C.J. Adrien is a French-American author with a passion for Viking history. His Kindred of the Sea series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follett. He has most recently been invited to speak at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds this summer.



Thanks to everyone who participated and asked questions. If you'd like to read more about the Vikings, check out my blog. This was my first Reddit experience, and I had a great time! That's it for me, Skal!

//EDIT #2//

I received a phone call telling me this thread was getting a lot of questions, still. I am back for another hour to answer your questions. Start time 11:35am PST to 12:30pm PST.

//EDIT #3//

Ok folks, I did my best to get to all of you. This was a blast! But, alas, I must sign off. I will have to do one of these again sometime. Signing off (1:20pm PST). Thank you all for a great time!

Comments: 755 • Responses: 71  • Date: 

waves-of-the-water491 karma

How accurate is the tv show vikings?

cjadrien1137 karma

The show has its merits, but of course it falls short in several respects. The timeline is all out of whack. It jumps around hundreds of years, and cares little for the actual timeline of the Viking Age.

But despite all its shortcomings, I think the real question is, "how accurate does it need to be?" It is, after all, historical fiction, and while we all expect a measure of authenticity in its presentation, the goal is to entertain. In my mind, the show Vikings' greatest merit is that it has cultivated tremendous attention to the actual history of the Vikings, which in turn is giving this field of study a much needed boost.

Sudden_Relapse172 karma

On the TV show Vikings, religion is very important. How accurately is religion portrayed?

Also any good documentaries or sources you could recommend for more detailed info (more detailed than a reddit response) on Viking religion and also influence of Christianity?

cjadrien344 karma

Well, the thing about the pagan norse is that what we know about their religion is not entirely reliable. Most stories from their mythology were written down centuries after the Christianization of Scandinavia. Therefore, we are left with the basic structure of their mythology, but too many questions to know for sure what it was like. So the show does what it can within this context. If you are interested in the Vikings' religion, I encourage you to start with their mythology. I enjoyed "The Norse Myths" by Kevin Crossley Holland.

didanybodychoosethis80 karma

Tell us some legitimate way Ragnar could come back! Don't snakes and Vikings get along?

cjadrien222 karma

KrayzeJ55 karma

How much evidence is there for the existence of Ragnar and for his story's? Or are they entirely myth

cjadrien191 karma

What we know about Ragnar is from an account written hundreds of years after the fact. He is considered to be a semi-legendary figure, and as such there is no reliable evidence to support he was real. There are several real historical figures who are candidates for being the inspiration for Ragnar, but no one agrees which one is the best fit. The story of Ragnar and his sons, as far as historians can tell, are part of a foundational narrative that was created during the Danelaw in England when the Danish rulers sought to legitimize their titles. So it's very likely it was all made up. However, there are real historical figures who are alleged sons of Ragnar, such as Bjorn Ironside, Ivar the Boneless, and Hastein, but of course it is surmised that they may have just said they were sons of Ragnar to legitimize their leadership, like the kings of Europe did by forging documents tracing their houses back to Charlemagne.

Rikashey49 karma

Ragnar sacked Paris in 845 and it documented by the Franks, isn't that proof enough that he existed?

cjadrien198 karma

Ah, but was it really Ragnar? The name mentioned as the leader of the attack in the Annales of St. Bertin is Reginfred, who is sometimes asserted with Ragnar, but there is no consensus. There are also problems with associating Ragnar with this figure, chiefly that the semi-legendary figure of Ragnar would have been impossibly old in 845 A.D. So no, it's not proof enough that he existed.

DevilsLittleChicken40 karma

Whilst you and I know what "historical fiction" means, I think it needs to be more accurate when dealing with people/situations that may have existed on any level... at least slightly. As if these stories need exaggerating anyway!
Titanic and The Tudors taught us that this stuff is widely believed these days. There are actually 18 year old guys who now believe Cardinal Wolsey broke his own neck on his way to the tower, for example. Some bloke called Jack who died on the Titanic? His grave is now a goddamn PILGRIMAGE site...

