My name is Thomas A. Olsen and I work as a museum educator and storyteller specializing in the viking age.

My home base is Fotevikens Museum in Sweden but I also travel all over Europe to tell stories.

These days I'm pretty much stuck to trying to tell my stories on YouTube so I thought I would do an AMA for you guys.

Ask me absolutely anything you want. As a storyteller I will warn you that everything I tell you is the truth and some of it has also happened.

My channel for those that are interested:

Here is my latest video in honor of the day. It's about Olav Haraldsson, arguably the most famous viking in Norway. He eventually became a Saint and the perpetual king of Norway.

Edit: I have to go to sleep now. It's 1:36 AM here now, but leave your questions here in the comments and I'll answer them when I wake up! Thank you for a lot of great questions, you guys and girls have been awesome!

Edit 2: I'm back and awake, so if you have any more questions don't hesitate to ask.

Comments: 412 • Responses: 90  • Date: 

shibuyacrow41 karma

Where did the imagery we see in media come from where Vikings wear helmets with horns on the sides? I’ve heard that’s not historically accurate.

hovding112 karma

Good question!

There have been found headgear with antlers on but not helmets. The fault lies solely at Wagners feet. When he did his opera about vikings he wanted a more powerful imagery on stage. The heroes got wings on their helmets and the villains got horns.

shibuyacrow21 karma

Neat! Thanks!

hovding22 karma

You're welcome!

86AllDay33 karma

It’s common to see Vikings as bloodthirsty and centered around or even worshipping violence. Can you give an example of peacetime contributions that Vikings made?

hovding92 karma

The reason for the skewed image of vikings is because of the chronicles from Europe of that age. The people we call vikings was 90% farmers and fishermen. And when they traveled it was mostly for trade.

The people that wrote down interesting happenings of that age didn't write about the peaceful traders that came and went, they wrote about the exciting stuff! In other words battles and pillaging. Vikings didn't do it more than others, they were just better at it.

And the reason for that was their boats. With their flat bottoms they floated really high in the water, so they could fly up rivers and land on beaches.

Exploring the world and starting trade routes is a big one. Making the sun compass was a technological marvel of the age. It has been tested and compared to a modern compass and its remarkably correct at finding the direction.

Also the weekdays are named after Norse mythology, except Saturday which is named for saturnus.

86AllDay17 karma

Follow up: In modern media what was the best depiction of ‘Vikings’?

Games TV movies. And definition of best is up to you.

hovding50 karma

Oh, that's a tough one. I'm usually stay clear of vikings in media since I can't really stop thinking "that's not right, it wasn't like that".

I'm hoping someone else will chime in on this.

Although there is the Danish comic called Valhalla which is amazing. They also made a movie! It's really good and based on the actual norse myths and legends.

lDanielHolm16 karma

As a Dane who grew up reading it; I agree it's really good! It focuses primarily on Thor's servants, Tjalfe (Þjálfi) and his sister, Røskva (Röskva) and as a result, they are made more central to the stories than they were in the original texts, and it is a little sanitized for children, but it is still really, really good.

hovding6 karma

Very true, but I stil love them. I have the collected works and the DVD with the movie they made!

lasthitquestion8 karma

I can give ”the Vinland Saga” a recomendation if you’re looking for something set during actual history (11 century).

hovding6 karma

I've heard about that! I'll give it a look!

risquare4 karma

The Refn movie?

hovding3 karma

You mean Valhalla Rising? I haven't actually seen it.

karma-the-B30 karma

Did all Vikings carry swords?

Did Vikings name their boats?

My 5 year old, Wes: " I loved your story about Thor. I really liked it." We have subscribed to your channel! My 10 year old and 5 year old were captivated!

hovding50 karma

A sword was a very rare weapon! Like so rare it was a symbol of power and kingliness. The most common weapons was the spear, axe an bow.

They did name their boats!

