"Thorir" shows off traditional viking weapons during the Viking Days festival at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard on Saturday, August 17. He said he has been in over 300 Viking war reenactments, some with as many as 10,000 participants.
Slideshow: Vikings invade Ballard
Nordic Heritage Museum celebrates 30th Viking Days
Editor's Note: Viking Days is an annual event put on by the Nordic Heritage Museum that celebrates Scandinavian heritage. Traditional food, music, craft and more were on display at the festival. Photographer Allyce Andrew took plenty of great pictures on Saturday, Aug. 17. See the slideshow by clicking the main picture above or the thumbnails below.
What do you know about Vikings?
If you visited Viking Days at the Nordic Heritage Museum this last weekend and talked to the people at the Viking encampment, you probably found out that you really don’t know that much. The knowledgeable modern day Vikings there probably dismantled all of your fantastical, Hollywood-ized misconceptions.
No, Vikings never wore horns or wings on their helmets. That’s just silly.
No, Vikings weren’t just big blond men. The Vikings absorbed a diverse array of populations.
No, Vikings didn’t drink out of human skulls. They drank out of horns from cattle.
No, Vikings didn’t have crudely made weapons. They were skilled craftsmen.
No, Vikings were not just brainless brutes who only pillaged and murdered. They were merchants, farmers and pioneers. (And, okay, they could probably get pretty violent. But who didn't during that era?)
Did you know that most Vikings didn’t use swords? Only the wealthy could afford swords, which took a greater amount of steel to craft. Axes, spears and other weapons that doubled as tools were much more common.
While we’re on the subject of swords: What do you think is better for piercing armor, the sword or the ax?
If you guessed sword, you’re wrong. It’s the ax. While the modest-looking handax is lighter, there is more weight going behind a smaller surface area, making it easier to break through the chain links in enemy armor.
With a sword, the weight is distributed throughout the whole length of the blade, and the length would connect with more chain links in the armor, making it much harder to slice through.
Moreover, the sword was rarely used as a main weapon. It was more of a sidearm, like how people might wear pistols.
The word Viking has an interesting and contested etymology. According to the respected website, www.etymonline.com, the meaning of Viking today comes from the Old Norse word vikingr, meaning "freebooter, sea-rover, pirate, Viking,” or more properly meaning, "one who came from the fjords.” The Old Norse word vik means "creek, inlet, small bay." Appropriate for the seafaring folks.
There are two other etymological roots. The Old English wicing and Old Frisian wising are almost 300 years older than the Old Norse word and probably derive from wic, as in “village, camp,” related to the Latin word vicus, which means “village, habitation.” Etymonline notes that temporary camps were a feature of the Viking raids.
But to those who take to heart the Viking lifestyle, the word Viking is not a noun. It’s a verb.
"It's a way of life," said Tinker Pearce, a Viking weaponmaker who hosted the fight demonstrations at Viking Days.
Follow Ballard News-Tribune on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ballardnewstrib
And Twitter at http://twitter.com/ballardnewstrib
Photo gallery for this story