Source: Educator, though not a teacher. I help teach the kids that believe this shit.

cjadrien83 karma

I tend to agree with you, the show creators really deviated from any shred of credibility. The opening season was actually quite good. But ratings, it seems, are too powerful a force for History Channel to ignore.

qtm1183 karma

What's the evidence that vikings creted Russia?

cjadrien298 karma

The evidence for the early foundations of Russia, and Vikings’ involvement therein, is two-fold.

We have the archeological evidence which points to early Scandinavian colonies east of the Baltic. The first, the Grobin colony in modern day Latvia, demonstrates that Swedes from Gotland migrated there as early as the 7th century. Further north-east there is also the colony of Ladoga, which eventually flourished into a major trading post for goods brought to and from the middle east. Other finds scattered across the region point to extensive trade networks and settlement attempts by Swedish Vikings, known as the Rus.

Then we have the textual evidence. The Russian Primary Chronicle tells of the story of three Rus brothers who were “invited” by the Slavs to become their rulers because the Slavs, according to the text, could not agree amongst each other and so agreed to invite the Rus to make peace. This account is considered to be semi-legendary, meaning it was probably allegory to describe a longer process of raids and conquest by the Rus in the Slavic lands. From there the document goes on to describe the events that led to the foundation of Kiev and Novgorod, which both eventually became part of the Muscovy state, Russia.

Here’s a link to a translation of the Russian Primary Chronicle: http://pages.uoregon.edu/kimball/chronicle.htm#862

How the Rus got their name is somewhat of an enigma. Like the name “Viking” itself, the name Rus has several possible sources. In the Annals of Saint Bertin, and indeed in several other sources, they are referred to as the “Rhos” which has led historians to hypothesize a connection with their tribal home of Roslagen. Others think the name was given to them by the Finns, who today still call the Swedes Ruotsi, a word meaning, “those who row.” Again, there is no certainty as to the true origins of the name, but it is the name they would lend to one of the most powerful nations in modern history, Russia. If the second origin theory of the name Rus is correct—the theory tying it to the Finnish word Ruotsi—the name Russia may actually mean “the land of those who row.”

Vindensang117 karma

You're quoting from my professor of Russian History!!!
I absolutely LOVED the class, especially the section on Novgorod and the Golden Horde.

cjadrien175 karma

Kimball? He was my professor, too! I did my senior thesis with him :)

Trapqueengoddess171 karma

How were women treated in Viking society? I've heard they were considered equals in many aspects.

cjadrien286 karma

It is true that women held certain rights their southern neighbors did not. How this played into the fabric of their society is a complex question, and one must be wary not to conflate out of romanticized optimism as I have seen done recently. But, if this is something that interests you, the historian Judith Jesch has done the most extensive work of anyone out there on the subject of women's role in Norse society, drawing from textual and archeological evidence to form her conclusions. I encourage you to look up her books to learn more.

jamescurtis2944 karma

I studied Viking Studies BA at the University of Nottingham and part of my study was specifically on Viking attitudes to women. Ridiculously, I never actually studied under Judith due to conflicting timetables, however we shared a joke about Havamal translations in my first year, which was cool I guess.

I made a point in a (now) far lower comment on the concept of 'rape and pillage' and feel that it would be useful to copy it here as an addendum to your statement. Rape, of course, is not the only factor to study how women were treated, but the results are telling.

The concept of Vikings 'raping' isn't quite founded, at least not as a unique character trait. Unfortunately acts of sexual violence have been a reality of war throughout history and this undoubtedly includes Viking raiders; however, from a historical perspective, there are actually few contemporary sources which refer to Viking rape in raiding situations. Specifically, it is alluded to once by Roger of Wendover (who was writing about an event long after its occurrence) and once by Adrevald of Fleury, who refers to the raiders' 'ludibria' of maidens. The word 'ludibria', usually translated as 'mockery', suggests rape. However, the uniqueness of this evidence and the relatively common reports of raping warriors in contemporary cultures like the Carolingians suggests that it actually was a relatively uncommon Viking act.