That makes me glad, Thors Fishing story is my favorite Norse story too!

rprebel27 karma

I recently learned about the Viking game Tafl while working on a Lego project. Compared to things like backgammon or chess (other ancient games), Tafl seems to be completely forgotten. I hadn't heard of it until I went looking for games you could play on a 7x7 board. Why is that?

hovding47 karma

Ah, Hnefatafl!

One of the problems with it is that the rules are completely forgotten. There are rules for it now, but we have no idea what the actual rules of the game was. Which might be one of the reasons.

Also it took a while before archeologists pieced together what their discoveries was. The board is usually made of wood, which rots. The pieces could be wood, clay or glass which can survive.

MySpaceLegend26 karma

Are you stoked for the new Assassins Creed game set in Norway and England?

hovding29 karma

I have to admit that I haven't played any of the Assassins Creed games... Although it is really cool that they have chosen to use the viking age as their backdrop!

lDanielHolm10 karma

Unfortunately, from the trailer, it looks like you should consider this to be fantasy vikings rather than historical. They seem to have taken a lot of inspiration from the Netflix series.

hovding7 karma

I assumed as much when I saw some pics from the game.

Babe_Vigoda24 karma

What was a Viking wedding like?

hovding70 karma

Usually viking weddings were held on a friday in honor of Frigg, Odins wife. The celebrations lasted for a week and the family and friends traveled from all over to attend.

The ceremony itself would involve animal sacrifice and the shedding of old clothes to symbolize leaving their old life and starting a new one.

sadchompipe11 karma

What were some social conventions related to marriage? Like, did they care about virginity? Were there dowries? Divorce? Did kids tend to go with mom or dad? Were homosexual relationships recognized or shunned?

hovding34 karma

Divorce was allowed pre-christianity for instance and in a divorce the woman would keep the farm and children. There were gifts given during a wedding for future children.

Homosexual relationships was seen as unmanly is the best word for it.

i_demand_cats13 karma

So what im hearing is homosexual relationships are fine as long as you can also beat the tar out of everybody else in the village

hovding22 karma

Hahaha. That was one way of putting it. There's one story that shows that the Vikings thought men in women's clothing was funny though. The story about the time Thor lost his hammer and had to dress up as Freya to get it back.

i_demand_cats14 karma

Thats probably one of my favorite norse stories! i love how loki is also there as a maid covering for him since he has zero tact and eats like 100 men

hovding12 karma

It's the very next story I'm doing on my YouTube channel!

balancedinsanity21 karma

I had heard somewhere that it is incorrect to call Vikings Vikings. That viking is a verb and so Norsemen would 'go viking'. Is this correct?

hovding40 karma

Yes, that is true. They never called themselves vikings, and by going viking they would go on a voyage with hopes of prosperity.

NinjaKnight9220 karma

What are your thoughts on celebrating Lief Erikson Day instead of Columbus Day?

hovding42 karma

I'm all for it! I mean Colombus tried finding a new route to India, at least Leif Eriksson was just out exploring.

JoeyPole20 karma

I’m a bartender by trade, obv not doing that right now, but when I do get back behind the stick,

Do you know any specific toasts that vikings would use? Substitute or follow up, what kind of recipes for viking booze ya got?

hovding55 karma

The most famous viking beverage is mead. It's made of honey. It can be mixed with other things during brewing it to make it less sweet.

The classic toast is just to say Skål! However there is one I like to use (which is not at all from the viking age, but it is thematically fitting).

Here's to cheating, stealing, fighting, and drinking. If you cheat, may you cheat death. If you steal, may you steal a woman's heart. If you fight, may you fight for a brother.

I think it's orignally Irish though.

JoeyPole17 karma

Awesome, thank you for confirming what I thought I knew! I was taught Skål! by an enormous man with a beard I couldn’t grow if you locked me in a dungeon for 50 years.

(And I think that is the standard- if you don’t know the etymology of a drinking toast, Go Irish. Safe bet)

hovding10 karma

You're welcome! It wasn't me by any chance?

JoeyPole7 karma

Ever been to Charleston?

hovding9 karma

No, sorry. I've only been to Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas in the US.

mrsfranky20 karma

What is your favourite story to tell?

hovding51 karma

Oh, that's easy! Thor's Fishing Trip!

