Who were the Vikings?

Image Credit: Flickr user thievingjoker, via CC

Image Credit: Flickr user thievingjoker, via CC

Ever heard of the horn cap clad, red-bearded, scary looking sea raider – Hagar the horrible? Hagar, the main character of a very famous American comic strip is a Viking. Vikings were people who lived in Scandinavia (Norway, Denmark and Sweden together makes Scandinavia) between 8th and the 11th century. Vikings were great warriors and good traders. They raided and traded from their Scandinavian homelands across wide areas of northern and central Europe. They traded as far as European Russia.

The portrayal of Vikings is that of ruthlessness and barbarism in history. Living up to the image that Vikings have, in the comic series also Hagar plunders and raids like a pirate.

Were Vikings principally sea raiders? If we believe the comic strip Hagar the horrible then probably yes. But we don’t know for sure, but we do have some answers.

Vikings lived in Scandinavia, which is cold. They did some farming, but that was not enough for sustenance. So they also fished. For venturing into the sea, they made very peculiar long wooden ships with scary dragon face on one or either side. These ships were known as ‘longships’. Vikings believed that dragon faces will ward away any evil. A sun compass found in Greenland in 1948 shows that Vikings could even figure out their way even after sunset. They were expert explorers of the sea.

Image Credit: Flickr User duncanh1, via CC

Image Credit: Flickr User duncanh1, via CC

By the end of 8th century, Vikings began reaching out to other countries. Why? Too many people in their homelands and there was not enough trade opportunities. It pushed some Viking population into plundering. They realised that looting not only made them richer but also made them powerful. Their first loot at the holy island of Lindisfarne on the northeast of Britain was quite an infamous one! They looted the British monastery. They stole all treasures, burnt important papers and even killed people! Their journey to become ruthless robbers and conquerors began with this loot. By the end of 11th century, they had notoriously captured many parts of Britain.

There are many lesser known nicer things about Vikings. Vikings were very intelligent Mariners. They had explored America even before Christopher Columbus did! Unlike their image in history, they were neither ugly nor unhygienic. They were quite particular about cleanliness. They took a bath at least once a week(Ha! don’t raise your brow!) This was much more frequent than their European counterparts in those times. And believe it or not, most Vikings were simple farmers. But robberies, plundering and callousness by some Vikings have made the Viking community infamous in history forever!

One thing we must learn from the Vikings is that It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it!

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