On the non-raiding side, we see some strong punitive laws in Scandinavia against sexual aggression; unfortunately the only source I can find right now is this less-than-credible secondary source: https://satwcomic.com/keep-your-hands-to-yourself , but maybe /u/cjadrien can find something better.

In the literary accounts, on the seldom occasions where rape is depicted, it is used to humiliate or as an act of vengeance (in Guðmundar saga dýra and Völundarkviða respectively).

Hope that's of interest.

cjadrien23 karma

Thanks for this wonderful comment. I don't know that I'll be able to dig up a source on the internet for such a thing, but a book, probably. Although, I'll have to do some real digging to find one.

I do not know if you are aware, but a recent study came out to say that many of the dead found in a few mass grave sites dating to the Viking age contained women. Many jumped to the occasion to say it meant that half of Viking warriors were women. I interpret the findings more as the Vikings brought their own women to the places they intended to colonies, and for culture reasons preferred not to mix with the local women at first.

Anyhow, it's an evolving field of study, and one which will assuredly give us much more great information about women's roles in Viking Age Scandinavia in the years to come.

nomemory157 karma

What are the main myths concerning their culture. Are they the gruesome barbarians the history books are depicting them?

cjadrien387 karma

Well, they didn't have horns, that was an invention of a costume designer at the Berlin opera in the 1880's.

I think the big myth that should be dispelled is that they were not more violent that the other peoples of Europe at the time. In fact, one of the [many] causes of the launch of the Viking Age may have been war atrocities committed by the Carolingians against the Danes' neighbors, the Saxons. So to say that they were terribly violent barbarians is not entirely accurate. They were violent, but so was everyone else.

box99149 karma

Has DNA research revealed anything new about the Vikings?

cjadrien245 karma

It has. Particularly, we are more aware than ever of just how good of progenitors the Vikings were. They spread their seed far and wide, and now we can track where and how much through DNA. Great question.

LoveSouthampton81 karma

So how much further than Scandinavia/Finland did their DNA spread to?

cjadrien151 karma

In terms of actually DNA tests, the field is in its infancy and has yet to map everything out, but it holds great promise for the future. From historical and archeological sources, however, we may predict with fair accuracy that Vikings spread their genes to the British Isles, France, Iberia, all the Baltic States, and Eastern Europe, chiefly Russia and Ukraine, and even Turkey (via the Varangian Guard).

LT_Kernel_Root83 karma

I love to relax at the end of a long day by watching a good documentary or two; what documentaries do you recommend that pertain to your area of study?

cjadrien183 karma

The Ulfberht by PBS was pretty good! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FsfV5A6ktk

Fuglylol24 karma

I watched that sometime ago and was quite dis appointed that they didnt even test the sword at the end.

cjadrien47 karma

Ah, well, I read books mostly so my list of documentaries is quite short :)

beefhammer6918 karma

Well what books would you recommend?

cjadrien44 karma

Start with the primary sources: https://classesv2.yale.edu/access/content/user/haw6/Vikings/index.html

John Haywood's new book is also very good for a broad overview.

the_drew82 karma

Have you spent much time in Sweden? We have significant Viking memorials, such as Haväng, Ales Stena, Kungagraven, Anundshög (also includes a MASSIVE Stone burial ship and an entire village complete with working ships, huts and food.

cjadrien88 karma

I have not spent much time in Sweden, but I began my studies on the Vikings on the subject of the Swedish Vikings, the Rus, and arguably they are the ones I know the most about. I do plan on a longer trip to Sweden in the near future.

MudWasp59 karma

I've always wondered about the validity of the belief that vikings were heavily tattooed.