Here's a link to the story:

mrsfranky14 karma


I've subbed to your channel, my kids will love you

hovding21 karma

Oh wow! Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it enough to show it to your kids!

lastaccountgotlocked18 karma

What's the best joke about Vikings you know? Do you know any jokes that Vikings told in their day?

hovding64 karma

This is one I use with American tourists; Where do southern viking descendants go after death? Y'allhalla.

The concept of jokes is fairly modern in its usage, the vikings did stories with funny outcomes. But it is very hard to know exactly what they thought was funny. We have very little in terms of written accounts from the vikings themselves, but if we go with the stories written down in the Edda they thought Thor dressed in a wedding dress was funny.

lastaccountgotlocked19 karma

And let's not forget Loki wrapping a cord around his goolies to make a girl laugh. I guess you had to be there.

hovding26 karma

Ah, very true! There are viking markets that have a competition called the Loki run. A chord around the testicles and on the other end of the chord a log. Fastest to cross a certain distance wins.

jceplo13 karma

Everything in this thread was so light and cheerful until now. This hurts my nuts to think about

hovding11 karma

Hahahaha! It's painful to watch to! You can find it by googling the Loki run.

JoeyPole11 karma

As a Southerner, that is magnificent. And I plan to use it.

hovding11 karma

Good, you're welcome to!

LisaAlissa16 karma

I’ve noticed that most accounts I see of Vikings (in the US) seem to link then to Norway, and not other Scandinavian countries. What was the geographic area which is considered home to Vikings?

hovding32 karma

It's usually Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but also parts of Finland. They also colonized a lot of places like Iceland, the British Isles, France, Germany, even as far south as Spain.

LisaAlissa5 karma

Were there particular variations in the Viking populations from particular areas?

hovding23 karma

Calling the people from that age and area for vikings, is a little wrong. They never called themselves for vikings, viking was something you did. You went viking.

There were a lot of regional differences both in dialect, culture, stories, and clothing.

During the viking age there were a lot smaller countries scattered across Scandinavia.

LisaAlissa8 karma

Very interesting! When was the Viking age? And where would one find info about clothing during the Viking age and the regional differences in clothing? (Are there on-line versions of clothing exhibits from museums like yours?)

hovding14 karma

Officially the viking age was from 793 to 1066, but the culture existed before that time and after it.

The national museum of Denmark has some resources, check it out.

uitSCHOT7 karma

Does the "end" of the viking age have to do with the defeat of Harald Hardrada in England, or is it a coincidence it was in the same year?

hovding18 karma

The battle of Stamford Bridge and The Battle of Hastings marks the end of the viking age.

Akasazh5 karma

Afaik even the kievan Rus were from a Nordic background and their traders went as far south as Istanbul, one of them carved his name in runes in the woodwork of the Hagia Sofia.

hovding14 karma

That is true! There's also a marble lion statue in Venice with runes carved by a viking. Although the runes was carved when the statue was in Athens. The venetian navy stole the statue. For the longest time they didn't know what the markings on twee statue was until the Swedish foreign minister was visiting sometime around 1910 I think.

lost-in-earth16 karma

What do you think about the claims made in this comment about Norse mythology?

hovding25 karma

Thank you for showing me that comment.

And I'm afraid to say that what that commenter says is correct. The stories we have are written long after the viking age. The Vikings themselves didn't really write stuff down. They had their runes and they wrote on wood, leather and stone. Wood and leather rots, stone survives. The longest runic text we've found so far is the Rök stone in Sweden. It consists of 760 characters. Not sentences or words, but 760 single characters. Which isn't a long text.

