The first image of a Viking that comes to ones mind is usually a horned helmeted, fur covered, seven foot tall, dirty, drunk, barbarian that has only pillage, plundering and burning on his mind. Minus the horned helmets, that is only one-tenth of who the Vikings were during the late half of the 8th century. The term “Viking” has become strongly associated with seafaring warriors, explorers and traders, even though the word was only partially applied to these Nordic people by the British. The negative reputation of the Vikings was painted by the monks Lindisfarne monastery in Scotland. “The curse of the north” would regularly invade the monastery creating the image of violent warriors seeking out to destroy all of Christianity. Despite this violent reputation, the Vikings actually saw themselves as farmers. This view is ironic due to the fact that history has painted them as warriors, fishermen, sailors, hunters, trappers, and traders.
What does “Viking?” The term Viking is thought the have originated from a place in southern Norway called “Vik” The name soon came to refer to Norse speakers called “Northman” by their southern adversaries, who sailed from “viks” (bay or harbor in Old Norse, or refuge in Old English) seeking adventure and profit. These “bay men” who went off raiding were to said to go “a-viking” or simply called “Vikings.” These “Vikings” originally hailed from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. These Vikings were also called the “Norse” or the “Northmen.” These Norse also discovered and settled the Faeroes Islands, Iceland and Greenland. In time these Norsemen established a distinct and independent society on these islands. The Norse also established strong trading communities in Dublin, Ireland, York, England, Ribe and Hebedy Denmark, Kaupang, Norway, Birka, Sweden and Turku, Finland. The history of Finnish Vikings in Finland, Russia and in the East in will be discussed in another chapter. In these trade centers are archaeological evidence of commerce and trade between the Norse and other nations through out the Middle Ages. In these established cities the arts, poetry, science, music, and knowledge were exchanged. This information paints the Vikings, the Norsemen in a completely different light. Come “A-viking” with me as we learn more.