Did viking culture favor tattoos? What significance did they represent culturally? And how did they tattoo themselves?

cjadrien122 karma

The problem with tattoos is that they do not survive very long after death. So, archeologically, we have no evidence for them, nor are there is there any evidence of tools or ink that would have been used. The only reliable account we have for their tattoos is from the Arab chronicler Ibn Fadlan, who described their blue tattoos. Outside of that, the rest is guess work.

urbanturd59 karma

What is your favorite little known fact about vikings?

cjadrien164 karma

There is evidence to suggest that when they intended to trade, they flipped their ships upside down and raised them up as roofs to set up shop.

edit this evidence exists for the Rus (Swedish Vikings) who traveled East, and not the others.

Troglobitten22 karma

In my mind (due to misconceptions being spread about vikings) vikings are the raiding warring type. I did however hear somewhere that they would trade with countries as far as modern day Turkey.

So how much trading with other cultures did they do, and how was their relation with those cultures? Did they have good foreign relations due to trading or were they met with hostility based on their raiding?

cjadrien55 karma

Hoards of silver, often tens of thousands of coins in one spot, found in Sweden attest to a long and very profitable trade with the East.

Drunkeychain56 karma

What is your favorite, most recent finding about vikings?

cjadrien132 karma

The reindeer antler comb that predates academia's general understanding of the Viking timeline. I wrote about it here: https://cjadrien.com/2015/05/19/the-reindeer-antler-comb-that-is-rewriting-history/

And there are also massive hoards that were recently discovered in England and Sweden, and I just read that they've found a new settlement in America. So, lots going on!

adognameddave19 karma

where at? that is fascinating

veniceinperil55 karma

What do you think about Scandinavian Scotland, and the possibility that a fair number of families from the Hebrides Islands are Viking and Sami?

cjadrien89 karma

DNA tests recently showed that the people in the Hebrides and Orkneys, who had long thought to be descended from native scots, are in fact Norwegian, and the native population was entirely displaced. I am going off of memory and I could be mistaken in the location, so I encourage you to look it up, but it was very recent.

AdmiralHip35 karma

I thought it was more nuanced than that. For instance, the MacNeil clan is largely Norse, but the Macaulay clan of Lewis is Irish in descent but had believed for a long time due to the etymology of their name that they were Norse.

cjadrien62 karma

You are getting into a realm I do not know much about. You are probably right, and I encourage you to continue your research.

Gud8444 karma

When I was young we learned that Vikings did many things besides raiding. One thing they told us was that they sometimes wete hired as elite bodyguards for lords and rulers.

Is there any truth to this? If so where? Wouldn't language be a huge barrier for such things? Well...bigger than they might be these days.

cjadrien99 karma

They served in the Varangian Guard, the elite bodyguard of the Emperor of Byzantium. It was a rite of passage for nobility in Norway well into the 12th century to join the Varangian Guard in their youth.

ElegantTable40 karma

Have you ever been to "Vikingar" in Largs up in Scotland? I used to go a lot when I was younger and it really cultivated an interest in Viking history and culture for me.

cjadrien51 karma

I have not, but I'll be in the area this summer, so I'll add it to my itinerary. Thanks!

HarvestKing15 karma

Check out the Viking museum in Dublin too if you're around there, if you haven't already. I had a great time there.

cjadrien15 karma

I have! I was in Dublin in '05, it was wonderful!

jostark1840 karma

did vikings wear underwear?

cjadrien78 karma

The bodies buried in the Osberg and Gokstad ships showed signs of having worn undergarments, but only the important people.

squidravioli38 karma

Is it true that the Vikings ate a lot of fish? What type of salad dressing?

cjadrien89 karma

Yes, herring especially. Salted, cured, etc, fish was a major part of their diet, but so was game meant, especially in Norway and Sweden. No salad, as I've ever seen, so no salad dressing either. They ate mostly root-based veggies, like beats, carrots, radishes, etc. A recent study by a university in Finland has demonstrated that it is actually a very healthy diet.

Wildkarrde_34 karma

What did the Vikings call themselves? How unified were they as a people?

cjadrien67 karma

The Annales D'Angouleme state that the Vikings who sacked Nantes in 843 A.D. were Vestfaldingi, or Men from Vesfold. This tells us two things: 1, Scandinavians referred to themselves regionally, like Vestfold, and not generally as Norwegians, Danes, or Swedes, although they did refer to themselves as such in some cases; 2, Vikings introduced themselves to their victims before killing them.