As for the place name theory it makes a lot of sense as well. Ullr was an important god if you look at place names, but there are place names named after Heimdal, Thor and Odin as well.

mnfriesen16 karma

When are they finally going to win the super bowl?

hovding32 karma

There's always next year.

merlamp16 karma

Why is today the International Viking Day?

hovding53 karma

Once upon a time museums specializing in the viking age wanted a day to celebrate the vikings. They looked at a calender and decicded the 8th of May was good since it was during the spring and nothing else was that day.

merlamp15 karma

Excellent reasons, both of them. Thanks!

hovding12 karma

You're welcome!

gimmiesnacks15 karma

Any insight you can share about gender roles? Vikings are depicted in media as overly masculine (by a western definition), so I’m curious how correct that is.

hovding47 karma

Women had a very strong position in society pre-Christian times. A woman ruled the farm. She decided what work should be done, when and who. A man was never trusted with keys, so the women held all the keys.

A woman could demand a divorce and she would keep the farm in that instance. No questions asked either.

Edit: Misunderstood a little. There was definetly gender roles. However it wasn't unheard of that people did more untraditional things. There have been found a grave with a female in it buried with warrior honors.

gimmiesnacks12 karma

Very cool. Thank you for sharing!! I’m learning so much from this post.

hovding16 karma

You're welcome! Thank you for saying that.

alphariious9 karma

How did you land this dope job?

hovding21 karma

I've been working for museums since I was 18 years old. I'm now 38. Damn, it's been 20 years already??

But viking specifically was kinda luck and coincidence. I moved in with my woman and sent an application to the nearest museum which happened to be an open air viking museum.

The_quad44449 karma

So, the netflix series "Vikings", I know chances are that it's 70-90 percent Hollywood exaggeration, but are there any details in either that show or.other pieces of media that have caught your attention as, "they got x right better then most"?

hovding24 karma

It's better to consider Vikings as a fantasy series with a viking theme then anything historically correct.

With that being said I haven't actually seen it since I know myself enough. I know that I can't leave that knowledge behind and just accept it for what it is.

But I do know that the show has used reenactment groups in Ireland for the show itself, and I hope they managed to influence the show positively.

It has given vikings a good boost in the public eye.

momo_knows9 karma

Did vikings really have crazy haircuts like they're being portrayed these days?

hovding21 karma

No. The vikings did not shave the sides of their heads for instance.

They did have braids, but not the sort we see in popular media these days. The Bayeux tapestry show vikings with both long hair and short hair.

Pmmesmallboobz4 karma

I thought there was pictures of vikings with their hair cut like that?

hovding5 karma

Not as far as Ive seen.

chandyle9 karma

Thanks for coming!

(1) The Kensington Runestone: what say ye?

(2) Which novels Get The Vikings Right? (I'm a fan of Harry Harrison's novels starting with "The Hammer and the Cross"; also Stephen Lawhead's "Byzantium.")

(3) What would the Vikings think of the modern-day Scandinavians?

hovding12 karma

(1) I want to believe... (2) Fantastic choice! (3) I think they would be horrified by the noise of society and appaled by most of our societal behavior.

Argothair29 karma

What were some of the most important bulk commodities traded by Vikings? Did they export hardwood or wool or mead, or just tiny, lightweight stuff like amber?

hovding15 karma

Amber was a good commodity to trade, but they also traded furs and cloth.

I assume they would trade mead but mead was really expensive. Honey was hard to cultivate and to extract in large quantities.

CardamomSparrow8 karma

Thanks for writing! I had a question about the Varangian Guard. What actually motivated Vikings to travel so far from their homelands to guard a foreign ruler? Was there any prestige or glory associated with it?

hovding20 karma

They were actively recruited by the Byzantine emperor because the emperor always sought out foreign bodyguards because they lacked local political beliefs.

Being sought by a foreign ruler to be his bodyguard of course brought a lot of prestige, and the pay was really good.

myusernameblabla8 karma

What’s the farthest the Vikings have travelled south?

hovding20 karma

I know for a fact they tried conquering Catoira in Spain, but the vikings also had contact with Africa.

Wirebraid9 karma

And we celebrate a festival to remember it

Great post

hovding12 karma

I know! I've been there! That was perhaps the most bonkers experience of my life. Wine flowed like rivers, literally, during the feast. People hanged from the rafters and sang and yelled. They threw wine around all night long.

