The Vikings were a Germanic tribe. They originated from Scandinavia, specifically Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Over a period of about 300 years, the Vikings suddenly spread out and settles over Europe and Asia. They are best known as violent and bloodthirsty because of their habits of plundering and raiding villages. Why the Vikings originally left Scandinavia is unclear. It was likely caused by overpopulation or a thirst for war.
The first recorded Viking raid was in England in the year, 787. Several Viking ships pulled into Portland Bay and were mistaken for merchants. When an agent for the king tried to tax their ships, they murdered him for his trouble, this wasn’t planned. The first planned attack was at a Monastery on the island of Lindisfarne. The monks were killed, left to be drowned, or taken as slaves.
The word Vikings means Seamen or expeditions. Those two words are the best describing words of what people remember the Vikings to be. The most thought of item when thinking of Vikings is probably their ships. They had two types of ships, long ships and knarrs. Long ships were powered by the wind or oars and were the same front and back. Knarrs were merchant ships and had deeper and wider hulls than long ships.
They Vikings invented their own alphabets, as evidence, runestones. The stones usually told the purpose of the stone, who had erected it, and the relation of the Raiser and the deceased. The Vikings started as a Pagan culture. They worshipped a pantheon of different gods and goddesses. The three most notable ones were Odin, Thor, and Freya. From these names come Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Erik the Red was born in Norway, but after his father was banished, his family moved to Iceland. Erik grew up, built a farm, got married, and established a family. He was a little too much like his father however. He was banished from Iceland for a few years due to a brawl that ended in manslaughter. It is at this time that legends claim that he discovered Greenland. He established the first colony, and after his exile, he returned with incredible stories of the land he found. He knew Greenland wasn’t very attractive so he made up wonderful stories to bring in new settlers. He was successful in convincing a large number of people to move to Greenland. Two colonies were established on the west and east coast of the island. While Erik colonized Greenland, he is best remembered as the father of his son, Leif.
Leif Ericson became Erik’s greatest legacy to the Viking people. Leif, who was also known as Leif the Lucky, was born in Greenland. He was a handsome man and was considered strong and wise. He traveled to Norway when he came of age and that is where he converted to Christianity. He decided it was his calling to go back to Greenland and convert the settlers there. He asked a priest to accompany him on the trip. The ship, however, was blown way off course and they landed in North America. Leif named it Vinland, and the small settlement he created there, Vinland. He eventually made it back to Greenland and began spreading Christianity to everyone there. He converted his mother, who built a church, but Erik stubbornly refused. He returned to Vinland to build a permanent settlement there. He stayed there through winter and spring then returned to Greenland with grapes and a load of timber. This return journey is where he got the title, “the Lucky” because he rescued an Icelandic castaway and his crew.
Canute the Great was one of the great early kings of England. He wasn’t actually Anglo-Saxon, but came from Slavic and Danish ancestors. At his peak Canute was king of Denmark, England, Norway, and parts of Sweden. Canute was born to a Danish prince, and was the grandson of the first Scandinavian king converted to Christianity. Canute’s older brother, Harald, was the crown prince and became king in 1014. Canute left for England to try to make a name for himself, traveling with ships full of soldiers. He led Vikings from all over Scandinavia as they fought for 14 months against England’s king, Edmund Ironsides.
Canute landed in Wessex and headed north in 1016. He besieged London as well, and eventually forced Edmund to work out a treaty with him. When Edmund died three weeks after that, Canute became king of all of England. Emma of Normandy married Canute which strengthened his bond on his claim of the throne of England. He was wary of being overthrown and killed any Saxon who had a claim on the throne. His son Harthacnut was designated as the heir of the throne. He was overthrown in Norway after imposing taxes. He died in 1035 and was buried in Winchester.