The Vikings of ancient Scandinavia have a reputation in history for being brutish bloodthirsty warriors traveling across oceans and they ingeniously designed longships to either hunt or plunder or at least that’s what most would expect. The Vikings were traders, adventurous, farmers, and overall devoted to their gods. But there is so much more about these seafarers from the rights of Viking women to their exceptionally strange tales of mythology. These are the 10 things you probably didn’t know about the Vikings.
10: Substitute Bread was Made of Wood and Rocks
If the food was scarce Viking women would have to improvise. One trick was to make bread out of Pease, flour, and the secret ingredients bark from pine trees, and even grit. Substitute bread was filling but disgusting. Hence why it was the last resort recipe. The human stomach cannot digest this sort of stuff easily but at least it had its fair share of Vitamin C from the pine tree bark. Still, we recommend the woodless rockless bread you could purchase from the supermarket instead.
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9: King Canute Tried to Command the Sea, or Did He?
There is a story about the Viking King Canute. Though some historians have completely misunderstood it. From the surface, it looks like Canute was having a bit of an ego trip. With many of his followers spectating, the king sent to the edge of the sea and called out, “I command you not to rise over my land and not to wet the clothes or feel of your lord”! Unsurprisingly, he was splashed by waves of salt water. There’s more to the story that some people never seem to bother pointing out. Afterward, he stood up and declared that his power is weak compared to the true king God. Canute wasn’t trying and failing miserably to show off. As some people would have you believe.
8: Words Like Berserker and Cake Originated from the Vikings
If it wasn’t for the Vikings a vocabulary would be so less interesting. Words like Berserker originated from the Nordic language and literally meant Bear-Shirt. Only the craziest angriest warriors would wear a bearskin in battle. Other gruesome works include slaughter, ransack, and so on. Are you noticing a pattern here, but you didn’t know cake originated from the Scandinavian language? The same goes with insults like ugly, weak, or oaf. So, be sure to keep this factoid in mind when you’re insulting someone.
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7: Norse Mythology Says, Life was Created from Sweat and Wood
While evidence shows that the human race evolved from apes millions of years ago. According to Norse mythology, the first-ever human was sweated out of a giant. It is said that before the beginning of time, there was a black void called Ginnungagap. Two worlds were born there, the Icicle Niflheim and the Fiery Muspelheim. Fire and ice collided in the center where the worlds were divided thus melting the ice. The first-ever giant Ymir is thawed out. After Ymir slept, he sweated out a male and a female, his legs detached, and became his second son. From there on more giants and the first-ever gods came out who began creating the earth. It is said that Odin god of healing and death helped his two brothers carve the first-ever humans from a tree. They were sent to Midgard which is what we call earth.
6: Vikings Monks Loved Devious Riddles
We think of Vikings as hard-headed warriors who relished in battle. In truth, they love to write poems and riddles, especially the monks. See if you can solve this head-scratcher about a creature who had “one eye upon two ears and two feet, 1200 heads back on the belly and two hands, arms on the shoulder, one neck and two sides. Say what I am called”? What could it be? Some sort of bizarre supernatural monster! Incorrect. It’s a one-eyed garlic seller. He clearly had a lot of heads of garlic to sell. Admit it, you were stumped by that one.
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5: Vikings were Clean Freaks
Hygiene and neatness are not words that usually come to mind when one thinks of the Vikings. Conversely, archaeologists have discovered numerous raises, combs, and tweezers made of antlers and various animal bones that belonged to the Vikings. Most people at the time bathed once a year, the Scandinavians did it weekly. They would also shave and change their clothes frequently. Which certainly helped when it came to wooing the opposite sex. Bars of soap were used for washing and bleaching their hair blonde. Vikings loved golden hair just as much as battling. Just think we thought of them as bulky sweaty warlords for all this time.
4: Polar Bears and Whales
Vikings loved a grand feast especially one with lots of meat and mead. Some rulers organized back-to-back banquets with each feast finished which would last for days rather than hours. As you probably expected they ate hares, boars, and geese. They also hunted seals, the skin was used for clothing, and trading polar bears and walrus ivory was very expensive. In fact, they even hunted whales. Many men bleed out the scourges of the sea before catching them. There were some of the earliest known whale hunters in history. Their cruelty clearly knew no bounds. Yet an entire whale offered incredibly large quantities of food and skin.
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3: Vikings Accidently Discovered America Before Christopher Columbus
Before Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered America on his trip to India the Vikings coincidentally came across the land in 1003. They called it Vinland and named the hostile natives Shraelings. Leif Eriksson told his brother Thorvald who came back a year later for battle but died. In 1010 they tried to colonize the land. But this proved difficult due to the increasingly hostile nature of the natives and the scarcity of game to hunt. While they did trade with peaceful natives and other nearby islands, they decided to return home after 3 years. Columbus would arrive over 400 years later.
2: Vikings Women Could Claim Land and Divorce Freely
Women have often been treated the second rate to men in the past. Yet to say that they’ve been oppressed in every civilization throughout history is completely and utterly false. Nordic women could claim the land as their own, not as much as the men but if her children passed away, she could inherit their land as well. Women have considerably more power over the uncles and grandparents of the family. They have the power to divorce their husbands proving that it was down to either poverty, violence, or being forced into another country against their will.
If the divorce went through the wife would receive the property. If the husband demanded the divorce, she would get even more out of it including the ability to keep the bride price, and the money given to the other family to persuade them to marry their daughter. Women will most definitely be integral to the well-being of the Vikings and have quite a bit more power than you probably expected.
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1: Thor Dressed Up in Drag to Get His Hammer Back from the Giants
There were some colorful tales in Norse mythology. One of the goofiest and most entertaining tales is about Thor, the god of thunder, strength, and more. He protected the human world with his mighty enchanted hammer Mjolnir. According to the legend, the Giants stole the hammer. They presumed that he could easily get it back if he persuaded Freyja the goddess of love who is on the hunt for a husband to wed the lord of the giants. She refused.
So, it was time for plan B. Dress up as Freyja and visit the giants during a feast. The beard and muscles didn’t give his disguise away. Neither did the fact that he ate an entire ox and shrugged 3 barrels of mead. They were clearly a very dim race. Once the giants decided to give the hammer to their guests as a gift, full ripped off his disguise and single-handedly fought them all for his precious weapon. The moral of the story is “don’t mess with the god”.
Those then are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the Vikings. Do you guys know anything about the Vikings? Let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to check out our other top lists. Thank you very much for staying with us.