Completely insane. And all the squid you can eat.

Prof_Cecily5 karma

hovding4 karma

Thank you!

Ferrovore7 karma

Mjolnir. Hammer? Double axe? Axe with a hammer end?

hovding10 karma

Hammer. The word itself comes from the word from millstone, so I think the original hammer would have been made from stone.

However the myth clearly states it's made from iron.

jediedmindtrick7 karma

What's your favorite tale in the entire Norse mythology?

hovding23 karma

Well, my favorite one to tell is Thor's Fishing Trip, but I have a soft spot for the time Thor had to dress in drag in order to get his stolen hammer back.

jediedmindtrick7 karma

would you mind telling us how he lost his hammer and how dressing in drag got it back?

hovding31 karma

Sure! I'll tell it in short form, I'm planning to do that story as my next story on my YouTube channel.

Basically Thor fell asleep somewhere out in the open and when he woke up his hammer was gone. He of course was furious and he enlisted Loki to help him. Loki figured out that a giant had stolen it and hidden it.

In return for returning the hammer the giant wanted to marry Freya. Freya of course refused to marry a giant, so Loki got the bright idea to dress up Thor in a wedding dress and pretend he was Freya. Lot's of shenanigans ensued.

Jgoodall016 karma

Were there any black Vikings?

hovding15 karma

Not that I know of. However the vikings did have contact with Africa. They called Africans for Bluemen.

Armadillo_gun6 karma

Little late to the party, but if you do see this:

In terms of music, do you think artists like wardruna, eivør, or Heilung would be decently accurate to the Viking age?

hovding6 karma

I doubt it is very accurate. Don't get me wrong, it's awesome music, but we have no idea what their music sounded like at all.

ReddIsFeelingBlue6 karma

Where did the idea of Shield Maidens originate and why do so many disagree about whether they were real or not?

hovding15 karma

The idea of shield maidens are a heated idea in the research and history of vikings. I think it's partly cultural wishful thinking and some circumstancial evidence.

There is a grave found in Birka, Sweden, where a woman has been found buried with full warrior honors. Weapons, games of tactics, and so on.

I'm not saying there wasn't any shield maidens, I think there were some, but very rarely.

Babe_Vigoda6 karma

When the sagas describe someone was "wearing blue clothes" it means that some poor soul is going to get their ass kicked. Where the did the tradition of dressing in blue for battle come from?

hovding12 karma

It's a narrative construct in order to give the listener clues to what is going to happen.

The vikings didn't wear blue normally. Way to expensive color to wear in a battle.

quietchurl6 karma

How tall were vikings?

Do you think vikings would have enjoyed viking metal?

hovding12 karma

The vikings was around our height.

I think they would be terrified of that noise. Don't get me wrong, I can enjoy a little viking metal. We have no idea how the music of the vikings sounded like at all. We do know some of their instruments, but no way of knowing what their music sounded like.

helpjackoffhishorse5 karma

Do you think the Vikings should’ve drafted a quarterback? I mean Kirk Cousins is terrible.

hovding34 karma

Why would they want a guy with just a quarter of his back?

b17bomberrr5 karma

how likely would you say it is that the small percentage of nordic blood in me is a product of rape?

hovding6 karma

Ouch, that is a tough question. I would say that the chance is larger than zero.

Cpt_Matt5 karma

You have a glorious beard, how do you care for it?

hovding13 karma

Thank you! I use shampoo and conditioner and a beard oil that's made by this Irish chap. It's the best beard oil I've ever come across.

DerShams5 karma

What's the best museum you've experienced and why?

Do you have any bugbears when it comes to the museum experience?

(Har selv arbejdet på en museum på den anden side af Øresundet, så jeg er interesseret i dine oplevelser ;)

hovding15 karma

.... Bugbears? I'm sorry but I'm way too much of a D&D nerd to think anything other than monsters attacking...

