Man the barricades – The Vikings are coming! Renowned for their skills in raiding, raping and pillaging they were not a bunch you would want to pick a fight with.
For this week’s Friday Five we’re bringing you five of the most vicious Vikings ever to charge around the earth…
1. Hagar the Horrible
Not at all playing up to stereotypical view of Vikings, Hagar the Horrible first appeared in a comic strip by cartoonist Dik Browne in February 1973. His red beard and horn helmet tick all the boxes, as do his frequent raids on England and his questionable personal hygiene (one bath a year). Though clearly he’s doing something right as his antics have been published in some 1,900 newspapers across 58 countries and, 25 years after his creator’s death, he is still gallivanting around Norway today thanks to illustrator Chris Browne following in the footsteps of his dad.
2. Leif Erikson
What did we ever do in the days before sat nav? You set sail for Greenland and ended up in North America! Supposedly blown off course by high winds explorer Leif Erikson reached America 500 years before Christopher Columbus was even out of nappies. The first European to reach it he described ‘a land he did not expect to see’, with ‘self-sown wheat fields and grapevines’ and more trees than he’d ever clapped eyes on. After the small success of discovering America Leif did alright for himself managing to bag a noblewoman from the Hebrides and even establishing a small Norse settlement at the northern tip of Newfoundland.
But it wasn’t all just gruff men, and the long, plaited hair didn’t always flow from the chin. Lagertha was a ‘shieldmaiden’ who donned the trousers and kirtle in order to fight alongside husband Ragnar Lodbrok in battle against the Swedes. Described in a 12th century history book as ‘a skilled Amazon who had the courage of a man and fought among the bravest… All marvelled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back betrayed that she was a woman.’ This was not a lady to mess with. Especially as she is said to have killed her husband after a quarrel using a spearhead concealed in her gown.
There’s a lot to say about Beowulf with the 3812 long epic poem following his adventures often being the bane of literature student’s lives. Nevertheless it is an important text being the oldest surviving epic poem written in Old English. He kills the monster Grendel using his brute strength next moving onto his mother for whom he uses an enchanted giant sword. Alas Beowulf is not invincible and one fight too many later her is killed battling a dragon. A noble death for a noble warrior.
5. Egill SkallagrÌmsson
Poet-warrior-farmer it seems Egill Skallagrimsson was a bit of a mad ‘un. At age three he composed his first poem which all sounds brilliant, until we find out that at age seven he committed his first murder, using an axe to split in two the skull of someone who had cheated him in a game. Egill lived a life of power and violence, murdering those who were a threat to him, including the servant who helped him bury his treasure – not doing much to redeem the Viking name then.
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