Minimalism may be a popular trend nowadays, but this way of living is old. More than 1,000 years ago, you could describe the Vikings as minimalists. Of course, these fierce warriors were fans of treasure as they sailed the northern seas to raid villages. But at the home base, they were rather minimalistic.
A typical Viking house was rectangular with a thatched roof and only one room. And they did everything in that one room: sleeping, cooking, and eating. They had an open fireplace. Considering that there were no windows, things got pretty smoky inside. Though the Vikings often had a single opening in the wall to let the smoke out, they still had to sleep in the same room where they cooked. Now, that’s super minimalist.
From the 8th to 12 centuries, the Vikings were one of the most powerful forces in Medieval Europe. No wonder this period in history was called the Viking Age. While there are plenty of reasons to explain why the Vikings became a dominant force in this age, one explanation for their wealth was that they had no rules against raiding churches.
The other European nationalities were Christian, had Christian influence, or had Christian majorities or minorities in their territories. But since the Vikings were pagans, they didn’t have the same boundaries – they didn't mind pillaging as many churches as they’d like. We’re guessing that monks were praying for a Viking change of heart – or at least, simply not to spot their place of worship.
They Didn’t Call Themselves Vikings
The exact origins of the word Viking are unclear, and its meaning is something many historians still argue about. While historians have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what “Viking” means, the group of people who it speaks about wouldn’t care less about it. This is because the Vikings seldom used it themselves.
In fact, after examining their writing, the term “Viking” hardly comes up. This clearly shows that the Vikings didn’t use it all that much and probably didn’t use it to speak about themselves – probably because it had a negative association. Most likely, the nations who suffered from frequent Viking raids used this term to describe their antagonizers.
If a village or town saw a Viking longboat on the horizon, they knew trouble was coming. Countless villages fell after Viking raids. One thing that made the Vikings so successful at pillaging villages was their longboats. Interestingly, the Vikings built several types of boats. Longships came in different sizes. The “snekkja” was the smallest longship and was used specifically for transporting Vikings during raids.
The “karve” was bigger and could be used during raids but also for transporting people and trade. What’s incredible about the longboats is that they were designed so well that they could transport the Vikings to countries’ interiors. One country that knows this well is France. This is because they were designed to navigate rivers, even some as shallow as only one meter deep.
While the Vikings are infamous for being formidable warriors, it might surprise many to know that they had a kind heart. It was common among Viking chieftains to reward their clan warriors with gifts during occasions like Viking festivals or after a successful raid. Though the Vikings were rather generous and surprisingly kind-hearted, there was a twist to it all.
Typical gifts included jewelry and weapons. Of course, giving a clan warrior a weapon may seem to be a win-win. We only hope that these gifts didn’t play a role in any mutinies against chieftains. That is the risk of rewarding warriors with weapons.