The best museum I've experienced is an open-air museum in the Netherlands. I can't remember the name right now (no, it's not Archeon). They had mostly buildings from the early 1900s, but also windmills and things like that from the 1800s. They even had a railroad in the museum.

Also you could buy beer and walk around with a bottle of beer in your hands.

DerShams4 karma

Ah - not a huge D&D person myself. I was thinking bugbears as in the line of minor annoyances that get under your skin.

Beer in museums always adds to the ambiance!

hovding12 karma

Ah, right. Well, we have tourists that asks where the vikings are when the village is full of reenactors. But they have this idea of vikings being dressed all in hardboiled leather and warpaint.

We also have no signs in our outdoor area because we try to keep the area as "correct" as possible. This is all explained in the pamphlet we give out. The tourists still compain.

rakesh_arya19854 karma

Any scientific contributions from vikings?

hovding7 karma

The sun compass is perhaps my favorite. It's still very accurate when checked against a modern compass. It's a stick with a dial on and you measure the shadow from the sun every day at the same time and you can use that to navigate with.

AntiquePangolin4 karma

My question is about viking ships. I’ve seen how skillfully the boards are overlapped on the hulls. But how are they waterproofed? I did not see any tar or pitch in the seams between boards. The North Atlantic seems like a bad place to spring a leak....

hovding13 karma

Good question!

The boats are constantly wet and the wood swells from all the water and thus it becomes water tight.

The boats we have at the museum is usually on dry dock during the winter season so when spring comes we have to water them for a few weeks so the boards swells.

boiofdoom3 karma

I am from Denmark. The eternal battle between danes and swedes, who is more viking. Can you enlighten? :)

hovding20 karma

Of course! It's the Norwegians.

Samuele1563 karma

Did you see the serie on Netflix Norsemen? Did you like it?

It's obviously made to be funny, but I really enjoyed it.

hovding6 karma

It's hilarious! I love it. It's recorded at Avaldsnes in Norway and they did every scene at least twice! Once in Norwegian and once in English.

Samuele1563 karma

Yes, that was my favourite thing! I like listening to the accent. It's an amazing serie, definitely my favourite one on Netflix.

Sorry for the stupid question, I could not think about anything worthy :D

hovding6 karma

Don't you worry about that. It was a perfectly valid question. The Norsemen is a great show.

Doostola3 karma

What, in your opinion, do you think the Norsemen would think about how their influence and love of their culture has spread across the world?

hovding7 karma

I think they would scratch their heads over how wrong we got most of it, but also think that it's quite right that it happened.

Kidbeninn3 karma

Do we have an accurate depiction of how viking and saxon would have lived?

Was it always war or was it also common to have negotiations?

hovding7 karma

We're getting closer every day to figure it out.

Negotiations was common, especially at a ting (kinda like a democratic governmental gathering), but they could also negotiate with adversaries.

One funny "negotiation" I've read about was the third time the Vikings was on their way to sack Paris. The parisians tried bribing the Vikings by giving them gold, essentially saying "here, take the gold, just don't attack us". The Vikings took the gold and attacked anyway.

Kidbeninn3 karma

Thanks for the your awnser!

I would've guessed that negotiations were a lot more common than you would hear about. Since almost everything we know of vikings comes from the scrolls of monks if I'm not mistaken. Which wouldn't have praised them.

One more question. Around what time did the switch from viking to Christian really happen? If we can even pin point that.

Was it when somebody got baptized or was it a gradual consequence of the north man living in England?

hovding6 karma

As far as I know the first monks came to Sweden in the 800s, they also brought beer recipes with them. Which made them quite popular.

Christianizing was a slow process, but two prominent figures come to mind. Harald Bluetooth, the great unifer, converted.

And Olav Haraldsson, which is the topic of my latest YouTube video, made laws with Christian language. He is credited with Christianizing Norway.

And you're quite correct about the monks. It's part of the reason why vikings had a reputation for being blood thirsty. The monks didn't write about the peaceful trader that came and went, they wrote about the exciting stuff, attacks, pillaging and such.