As far as being united, they had a common culture and language, but were far from one people politically. They often fought each other, even abroad, based on regional differences.

crocodad30 karma

have you heard about the discoveries in Ribe, Denmark, that suggests that Viking Denmark were christians far earlyer than we thought?

cjadrien64 karma

I have, and I have actually discussed this with others in my field. It seems the evidence points to early christianization, but there is a growing consensus that it may not be what many people are interpreting it as being. In the early 800's, there was a war of succession in Denmark, and one of the rival claimants, Harald-Klak, agreed to be baptized to gain support from the Carolingian empire. This act is widely regarded to have been a political move, and not an actual conversion. Therefore, the artifacts in Ribe may just be more evidence of this trend. It will be interesting to see what comes of the research!

orionsbridge27 karma

I have always enjoyed the Legend or the story of the Kensington Runestone. Do you give it any merit? Is there any merit to Norsemen and Western Plains Indians having substantial contact? Thanks for your time.

cjadrien53 karma

There really isn't. The Kensington Runestone was definitively proven a fake quite some time ago. Does this mean the Vikings did not travel that far? No. They could have, and they had the skill to do so. But there simply is no evidence to prove it.

Juvari26 karma

How extensive was the contact between the vikings and frisians? Did that change due to the frisians being forced to convert to christianity by the franks?

I never really heard anything about frisian viking relations which surprises me because they were both germanic pagans who lived and traded off the sea.

cjadrien46 karma

Frisians were among the first victims of the Danes beginning as early as the 750's, several decades before the launch of the Viking Age. The Danes subjugated several neighboring peoples and established tributary rights, including the Frisians, Saxons, and Obrodites, who were duly snatched away from their grasp by the Carolingians.

1310459821023 karma

Medieval studies is rapidly shrinking due to budget cuts and cultural apathy, yet there is a major push from the AHRB (or whatever they call themselves these days) et al. to push more young people into the field.

What're your thoughts on this trend? Do you make a point of warning prospective phd candidates that their chances of getting a job in the field is nearly nil--or do you find such talk of money vulgar?

cjadrien58 karma

Great question. Budget cuts are a tremendous problem, especially in the U.S. where tuitions are climbing and program quality is dropping. I experienced this firsthand - they cut the history department to make up for the shortfalls of the football program - and it has jaded me. We are forcing curious minds to choose between making a living and contributing to the betterment of society. I do warn prospective students that the unemployment for p.h.D's in history is astronomically high, but if they can make it work and follow their passions, it's not for me to stop them.

I set out on my own to encourage young minds to be more curious about the past. Hence why I wrote my books for a young adult audience. I firmly believe that if history is presented in an engaging way, everyone will like it. If one young person reads my books and it peaks their curiosity and leads them to research the subject, I've accomplished by goals.

Sweetfol23 karma

Do you think the blood eagle was a real thing?

cjadrien33 karma

There is some textual evidence for it, but it is considered unreliable, and so probably not.

tibearius112318 karma

Are there large scale war recreations for medieval battles similar to those done for the civil war? How accurate are they?

cjadrien32 karma

The biggest I know of are in Russian, and they're quite good!

NoMouseville17 karma

Why do you think they called Ivar the Boneless... the boneless? Do you think it was that he has messed up legs, he was really skinny or he had no lead in his pencil?

cjadrien22 karma

There are a few theories, but what we do know is that he had to be carried.

Porrick16 karma

Am I imagining things when I see lots of similarities between pre-Christian Irish and Viking art? I'm from Ireland and spend a lot of time in Norway, and it seems like all our properly-ancient stuff is largely interchangeable.

cjadrien21 karma

There's a cultural link there that goes back a ways, before the Vikings even. And it's not really my area of expertise, but there is ample literature out there about it.

Battlepuppy16 karma

My expertise as far of this subject goes it what I learned in High school over 20 years ago- so not much.

