The question “where did Vikings come from?” is often asked and wondered. The answer to the question could be simple if you wish: “Scandinavia; The Vikings came from Scandinavia”. However, does the answer end there? Does their origin only limit to a word of eleven letters?
Well, if I may, the answer does not end there. For long Vikings were attributed many inhumane terms such as the terms Barbarians, invaders, predators; they are often depicted as one-dimensional warriors whose achievements only narrow down to their plundering. But we all know that Vikings were a group of society, constantly evolving, constantly forming themselves over the years into what we know them as, now.
They inculcated excerpts of places and circumstances they went through and made them their own. And we all must know their historical sagas before we conclude the answer to a specific region.
Vikings, also known as the Norse or the Norsemen, are believed to be original settlers of Scandinavia, which constitutes present-day Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Initially pagan in their practices, they came to be known as raiders and expeditions in the medieval world.
There are many popular theories about the origin of the name ‘Viking’ which relates to the different interpretations of their origin. First of the many is that they are named after Toki Viking, because of his activities as a Viking.
Another theory is that the word ‘Viking’ is derived from the Old Norse word ‘vik’, meaning the ones who inhabited the edges of the land and sea. There is a possibility it could also originate from the Old English word ‘wic’, referring to the temporary settlements the Vikings built during their raids as the word means ‘camp’.
The argument: “where are vikings from?” is a topic of debate among the scholars. According to scholars, these ‘Rus’ people came into the historical picture around the eighth century in the current region what is called coastal eastern Sweden. From what has been recorded they became popular because of the raids in 793 up until the Norman conquest of England in 1066.
In 793, along the coast of Northumbria armed raiders were to be seen attacking the defenceless monastery of St. Cuthbert on Lindisfarne. This marked the beginning of the seaborne pirates of Scandinavia.
Even though historians associate the place Scandinavia along with the Vikings, there were many non-Scandinavians, such as Slavic, Baltic and Finnic people that fought along and co-existed with them. Famous Jomsviking was a Viking league, known to be a mixture of Scandinavians and Slavs.
The geographical circumstances conditioned them to start their living through agriculture, or by fishing. Advances in shipping technology further paved the way for them to become sea-farers and explorers. They have a wonderful impact on the history and culture of the Northern world, and thus are ingrained in our historical memory.
Various factors like overpopulation, political instability, economic needs, and others taught them that the ‘Sky has no limit’. And they tried to attain all that they could see and what was beyond that. They looked for opportunities in what lay ahead of their reach.
In the mid-ninth century, Viking voyages became more recurrent, and in 872 under the flag of Ingolf Anarson, they settled in Iceland. There they established an independent and fierce society unique to all.
They had various mythological beliefs. Feasting and fighting were the most important of them. They wished to acquire the afterlife of Valhalla through their mythological god Odin. To have a good afterlife, they believed that they had to die in battle. And the one who could not attain that were chosen to go to the field of the goddess Freya, so they could offer themselves to the women who died as maidens.
They spent all day mastering their battle skills; preparing for ‘Ragnarok’ –the end of the world and then every night, their wounds would magically heal, and they had a feast like there was no tomorrow. Their drinking horns never emptied.
Iceland was faithful to their old gods for a long time, such as Odin, Thor, etc. Christianity reached much later to them. They converted into Christianity to avoid a civil war. They found Christianity in accord with their morals and gained a perspective.
There is also evidence that they reached the Islamic Empire, such as Baghdad. They did trade with them mostly, supplying them goods such as furs, tusks, seal fat, and slaves.
The expansions of Norsemen have many possible reasons—one of them being that they sought foreign women. Historian Saint Quentin put forth this theory in the 11th century. Another explanation was that they exploited a moment of weakness in the surrounding regions. Trade was another theory, and there were many others, such as lack of resources.
They were active beyond their homeland, and Vikings encountered numerous cultures and were influenced by them. They were experiencing new things and underwent a variety of cultural changes.
Christianization is the most influential of all. It changed their lives, bringing with it the moral aspect. It also led to the formation of three kingdoms Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
The assimilation of the nascent Scandinavian kingdoms into the cultural mainstream of European Christendom altered the aspirations of Scandinavian rulers and of Scandinavians able to travel overseas and changed their relations with their neighbours.
The literature then also flourished with time. There are inscriptions from around the 11th and 12th centuries. There were many Viking sagas to be taken into account. They used a standard alphabet called runner, built upon sound values. Codified written documentaries though are less, but there are many stones with runic inscriptions.
So if you are left wondering why all this history of Vikings when, the question is “Where did the Vikings come from?” in the first place. This is because it would be hard for us to understand where they came from if we don’t know where and what they have been through. This history and these places, everything comes from them, and every Viking comes from all these places.
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