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Did You Know?

Scarey Vikings and their Horned Helmets

What about those evil Vikings and their horned helmets? We've seen them in the movies, on the TV and in cartoons and pictures, haven't we?

Well, the truth is far from the legends. They were a group of intelligent, civilized, and hard-working people. They were probably not long-haired and bearded group of warmongers. However, you would be mistaken if you assumed that they were dirty, stinky, and careless people.

In reality, the Vikings cared greatly about their personal hygiene. Although they may have lived in harsh conditions and were known to have bushy beards and long hair, they took care of themselves. practice of burying the dead with their goods has left archaeologists with loads of evidence about the Vikings, but unfortunately, few Viking helmets have survived intact. However, those that have are all horn-free.

Well, its all the fault of Wagner's costume designer, Professor Carl Emil Doepler, who had made horned helmets for use in the first Bayreuth production of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" in 1876. Other artists used or borrowed the image and eventually it became the norm.

Many of the days of the week are references to the names of Viking gods. The great raven God Odin, also known as Woden, became Wednesday. Tuesday and Friday are named after Tyr and Frigg, the god and goddess of war and marriage. Perhaps the most famous was Thor, the god of Strength and thunder. His name is remembered as Thursday!

Vikings were not particulaly tall. Science suggests they were only about five feet seven tall and generally lean!

So, although the archaeological evidence says otherwise, the image of Vikings pillaging the coastlines of Europe has stuck. So no, Vikings did not wear horned helmets, except in the movies!

However they were explorers. Nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus ever sailed across the Atlantic, a group of Vikings led by Leif Eriksson visited there first. Lief Eriksson’s father, Erik the Red established the first European settlement in Greenland. It is uncertain wherther Erik the Red sailed from Iceland to Canada, but we are now sure that his son Leif Eriksson did make that journey to the the Americas. Archeology shows Viking encampments in the Americas long before Columbus.

Vikings visitde places like England and Scotland; they settled; they intergrated. They had farms. They married into the local communities. They did not need to rape and pillage, those stories grew up later, but the truth is perhaps less interesting. They were settlers.

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