Vikings have traded their way into the public imagination thanks to television shows, video games, and even sports teams. Even though Vikings are everywhere, interesting facts about them show their life to be crazy and weird.
The word “Viking” is a loaded one and only applies to warriors. It has become a shorthand way of referring to a group of people who were raiding and trading from the eighth to the 11th century.
Vikings were more than raiders and traders, they were imaginative storytellers, fearless explorers, and even simple farmers. Vikings’ culture was as diverse as their geographic reach.
The Viking facts show that their world was more complex than we realize.
1. Viking Graffiti Is Surprisingly Earnest.
From Redditor u/MHM5035:
TIL some Viking runes are simply graffiti, translated as “Ingigerth is the most beautiful of all women” or “Tholfir Kolbeinsson carved these runes high up.”
Context: Germanic peoples used a lettering system that Vikings used. Vikings used runic inscriptions to mark where they traveled.
Some runic inscriptions were basically graffiti that said things like, “These runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes in the western ocean.” Another piece read, “Ingigerth is the most beautiful of all women.” There is graffiti in Hagia Sophia, where a Viking named Halfdan wrote “Halfdan was here” – he was the original Kilroy.
2. Vikings Peddled ‘Unicorn Horns’ To Wealthy Europeans
From Redditor u/TheRealSoggy:
The Vikings would hunt narwhals for their horns, which were actually teeth, and sell them to European traders, who were thought to have magical properties.
Context: Around 1000 AD, Vikings began selling narwhal tusks. Europeans thought they were horns from a mythical creature. They displayed the tusks to show off their wealth. Royals were enthusiastic because they believed that the powder was an antidote to poison.
3. Vikings Were Kings Of England
From Redditor u/JackBauregad:
The king of England was once a Viking. For about five weeks.
Context: Vikings were so successful at infiltrating England that they were able to exert their influence over many aspects of Anglo-Saxon life. Sweyn Forkbeard ruled before raiding England. He was crowned king of England in 1013.
Cnut became king after his father Sweyn didn’t last long on the throne.
4. Some Viking Warriors May Have Prepared For Conflict By Taking A Substance
Context: The Nordic legends say that Vikings had a particular kind of warrior. They were known for their ruthlessness.
Some scholars suggest that berserkers should take Amanita muscaria, a mushroom with hallucinogenic properties, to unleash their battle-lust. Henbane is a plant that can make users aggressive.
5. Native Americans Held Their Own Against Vikings
From Redditor u/Smooth_Hobo:
The Native Americans fought off the Vikings after they landed in Newfoundland.
Context: Vikings have encounters with Native Americans. When Native Americans tried to repel the Vikings in what is believed to be Newfoundland, the brother of the Vikings was slain.
The L’Anse aux Meadows UNESCO site is where the Vikings began their settlement in Newfoundland around the turn of the 11th century. They clashed with the local Indigenous community and called them “Skrlings”. The Native Americans bashed the Viking’s heads in with a stone. Conflict with the Indigenous community may have been a factor in the abandonment of the settlement.
6. Vikings Had To Watch Out For Counterfeit Swords.
From Redditor u/afeeney:
TIL: The Ulfberht swords were made of pure steel from India. The name Ulfberht was faked on lower-quality swords, the equivalent of a fake designer logo, because of the exceptional quality of this steel.
Context: The Ulfberht sword was the best sword that a Viking could buy. From the ninth to the 11th century they were made. The steel for the swords came from either Persia or India. Archaeologists have found only a small number of ULFberht swords.
Historians don’t know the maker’s origins, but they do know that it probably refers to a workshop or a family. The word “Ulfberht” was written on the blade. The fake Ulfberht swords entered the market and may have deceived many people.
7. Vikings Ruled Parts Of Russia.
From Redditor u/HydrolicKrane:
The kingdom of Kyiv Rus was run by a dynasty.
Context: Vikings had influence all over the world. The Kievan Rus kingdom was established in Eastern Europe in the 800s. Their name may have been responsible for Russia. The warriors became guards for the emperors of Byzantium because they were embedded in Eastern European life.
8. Vikings Made It To North America Well Before Columbus Did.
From Redditor u/nlitherl:
The Vikings defeated Columbus in America in 500 years.
Context: Christopher Columbus may have sailed the ocean blue in 1492, but that doesn’t mean he was the first European explorer to reach North American soil. Around 1000 AD, a Viking explorer named Leif Erikson is thought to have landed on Newfoundland. The place was referred to as “Vinland” due to the abundance of grapes found there.
The other Vikings followed in the subsequent years.
9. Vikings Had Epic Rap Battles
From Redditor u/JTWYSIMML:
Rap battling was invented by the Vikings in the fifth century.
Context: Vikings were able to measure each other up by flying. The Old Norse word for provocation is Flyting. It can be traced back to the fifth century and was a settlement of scores between two people. The gods are flying it out in Norse mythology.
10. A Native American woman may have come to Iceland with the Vikings.
From Redditor u/SAURONMANTHEWHITE:
The Vikings brought Native American wives to the island.
Context: The Vikings arrived in North America by the early 11th century. A recent study shows that some people with deep roots in the country have Native American genes. It’s likely that a Native American woman crossed the Atlantic with the Vikings and had children there.
The woman’s relationship to the man who carried her across the sea may not be described accurately. The woman went aboard the ship willingly. Based on what scholars know about Viking raids and the captives they took, it’s likely that cruel and coercive behavior was involved.