There is one obvious inaccuracy in the popular TV series “Vikings”, and that is the language the Vikings are shown to speak. Of course, the producers couldn’t exactly have had the characters speak Old Norse. Firstly, where would you find enough actors fluent in Old Norse? Second, how would you create a popular TV production spoken in Old Norse? That’s right, the Vikings spoke Old Norse, also known as Old Scandinavian.
Thanks to their settlement in the British Isles, Old Norse has actually left its mark on modern English. Words like “ugly” come from the Old Norse “ugg,” “cake” comes from “kaka,” “slaughter” comes from “slate,” and “gun” from “Gunn.” While you won’t have many people to communicate with, if you want to speak like a Viking, learn Old Norse.
Since the History Channel’s epic series “Vikings,” these incredible warriors have gained a lot of modern-day fanboys and fangirls. Thanks, History Channel. What plenty of these fanboys don’t know is that there might actually be descendants of Vikings. According to Facts.net, 35% of men in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are distant relatives of Vikings. The website also states that 1 in every 33 men in the British Isles is a descendant of the Vikings.
A Daily Mail article has better news. It says that there are almost 1 million Viking descendants living in the UK. While northern England and Scotland have between 4 and 5% of Viking descendants among their populations, the Shetland and Orkney islands boast between 25 and 29% of Viking descendants.
If you’re a fan of “Tomb Raider,” then you’ll probably know all about Viking runes. Except, they don’t light up when you don Thor’s hammer and belt (which we’ve yet to find). But archaeologists have found runestones. In fact, between 1700 and 2500 runestones were found just in Sweden.
Though Vikings weren’t big on writing, engravings and inscriptions on these runestones show writing was used for specific purposes: graveyard markers, property markers, and markers of important places. While none of us are going to wield Thor’s hammer any time soon, these runestones show that for certain necessities, even the Vikings had to resort to writing stuff down – like who owns which property or lives where.
Mixing With the Locals
As the Vikings were elite seafarers, they got around a lot. What’s curious is what caused the Vikings to be such advanced naval folk. Though there’s no historical consensus on what the catalyst for their naval development was, one theory proposed is that Viking men wanted – or rather needed – women. Vikings were polygynous, meaning one very powerful man could marry a lot of women. And some men weren’t having this.
So, they built boats, traveled lots of leagues, and mixed with locals from other countries like Ireland, Scotland, England, and France. Though their true motivations for leaving Scandinavia are a mystery, we do know that often, they brought the indigenous women back to Scandinavia. Other times, they settled down and mixed indefinitely with the locals.
Not Exactly Fairtrade
Technically, slavery has only been abolished for less than 200 years. It took the USA some twenty years later to abolish this practice. While this is one of the darker aspects of humanity’s history, this practice of selling human beings as chattel is very, very old. And though the Vikings have gained many fans in recent days (thanks to a popular History Channel series), they, too, engaged in this practice. In fact, it was their primary trading “commodity.”
Dublin – a Viking settlement from the 9th to 11th centuries – became an international trading center for slaves. After raids, Vikings captured Irish men, women, and children and sold them as “thralls”. They regularly sold slaves to the Byzantines (Eastern Roman Empire), the Caliphate, and other Vikings.