I love the Vikings. I love the corny Tony Curtis film The Vikings, I love History Channel’s Vikings (buying the episodes on Amazon and rewatching them over and over throughout the week), I’ll watch any Vikings film (Pathfinder, Outlander, even that new awful Valhalla Rising), I’ll stand for hours starting at Sutton Hoo — heck, I even squealed and shelled out $10 last year when I saw a special “Vikings” edition of a periodic historical magazine and I’ve read it over so much it’s coming apart.
That said, yes, the Vikings were extremely violent, cruel creatures.
Sully Dish asks tonight: “Were the Vikings Really That Bad?”
Yes. Yes, they were.
It’s a common thing these days, to invoke the “history is written by the victors” or, in early-to-mid medieval Engand’s case, “history was written by the monks” to explain Vikings’ reputation as ridiculously violent and cruel (at least when raiding England). Articles with headlines such as “Were the Vikings really so bloodthirsty?,” answering in the negative, are more common than a hipster wearing glasses. It’s easy to buy into this — after all, it makes sense. But, what of the equally possible alternative? i.e., surely one must concede it is equally possible that the Vikings truly were as violent as described.
For instance, I recently read up on the “blood eagle” torture method reportedly employed by Vikings against the English. It entailed cutting the ribs of the victim by the spine, breaking their ribs, and pulling the lungs out through the wounds in the victim’s back. Oh, and pouring salt on the wounds just to add that extra “ooomph.”
From what source do we know of this? Ah, must’ve been those monks, up to their no-good defamation again!
Hmm, nope! Try the Nordic sagas.
In other words, Vikings’ own testaments acknowledge — perhaps even boast of — their cruelty towards their opponents.
So let’s give the PC “oh, it’s just those Christian monks exaggerating and lying” explanation a rest, shall we?
That said, let’s go #Ragnar and #Rollo!