Kidbeninn3 karma

I'll be sure to give your YouTube video a watch!

Also this might be a bit of a weird question but I've recently started watching the last kingdom, which to me, shows a more natural dynamic between Saxon and Dane compared to other shows.

Do you know of any other viking shows that are more true to to nature than for example the History show Vikings?

hovding3 karma

I wish I could help you there, but I usually stay clear of vikings in popular media. I know myself and I couldn't resist nitpicking what I'm seeing.

Kidbeninn3 karma

Hahah fair enough!! Thank you again for your time to awnser my questions! I'll be sure to give your YouTube video about Olav a watch and like.

hovding3 karma

Thanks a lot! I appreciate it!

GivenToFly1643 karma

What was Viking clothing like?

I'm learning to spin yarn from a spindle. Do we know anything about how their method for making cloth?

hovding9 karma

Spinning and weaving basically.

Basically they had three forms of clothing. Leather, wool and linnen. Leather was cheap and anyone could make it since everyone hunted. Wool took more time and involved a little more people. Linnen was very expensive and usually reserved for the rich.

The national museum of Denmark has a good exhibition about their clothes.

judenNOR3 karma

What is your favorite viking figure that's not named Harald? Do Sweden have any vikings that deserves more recognition?

hovding17 karma

My favorite that isn't called Harald is Palne-Toke, the archer that killed Harald Bluetooth while taking a shit.

Professor_Jedi3 karma

  1. To you what is your favorite fact about Vikings? 2. Do you have a favorite weapon they used? 3. what was the scariest thing about them?
  2. When did you start liking Vikings?
  3. Have you played skyrim and if you have do the Nords represent Vikings in a good way?
  4. What were there war tactics like?
  5. Did you style your hair to look like a Vikings?

hovding8 karma

My favorite fact is a rather well known fact, that they discovered America first.

My favorite weapon is the longbow. I have one myself and it is an awesome weapon.

The scariest thing was perhaps their insane dogma surrounding insults. Once or twice you would have to pay a fine, insult someone a third time and they could kill you.

I've always liked their mythology since I was a little kid living in Norway.

Skyrim is awesome, but also fiction.

The most important tactic they had was the shield wall. Devastating tactic.

No, this is a result of being cooped up at home with nowhere to go...

Alieneater3 karma

Is there a historical Viking meal that you would like to eat?

hovding5 karma

I think I've tried most all of them at this point. The sheep's head is a little weird but very tasty. The cheeks are so delicious!

BrunetteMoment3 karma

This is very obscure, so I don't know if you'll know. Or perhaps it's completely false! When I was researching stones for my engagement ring, I fell in love with iolite. The website I was on called it a "Viking stone" and said Vikings used to use them to navigate. Have you ever heard anything like this? I'd be so happy to know. I have my doubts because I haven't seen anything about it anywhere else.

hovding5 karma

For the longest time it was thought to be a myth, the legendary Sunstone that the Vikings used to navigate by, but it turns out to be true!

It was a crystal stone that when you viewed the sunlight through it could determine the angle of the sun even on an overcast day and thus manage to navigate!

BrunetteMoment3 karma

Thank you so much for replying! Especially so long after you started this ama!

hovding5 karma

No worries, I think it's fun! My job is to answer questions and spread knowledge!

Supraman833 karma

Where did the scandinavians come from? It is my understanding that the Norse religion comes from the germanic area. So did some germanic tribes migrate north to become scandinavians?

hovding11 karma

There were some migration yes, but there had been people in Scandinavia for a very long time. The germanic beliefs traveled as well and mixed itself up with the already present beliefs and created what we today believe is the Norse religion.

Supraman833 karma

Cool thank you for the reply, best ama ever for a viking nerd

hovding7 karma

Hehe. I'm glad you think so =)

TheFuturist252 karma

In Norse Mythology does Thor eventually beat Jormangand?

hovding3 karma

During ragnarok he does, but dies because of it.

TheFuturist253 karma

I find the concept very he battles the serpent countless times,the serpent itself being the embodiment of oroboros and the cycle of things

hovding4 karma

It's perhaps my favorite conflict in Norse mythology.

