7 Viking Facts The Media Got Wrong


Hardcore fans of the show Vikings will tell you that while featuring some historical slips it still paints a pretty accurate picture. However, as is the case with most historical subjects portrayed in media, there are misconceptions galore in about every viking depiction. Let’s take a look at some of them.

7. The Viking Nation


Vinland, here we come!

First of all, the term “viking” does not refer to a member of a specific nation. It comes from the Old Norse víkingr meaning “one who comes from the fjords”. Also, during the viking period, Scandinavia was divided between many chieftains so there was little in the way of large scale social unity.

6. They Were Dirty Savages


Maybe he’s trying to hide from Predator.

Yep, I’m afraid that one’s wrong too. Movies and games portray vikings as nasty barbarians but as it turns out, things were quite the opposite. Vikings actually bathed weekly and they did so on Saturdays. This is actually reflected in the fact that modern Scandinavian nations still refer to Saturday(  lördag, lørdag, or laurdag) as bath day.

Vikings were also particular about their appearance and used combs, razors and tweezers and even made soap. Don’t take my word for it, check out viking era excavations.

5. They Were The Most Violent Attackers


That’s how you deal with a spider!

Partly true. Indeed, they were violent but one must take into account the general situation in Europe at that time. Battles were fought all over and skirmishes were a common sight. Back then, if you needed to send a message, heads on pikes worked best. All I’m saying is that violence was commonplace then and vikings were no different.

Of course, word of their savage ways preceded their presence and they enjoyed being feared because when villagers flee, pillaging is so much easier. Which brings us to:

4. Plunder And Rape


Come on, all the cool invaders are doing it!

Most of them were farmers, craftsmen or traders. It’s a historical fact that vikings were the international traders of their time. Also, following their expeditions it wasn’t unusual for them to settle peacefully in an area. As we’ve said, only a small portion were dedicated warriors so their major source of income couldn’t have been looting.

3. They Fought With Primitive Weapons


Vikings are often pictured wielding clubs and rough axes but they were actually skilled smiths. Although swords weren’t the standard weapon (they favored axes) they did make some badass ones called Ulfberht swords. Some historians claim that they even imported high-grade crucible steel from Central Asia in order to smith them.

2. They Fashioned Drinking Cups from Skulls


Etiquette dictates that you keep your pinky up.

This myth originates from a bad translation in a seventeenth century text by Ole Worm. In his work, Runir seu Danica literatura antiquissima, he states that vikings drank from horns. As we know, horns are originally attached to skulls so maybe that’s what started it. Anyway, archaeologists have yet to discover any cranial mugs.

1. They Wore Horned Helmets


There hasn’t been any evidence of vikings wearing horned helmets, at least not in battle. This association probably originates from a nineteenth century production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen when costume designer C.E. Doepler crafted horned helmets specifically for the play. Others blame Skyrim.

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