A Who's Who of the Viking Age: Mythology, Culture, Medicine, Trade, and Conflict
Who were the players? Where do they exist on the scale of history, legend, and myth? And how do we know? From the first raids by the mysterious 'Northmen' in the darkness of the 8th century, to the chieftains, earls, and kings who changed the development of Europe and influenced the medieval world, the Viking Age produced stories and accounts of unique figures in history preserved in oral tradition, and written in chronicles, and sagas. With a distinctive culture, shaped by the bleak and unforgiving landscape of Northern Europe, the character and outlook of the Norse people was driven by the brutal reality of a struggle for land, resources, and survival. The varied geography of Scandinavia with its fjords, mountains, lakes, islands, and marshlands set the stage for developments in seafaring and boat building that were far ahead of the rest of Europe, allowing the bold and adventurous to travel further and further afield in search of routes for exploration, plunder, trade, and settlement. Those who raided are today known as Vikings, a term coined in the 18th century at the beginning of a period of renewed interest in local mythology and folklore as a means of national identity (the Old Norse word 'víkingr' meant a sea-rover or a pirate). The sagas and stories of their activities were translated and later embellished to fit romantic ideals of the heroic warrior or the noble savage. Many of the popular misconceptions about the Vikings and the Viking Age come from this period. The aim of this book is to outline who they were, what we know about them, and how each of these figures shaped the story of the age, with quotations from contemporary and near-contemporary sources.