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The Pros and Cons of Living in the Viking Age

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June 2, 2014 by Jen Cudmore

godsdaughterThis post was written by Viking novelist Heather Day Gilbert and was first published on her site in October 2013. For a summary of her book God’s Daughter, click here.

One Viking woman. One God. One legendary journey to North America.

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PROS:

1) Vikings were expert storytellers. They would’ve spent lots of family time together during those cold winters. We don’t do that often in our technological age.

storytelling

2) Vikings were adventurous, but also family-oriented. So many of their adventures were wrapped around giving their families a better way of life.

3) Vikings were expert craftsmen/women. Case in point–the Ulfbehrt sword re-created in this excellent Nova documentary: Secrets of the Viking Sword. It blows my mind to think of the time they took to make one sword. And the funny fact is that there were knockoffs of the Ulfbehrt “brand name,” like those Prada bags you can buy on the streets in some big cities…the steel wasn’t as durable, but no one would know until their sword broke!

Not to mention their ships– longships for coming close into shore and knarrs for crossing the ocean and hauling cargo…and all hand-crafted with remarkable care.

Modell_Knorr

4) Vikings took care of themselves. They owned personal hygiene items, like ear cleaners, tweezers, and combs. There is one trader who claimed the Vikings had some gross habits, but I take those reports with a grain of salt. Unfortunately the Vikings TV series took those stories and ran with them. I think archaeologically, we can see they were hygienic.

5) Vikings respected their women. The woman of the house would keep the keys to special boxes and other treasures when her man left, giving a clear message of who was in charge, should anything happen to him.

6) Vikings traveled far and wide (into Arabic countries, up and down the Volga River)…and they had some remarkable bling to show for it.

VikingAgeMillefiori

7) All Viking food was naturally organic. LOL.

CONS:

1) Vikings didn’t have running hot water. After going through a ten-day power outage in 2012, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Ice-cold baths are not fun.

2) Vikings didn’t have Bibles. In Gudrid’s time period, they were hard to come by and would have been in Latin.

3) Vikings didn’t really read. Though they had Futhark, a form of runic writing, it was mostly used on headstones and monuments. Most of their stories were spoken.

4) Vikings didn’t have modern medicine. Of course–that’s a given. Though herbs can do a lot of wondrous things, there was much the Vikings didn’t understand. In God’s Daughter, Gudrid’s mother-in-law is struggling with something that we still don’t have a cure for…but at least we have treatments for it today that will extend your lifespan.

5) Speaking of lifespan…death was common. That’s definitely something I wanted to bring out in my novel–that sense that Vikings experienced frequent deaths. Now, we still have deaths today and we still have no control over when they happen. But with all the sailing and plundering and fighting, coupled with the lack of life-changing medicines, I imagine death was something Vikings ran into more than they wanted to. In fact, it began to wear on Gudrid, who was a healer–here’s a quote from her thoughts in the book:

hawkpicquote

6) Vikings didn’t have Internet, nail polish, or cell phones. Is that a pro or con? LOL.

****So, what do you think? Do you long for simpler times, like the Viking days of yore? Or do you prefer modern conveniences? I guess I have to side with modern times. We’ll just keep squeezing in as much family time as possible and attempting a garden every year.****

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1 comment

  1. Thanks for sharing, Jen–and I know b/t the two of us, we would be happy to answer any Viking questions your blog readers might have! 🙂

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