Know the heroic feats of the Vikings and be awed by the Viking swords
Medieval fantasy sword games often feature the Vikings in bad light. They wear horned helmets. They have unkempt hair growing everywhere in their stout bodies.
They are grimy and unhygienic. Worst of all, they are mindless brutes who do not understand, much less know, civilization. Console games have depicted them as dangerous savages, wearing only primitive animal skin as clothes. They have clubs and axes as weapons – in fact, there is even no mention of Viking swords! Turns out, all these images are not true.
It isn’t true the Vikings, also called the Normans or the Nordic tribes, did not know civilization during the Middle Ages. The Vikings were European tribes living in what was then a country called Scandinavia (the modern Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland).
At fourth millennium B.C., the Vikings had learned pottery, boat-building, agriculture, and animal domestication. Their strong boats have made it possible for them to trade with ancient Greece, Egypt, and later on the Romans during the Bronze and Iron Age.
Much of Scandinavia was left untouched with Roman influence, leaving the Vikings on their own. Trade with the Romans continued unhampered however. Iron, bronze, and gold were the fares of the olden trade routes.
Literary outputs were recorded at this time, a collection of stories that are better known as Nordic myths. The sophistication of their culture and the stature of their civilization are such that they could provide answers to life’s greatest questions like creation of the universe and the changing of the season through their Nordic mythology.
It isn’t true that Vikings have no swords. The history of medieval swords won’t be complete without the Viking’s contribution to sword-making and ironworking. Vikings have forged crude daggers and cleavers using their own discoveries in metallurgy as well as knowledge gathered from trading. By the end of the Roman Empire, the period called the Viking Age that spanned from 800 AD to 1100AD, Viking swords replaced the inferior Celtic swords and Roman spatha.
The Viking sword is also called Nordic sword or Norman sword. Its average length is around 37 inches, with a slight taper at the end. It is also identifiable for their darkish color. Essentially, this appearance has something to do with the blacksmithing of iron, the metal used for the sword. A layer of oxides are produced on the surface of the metal when heated. As the swordsmith hammered the blade flat, the oxides became part of the finish product.
Viking swords are identifiable through their deep fullers that are attached through the whole length of the blade. This makes the sword flexible, light, and lethal, characteristics that allowed them to smite through human bones without breaking.
The hilt of a Viking sword is single-handed. Early swords have relatively short guards, which later on developed into the classical knight sword of cruciform cross-guards. The metal handle was covered with materials that are unfortunately perishable.
Early versions of Viking swords have a distinct full-rounded, lobbed pommel. The pommel, like in all medieval swords, was used as an anchor or weight for better blade control.
The Viking Sword scouring the medieval Europe
The Vikings became synonymous to bloodthirsty devils when they scoured and razed Europe for three hundred years. With their accurate and speedy seamanship on board their sturdy long boats, they began to brandish the Viking sword throughout the West.
The Viking Age started with the ransacking and burning of north England. They destroyed and looted the abbey of Lindisfarne and killed or enslaved monks. From then on, Europe was constantly in the threat of sea raids, pirate attacks, and looting.
The fearsomeness of their swords challenged the medieval sword fighting prevalent at that time. It was also them that forced kingdoms to train knights with new fighting skills. The Viking Age ended when kingdoms invented better naval ships and had more alert and unassailable coastal fortresses.
The Viking Sword as a status symbol
What is a medieval sword to the Viking was the same with what is Excalibur to King Arthur and to the rest of Medieval Europe. It was used as a weapon of destruction and death, as well as a symbol of nobility, rank, and status.
However, the Vikings have heaped greater prestige to it. While any lad strong and brave enough to win battles were sworn to knighthood and could carry longsword, only wealthy Viking chieftains were allowed to carry a sword. Lesser mortals, like foot soldiers, have to content with the cheaper axe, spears, clubs, chain mails, and helmets.