Doostola2 karma

I've read that when being called to war, the Vikings would be required to bring a shield, spear, axe, and bow and arrows. Do you know if this is true, and which was the most important weapon in that arsenal?

hovding11 karma

Okay, so the only equipment you mentioned that would be specifically made for war is the shield. They had axes for wood chopping, carpentry and so on. And they had spears and bows for hunting. So it wouldn't be a problem for them to bring any of that.

The absolutely best, tried and true tactic of close combat with melee weapons is a sturdy shield wall in the front lines, and a row of spearmen in the second row.

Wladyslaw_Spindlesha2 karma

Have you ever read my favorite book of all time, Frans Bengtsson’s The Longships? If so, I’d love to hear your opinion on it, and whether there are other historical fiction books about the Viking age you’d recommend. Great AMA, thanks!

hovding4 karma

I haven't read that one but I thank you for the suggestion. I'm always after new reading material.

I have a soft spot for the Danish comic books valhalla which is based on their myths.

TheseNamesAreLames2 karma

Where were the farthest known Viking expeditions? Everyone knows North America, but where else did they reach? Did they ever go south of the equator?

Also, considering where the Angles and Saxons and Jutes came from and that they started off as raiders and mercenaries, why are they not considered Vikings?

And finally, what's your favourite Viking name?

hovding9 karma

The vikings had contact with all continents except Australia and South America. So they had contact with Africa and Asia as well.

My favorite viking name is Björnulf, a name so mighty that it consists of the words for bear and wolf!

The culture differs enough that they are their own cultural group.

DustEscrow2 karma

How'd you manage to get your job? Both in terms of qualifications and actually landing the position.

hovding3 karma

Luck and being at the right place at the right time.

I started working at a museum at the age of 18 and my education is in theater and film production. Museums that does interpretation has a little conundrum. They can either hire a historian and train them to act, or hire an actor to train them as historians.

nexussloth2 karma

I once heard that math was considered witchcraft, and that they let their women handle finances and math. Can you confirm this?

hovding6 karma

I haven't heard that, and I doubt that women handled all finances especially considering vikings were very accomplished sea merchants. The god Njord is a god of the sea and wealth.

However women did rule at the homestead. They were in charge back at the farm. They were keyholders as well. A man was never trusted with keys.

Heepster_Happy2 karma

How was the alphabet and language in general translated to modern languages? The runes seem like they would have been indecipherable.

Also, I understand they left behind most of their history in the form of art, but the carvings and paintings seemed really complicated and difficult to understand. How was anyone able to learn anything from them?

hovding5 karma

Good question! The linguistics isn't my strongest suit, but the runic alphabet didn't really die out so quick. Also the Icelanders can still read old Norse since Icelandic hasn't really evolved that much.

Lots of study, lots and lots. Also by comparing to contemporary sources you can extrapolate.

uruhara1632 karma

  1. Is there any historical evidence of viking drug use other than extrem mead and alcohol consumption. For example eating magic mushrooms. Hemp seemed pretty prominent in Scandinavia aswell.
  2. What kind of information is there from the east and the varangians. Seems like a big but mostly not talked about part of viking history. I'm talking among the Slavic people. Any good story's from there?

hovding4 karma

  1. The hemp they had was used for clothing, rope and so on and not for smoking. I am uncertain how prevalent the use of mushrooms was during the viking age, but I have a suspicion it was mostly used by their sejdr (magic users).

  2. The varangian guard is very interesting. They were hired by the emperor specifically because they were outsiders and had no connection with local politics and as such didn't have any loyalties one way or the other.

kammy_g1 karma

Where there black Vikings?

hovding2 karma

Not as far as I know.

kammy_g2 karma

Thanks! For answering : )

hovding3 karma

No worries! =)

themilkman94620 karma

Is it true that Adolf Hitler offered peace to the British before and during WW2?

hovding3 karma

I believe so, yes, but it's not my area of expertise.