How much of the travels outside Scandinavia to the British isle were about colonization, and how much of it was a protection racket?

What were the social differences between the folks who stayed at home and herded goats, and the sailors who took off on long voyages and then returned home?

Were the voyages pretty much for the young folks, (then they came home and farmed) or was it one of those life-time career things were you keep going until you dropped (or someone dropped you.)

Did medieval Scandinavians get sick of everyone being named "son of" , "Daughter of" like the modern folks Reference or did the fact that they lived in a more agrarian community help? (identity tied to the farm they lived at)

When doing genealogy (Norway) in the 1800s, my relatives took their names from the farm they lived at.

firstname, son of, farmname.

How far back in the past was this practice used?

EDIT: How far back in the past was the practice of taking military last names go? My assumption that there were WAAAY too may Olesons in one spot, and everyone got confused.

cjadrien33 karma

Lots of questions! Ok, so as far as the names are concerned, you should check out The Viking Answer Lady, she's done all manner of work on the subject of names and that should answer your questions in regards to that.

As far as colonization vs raiding, in very general terms the early Viking Age started as raids, and toward the end of the 9th century we see a concerted effort to invade foreign lands, such as Britain, Brittany, Normandy, and the slavic lands in the east. Throughout the Viking age there existed a didactic in which both types of interactions happened at the same time, driven by different groups for different purposes.

Battlepuppy4 karma

Thanks for answering!

The Viking Answer Lady

Cool. Will do.

So the reasons for venturing out really depended upon who was backing them. Various political objectives and drives from different parts of Viking society.

Colonization started when they saw the raids worked well. Sort of: Well, that worked before, lets just stay there next time?

cjadrien15 karma

Some colonies were also formed in response to raiding. Normandy, for example, was settled by Danes who were invited there by the French king specifically to fend off other Vikings.

slnt199615 karma

What evidence dictates that vikings were tougher or more fearless warriors then their neighbours?

cjadrien54 karma

We know very little about their battle tactics and fighting style. But here is what we do know: they are thought to have been fearless because they were portrayed as such by their victims, chiefly christian clerics (those who could write this stuff down). Therefore, this perception may very well be a result of their biases. Militarily, they were not particularly effective against well-trained and organized armies. This is particularly evident in the early interactions they had with the Carolingians and the Arab Emirate of Al-Andalus (Spain). Their true strength was the sheer speed at which they could appear and disappear again, which struck fear in the hearts of those they attacked. The best example of this is by Noter the Stammerer. Later on, when their ambitions shifted from raiding to colonization, this myth of their invulnerability disappeared as they fought in pitched battles with the armies of Europe with very mixed results.

Teh_iiXiiCU710NiiR14 karma

What made you like Vikings?

cjadrien23 karma

I talk about it on my website here.

Freikorp9 karma

Vikings are often portrayed as larger and more physically intimidating than other men of their time. Is there evidence of this, or is it just a result of their portrayal in other texts and the notion that they were somehow more violent than other cultures at the time, or was it something else?

Also, briefly, since I know this would take a long time to really get into, how did religion "work" within their society? Do we have much information about how the "everyday" Viking treated their faith?

cjadrien21 karma

The chroniclers who wrote about them were also their victims, so this view that they were bigger, meaner, etc is just an affirmation of their own biases.

How their religion actually worked is actually still mostly a mystery. We have the broad architecture of their pantheon, but texts attesting to their practices are vague. Anskar, a famous bishop who went on missions across Scandinavia, reported human sacrifices in Sweden, and described the ritual. Further east, Ibn Fadlan wrote about their funeral practices. But both are, again, framed within the cultural lens of the chronicler, and so not particularly good evidence for Viking culture and religion. Archeologically, we have lots of artifacts to support which deity one person or settlement followed, but outside of that we really don't have much to go on to describe their rituals.

MrsBoombastic986 karma

Where did Vikings get their slaves? Also, do you have any theories as to where the 2nd settlement in America was?

cjadrien22 karma

Salves were typically taken from the people they conquered. At first, these would have been other Scandinavians, but later it came to include people from all over, including black slaves from North Africa.

