eagles are, as some experts consider it more of a literary device than actual fact.
Vikings Treated Their Dead With Respect
If there’s a practice that’s more rooted in fact than fiction, then that’s how Vikings treated their dead. In most films, Vikings are often seen placing the deceased on small ships adorned with all sorts of treasures. As the boat is set to sail, Vikings set in on fire, eventually burying the remains out to sea.
The movies fail to tell audiences that these types of burials are for Jarls or those from the noble class. Karls and even slaves who died were either buried or cremated. Regardless of class, the dead received weapons, armor, or anything they could use in the afterlife.
Sorry, No Horns and Wings Here
Another famous symbol that Vikings in the movies show are horned helmets. Sorry to break it to you, but Vikings did not wear such crude helmets during their times. Another misconception about Viking helmets is that some have decorative wings on them. You can thank the popular Thor or t
In reality, some Vikings didn’t even wear helmets because they were considered hindrances in combat. For Vikings who did wear helmets, they were just the same as the European helmets present at that time.
Real-life Vikings Are Different From The Ones On TV
Although the Vikings we see in the movies aren’t far off from the real Vikings in history, there are some glaring differences. Hopefully, the facts mentioned above help open up the fact that there was more than just pillaging and raiding when it came to Viking life.