101 Viking Facts
- no paved roads so no carts, just packhorses. horses in Iceland routinely cover thirty miles a day. Icelandics are not trained to ride until they are five years old, when their bones and muscles are mature. Foals are born outdoors and run wild with the herd in Iceland for the first four years of their lives. Because they come from such a harsh climate, with cold winters and a short grass season, they have developed the ability to get 25% more nutrition from their food than other breeds which makes them “easy keepers.” They have exceptionally strong feet and legs which make them surefooted in most weather and on tricky trails. The original Norwegian Fjord horse varied in color and averaged 12.1 hands in size.
- no stirrups so didn’t use horses for war. dismounted, then single “honorable” combat
- bearded axe: Additionally this design allows the user to grip the haft directly behind the head for planing or shaving wood.
- only develop small primitive area, with melting ice opening up new avenues, overland and by sea and by Underdark.
- people were farmers, warriors, ship-builders, crafters: jack of all trades – few specialists
- Loyalty based on clan – lowlanders, highlanders
- fear of the unknown, of leaving home, more than a days ride
- Loud, boisterous, and brave during the day, but don’t go out at night
- lack of true light – The advent of electricity changed everything, especially our perception of evil and the dark. You could fill entire books with how technology has given us a false sense of safety.
- how you die determines your place in the eternal army, fighting to hold back the darkness and ice.
- At ten years of age, Viking children were considered to be adults. At around 5 years of age they started chores around the farm.
- Norse society was based on agriculture and trade with other peoples and placed great emphasis on the concept of honour, both in combat and in the criminal justice system. It was, for example, unfair and wrong to attack an enemy already in a fight with another.
- Although Norse people knew of mining and mined some iron ore in a variety of locations throughout Scandinavia, most Viking era iron was smelted from bog iron. The bog at Rauðanes in Iceland, where Skallagrímur Kveldúlfsson, one of the early settlers in Iceland, had his smithy. Chapter 30 of Egils saga describes him as a “great smith” who “smelted a lot of bog iron in winter”. The saga says that Skallagrímur couldn’t find an anvil stone to suit him, so he rowed out into Borgarfjörður one evening in his boat. He dove to the bottom and brought up a suitable boulder for his anvil stone.
- When a layer of peat in the bog is cut and pulled back using turf knives (right), pea sized nodules of bog iron can be found and harvested. Although the iron nodules are reasonably pure, there aren’t many of them. They are, however, a renewable resource. About once each generation, the same bog can be re-harvested.
- Most domestically produced iron in the Norse era was tediously produced from bog iron. Because of the time consuming processes used to create it, smelted iron was valuable. Roughly worked iron bars were used as trade goods
- In some regions (particularly Sweden), iron ore, rather than bog iron, was the raw material for smelting. The ore was in the form of “red earth” (rauði), a powdery ocher.
- Because of their expense, iron tools and weapons were highly valued. The loss of an iron tool from a Norse farmstead was a disaster, especially if it were a major tool like an axe or scythe. A typical farm in the Viking age probably owned no more than 40-50kg (100lbs) of iron, in the form of tools, weapons, and cooking equipment.
- It seems likely that iron arms and armor were treasured and passed from generation to generation. Lifetimes of hundreds of years seem possible for some iron articles such as helmets. When one compares the probable date of manufacture with the probable date of burial of some archaeological finds, one is forced to conclude that some iron items were used for a century or more before being buried with their final owner.
- Iron was really expensive, so metal anvils were extremely rare until the last few hundred years, and the first ones were quite small. A thousand years ago, a Viking smith would do his rough forging on a stone anvil, and have a small anvil (like a modern jeweler’s stake) set into a stump for finishing the surface. I’ve used stone anvils, and even a tough hard stone powders away from the heat and pounding in short order, leaving a rough texture on the work
- charcoal is made by heating wood in a kiln for 1-3 days, having to monitor and adjust. http://www.weyriver.co.uk/theriver/industry_6_charcoal.htm
- ice-blindness and cabin fever
- have to pay weregild for the killing of any except an outlaw
- known for unusual strength, size, and beauty. Rural, isolated, hard living, good personal hygiene, diet.
- wattle and daub houses
- A freedman was always a lower social class than a man born free. Law and custom demanded that a freedman continue to live on his former master’s estate and pay him allegiance, but his children were born free.
Save for the few trading towns in Scandinavia, there are no such thing as shops. This is a very important concept – if you lack something you must either make it yourself, steal it, or wait until the thing and hope some itinerate trader has one on offer. If an item is not available at the thing market, a Viking can place an order with a trader requesting that he brings one the next time he travels to the region. A desperate man can even undertake a journey to one of the trade towns in the hope of finding what he wants there. Another concept important to the setting is that there is no mass production. Each item is individually hand crafted and uniquely decorated. Since folk own so few possessions, stealing an item risks the chance of its recognition by the victim of the crime, or his close friends and family. Looting a dead body is tantamount to broadcasting your guilt if the thief attempts to use or barter the articles in that area.
Another unusual aspect of Scandinavian pagan religion is that there are no professional priests. Although Godi have a responsibility to perform the sanctification sacrifice for the thing, they are chieftains and law speakers, not religious guides. The head of the family is responsible for the sacrifices to gods and spirits on a farmstead and if he is ill or away from home, the next most senior family member will perform the rights instead. Aboard ship it is the captain who
holds the duties to propitiate the sea and any man can make his own private sacrifice in thanks for surviving a voyage intact.
Draugr – The restless and hungry dead
Jotnar – Several races of giants exist; frost and rime giants (hrimthursar), fire giants (eldjotnar) and mountain giants (bergrisar).
Alfar – Confusingly the title is used for the races of elfs and dwarfs. Ljosalfar are considered elfs of air and light, whereas Svartalfar are inferred to be dwarfs living below the earth.
An orm or wyrm is a serpentine, legless Scandinavian dragon. Although they lack the fiery breath of their continental cousins, ormar are possessed of terrible venom, which poisons and
asphyxiates those who press too close.
The climate in northern Scandinavia is extremely tough, subzero temperatures may reach the –30’s and a metre of snow for most of the winter can cut off farmsteads for weeks, granting some
interesting possibilities for survival adventures.
When the spring comes rivers become raging torrents, lakes rise and forests flood becoming boggy and difficult to cross. Summer, especially in the north, becomes a living hell as mosquitoes hatch in vast numbers, their bites aggravating animals so badly that reindeer and elk flee to the top of hills to avoid the maddening plague.
Iceland itself infrequently suffers volcanic eruptions, the soot, ash and poisonous gases sometimes killing people and livestock.
They traveled because land was very scarce in their home countries, as all of the inheritance went to the oldest son at the time, and other siblings were left to struggle on their own.