HandsomeDynamite5 karma

What do you think about the book Vikings: A History by Robert Fergusson?

What percentage of Scandinavian peoples were actually vikings (i.e. went and carried out raids on other settlements)? Were women ever included on raids? I read that a burial ground in the northern UK had many men and women buried with weapons, suggesting they did fighting as well.

How strongly would an average viking believed in their gods? Would they actively seek out a death in battle, or was it just like something to remember before the fighting started?

Do we have any evidence of viking fighting styles? I know reenactment groups do their best, but it's really all just guesswork because of the lack of evidence.

How did vikings wear their hair? In Fergusson's book suggests that it was long in front and shorn in the back, which I find difficult to visualize. Is there a modern analogue?

cjadrien15 karma

Fergusson's book is quite satisfying. I am also fairly satisfied with John Haywood's new book.

There is no way to know what percentage of Scandinavians left on raids versus how many stayed at home.

The evidence showing women buried abroad is less evidence that they were fighting with the men, and more evidence that the Vikings in question were setting out for colonization rather than raiding.

It was an age of belief, so they would have believed in their pantheon as much as the Romans did theirs. Again there's really know way of knowing unless we could ask them.

For fighting styles, there are very brief mentions spread out across various chronicles of how they fought, but as evidence it is lacking. So, by and large, we don't don't know, although that has not stopped many from guessing.

For their hair, the only pictorial representation we have are on the Gotland stones, which show long, braided hair and beards, and on the other there is the Bayeux tapestry which shows they wore short hair. Two theories explain this: 1, their hair styles may have been a form of personal expression (like today), and so they wore what was trending or what they liked; 2, a shift took place where a more militarized focus, such as the one pictured on the Bayeux tapestry, led to a shortening of hair styles for practical purposes.

Philyaz5 karma

I was told by various sources/people that Vikings are credited for the mutated gene that causes red hair. After they raped and pillaged regions like Ireland their red hair entered the Irish gene pool. Is this true?

cjadrien4 karma

That's a questions for a geneticist. Personally, I don't know.

Didicoal025 karma

Did Vikings actually worship Norse mythology?

cjadrien15 karma

Yes. Pockets in Scandinavia continued to worship them well into the high middle ages.

crazypajamalady4 karma

do you think the kensington runestone found in Minnesota is a 14th century Scandinavian artifact or a 19th century hoax?

cjadrien21 karma

It was definitely proven to be a hoax years ago.

ValaskaReddit4 karma

So how was daily life for the Norse? Was it a generally content and happy affair?

cjadrien18 karma

If you're comparing it to today, it was hard, miserable and short. But if you compare them to the other peoples of Europe at the time, it was actually quite good.

Tree_bringer3 karma

I am from a sami family and have always wondered how the relatio between them were, you don't happen to know that? Like, did they trade alot and did they have borders or something?

cjadrien5 karma

I don't know much about the Sami, but I do know they were present before the Vikings, and early on there wasn't much interaction between them. That changed later on, but it's not my area of expertise, but I encourage you to research the subject further.


What are some common misconceptions about Vikings?

cjadrien8 karma

Everything about them. We think we know what we know about them based on evidence, but that evidence, compared to other time periods, is sparse. So we still have much work to do, even in academia, to form a more accurate picture of the Vikings.

tzuridis3 karma

I read (unsourced) that the vast majority of Viking activities took place in the east all the way down to Byzantium, or was the British isles and France where most the raiding and settling took place? Was most of the activity settling or raiding and going back?

cjadrien12 karma

The Vikings known as the Rus did travel east and established an extensive trade network along the volga and dniepper rivers. They founded the principalities Kiev and Novgorod which would form the nucleus of the future Russian state. It started first as raids, but to secure the trade routes from raids by the Slavs, they began asserting dominion over Slavic lands and establishing fortifications along the way. So trade was the segue to conquering the east.

In the west, it also started as raids, but as politics at home, and indeed populations sizes and food supply, changed, many resorted to exoduses to new lands for survival. This is thought to be the driving factor of the settlement of Ireland, Iceland, and later, America. In England, the Danes who attacked were of a different kind. They were a conquering army with close ties to their home land. So the aims were not colonization, but conquest.

As far as which area, east or west, had more activity, it is hard to say. We know the most about the Danes and their activities because they were the ones the chroniclers of the day documented the most.

turtlecole2 karma

What are your thoughts on the last kingdom?

cjadrien2 karma


Minimireturns2 karma

Do you know any novels that depict viking life in A first person point of view that you would recommend reading?

cjadrien5 karma

Bernard Corwell's The Last Kingdom is AWESOME. Check out Giles Kristian, too.

Dayemos2 karma

I'm of Viking descent (Icelandic grandparents). What's something that most people don't know about Vikings?

cjadrien6 karma

Most people don't understand the difference between clinker-built and carver built ships. And I never get asked about it either.

hremmingar2 karma

Thanks for doing this ! Being Icelandic i was raised as a young boy with stories of vikings and the sagas.

Do you know if the vikings 'mixed' with indians(skrjælingar) in n-america?

cjadrien2 karma

Actually, there was a study about two years ago that confirmed the Vikings brought back Native Americans, so yes they did.

National Geographic did a piece on it:

"The study authors themselves admit the case is far from closed. But University of Illinois geneticist Ripan Malhi—an expert in ethnic DNA differences who wasn't part of the project—agreed that the report holds "strong genetic evidence for pre-Columbian contact of people in Iceland with Native Americans."

Here's the link: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/11/101123-native-american-indian-vikings-iceland-genetic-dna-science-europe/

BeckyDaTechie2 karma

What is/are your favorite English language source(s) for Anglo Saxon and Norse language study?

cjadrien3 karma

Do you mean books to learn those languages, or primary sources in those languages translated into English?

d4rkp0w3r1 karma

Top five books to start a solo research on Vikings?

cjadrien2 karma

Start with the primary source documents. Yale university has a bunch of them translated and published online here: https://classesv2.yale.edu/access/content/user/haw6/Vikings/index.html

ratpaisan111 karma

What is the main source of information on Viking History? It seems most of the information on them is based on other nation's accounts, in which they were usually being invaded and not have a favorable or accurate view. How do you ascertain which info is credible?

cjadrien2 karma

What we know about them comes from two sources: archeology and primary sources. Archeology helps us piece together their society, while textual evidence helps to create a timeline of events. It is in comparing the findings of the two that were are able to, with a fair amount of accuracy, ascertain what is, may be, and is not valid.

TunieP1 karma

I'm pretty sure you know of the popular show Vikings, how historically accurate is it? And also did Rollo actually betray his brother and become a nobleman in France?

cjadrien3 karma

The Rollo who took over Normandy had no relation to the legendary figure Ragnar Lothbrok.

JoustingDragon1 karma

Have any books you'd suggest to someone wanting to learn more about vikings, any that you really enjoyed yourself?

kallesim1 karma

Have you read Saxo Grammaticus? if so who is your favourite king?

cjadrien2 karma

I have read the Gesta Danorum, although I haven't given much though to which king I prefer. I suppose I would have to say Gorm, mostly because he is the one who bridges legend with historical fact.

SuperMegaD1 karma

Settle a disagreement with my coworker; did the Vikings men have long hair, and did they braid it?

cjadrien3 karma

the only pictorial representation we have are on the Gotland stones, which show long, braided hair and beards, and on the other there is the Bayeux tapestry which shows they wore short hair. Two theories explain this: 1, their hair styles may have been a form of personal expression (like today), and so they wore what was trending or what they liked; 2, a shift took place where a more militarized focus, such as the one pictured on the Bayeux tapestry, led to a shortening of hair styles for practical purposes.

balancerof0 karma

Also what spiked your interest in Vikings?

cjadrien2 karma

I talk about it on my website here.