Inspired by the music: Sovngarde (EOS Skyrim OST)by Jeremy Soule
When it comes to the middle ages, there's no shortage of inspirations and works related to the Vikings. From their often romanticized mythology and portrayal, to the more scholarly and insightful research, there's just so many on which I really admire! So, this drawing is dedicated to the Vikings, as part of the Historically Wrong Sketch Series!
The challenge with the Vikings, as with portraying the Anglo-Saxons, is that, only few of their equipments, arms and armor survived; mostly from burial artifacts. Other sources like the Bayeux Tapestry gave a slight idea of their equipments and warfare, but other than that, most artists tend to mix their eqipments with those that existed during the Vendel period. A good example would be the mail shirt which are so often depicted, since no findings have ever unearthed Viking mail shirt from the era. However, the Anglo-Saxons did mentioned about their usage, probably only by the leaders and elite warriors (Gambeson and simple cloth were much more common!). Another example would be the Viking Helmets since only few of them survived from the Viking Age. One of the best example would be that unearthed from Gjermundbu Grave, while similar ones were found from the Pre-Viking Vendel Era. Winged helmets are the product of Victorian Era Fantasy, though illustration of Horned Helmet did exists, most probably used for ceremonial purposes.
As for the character depicted in the series, she is Gunnhild Freysdottir av Rogaland, daughter of Frey Hjalmarsson, chieftain of Rogalan, that ruled on the south western coast of what is now Norway. She is depicted in typical, but stylized Viking mail shirt, danish axe (two handed so technically she cannot use shield at the same time), viking round shield (which is rather small), seax and the stylized Vendel era-helmet. On the other hand, her retainer on the right is depicted with the Gjermundbu helmet, with the distinctive visor and nose guard. The warriors on the background are supposedly to be depicted with gambeson and cloth, with flat round shields.
The historical accuracy of this drawing is very subjective and could be very Historically Wrong Indeed. Shield-maiden, as far as Historians concerned, only briefly mentioned in Scandinavian Saga from Iceland, written long after end of Viking Age. There is no historical evidence that suggested if Women took part in Viking Era Warfare. Still, their depiction remains a staple within the artistic communities. On the other hand, the Anglo-Saxons did have a woman warrior who fought in their ranks, a woman by the name of Aethelflaed of Mercia.
May clash/make friends with the following:
The Celts , The Anglo-Saxons , The Byzantines
and maybe..the North American Indian
Developed from the original sketch: Gunhildr Freysdottir of the Nordic Kingdoms
Drawn as part of the Nordic Alliances in the Historically Wrong Sketch Series, whose aim is to portray the post-viking Christianized Scandinavia, including the Kingdom of Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
Not to be confused with Asa Dagsdottir the Horny Viking
A Part of the Historically Wrong Sketch Series: Medieval Revisited - You can find more on the various faction on the map here:
Vikings, who doesn't know them? From their axes to their longboats, their distinctive helmet to their shield-walls, the Vikings have been the staple for many popular media as well as subjects of numerous historical research. Their profound impact on the history of Europe had somewhat an antagonistic connotation, since most of historical records were written by their victims. But regardless of their perception, the Vikings had left their legacy from land as far as North America, the British Isles, coast of Northern Spain and France, to the region as far as the Volga rivers in Eastern Europe.
Norse, or Norsemen, is an umbrella term for the group of Scandinavians, the Norwegian, Danes and Swedish, who shared a common language, religion and short of common culture. Despite the generalization, Scandinavian societies during the viking age were mostly self-contained and there was hardly any unity between the Norse people during the viking age; every village, tribes and communities were practically an independent power of their own. Not all of them were there barbaric warriors as media often depicted them to be, The Norsemen were also famous for their artisans, craftsmanship, poetry as well as Traders.
Historically speaking, Viking itself is the Old Norse word for "Sea Expedition", and since many of these "Vikings" were encountered with their longboats on their seaborn/seafaring expedition, they were refereed a such. Of course, this is just a general assumption, as the term Viking could be found with more or less similar context in Scandinavian Sagas and Chronicles of the Anglo Saxons (Their Germanic cousins). Apart from their "warmongering" activity, they were also known for their rather strange culture to the rest of christened Europe, and that is bathing. They wash themselves every Saturday, while the majority of Europeans probably bathed once in a few months. One explanation was, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe had plenty of water and woods to support communal bathing facility. For the rest Europe, most bathing facilities were built by the already extinct Romans and was very very expensive due to the lack of logistics to support them. Also, communal bathing was seen as "following the decadent practice of the pagan roman", so the idea pretty much discouraged many people to partake in such activity. However, while the Norse people bath on their washing day (Saturday in old Norse), most Europeans washes their undergarments quite regularly, so maybe it's just a different perception of hygiene
The Vikings entered mainstream history in 793 AD, where the sudden burst of Viking Norse raiders and their subsequent expeditions from their homeland in Scandinavia, terrorized most of the known world. To assume that the the Viking-era started in this year is somewhat not very precise, since Norsemen took part in trades and expeditions much earlier than that. Initially, it was the Norwegian who started the raiding activities, but the Danes and the Swedish followed shortly after. By the turn of the 11th and 12th century, the Vikings activities had largely ceased to exist. This was contributed to several factors which includes the spread of Christianity in Scandinavia, as well as the lack of weak "raiding target" since most of their neighbors have developed a much more organized military system and stronger defense in their frontiers (which makes raids less profitable and more dangerous).
Norwegian Vikings first raided settlements in Orkney, Hebrides, Shetlands and Isle of Man, but shortly after the Norwegian and Danes settled in the area and established their firm base, before turning their eye towards Ireland. By mid 9th century, the had established trading cities in Eastern Coast of Ireland such as Dublin, Wexford, Cork, Waterford and Limerick. The vikings in Ireland made little attempt to go beyond their raiding and trading activities, probably because the local Irish population were too warlike and hostile, even for the Norsemen taste. They gradually merged with the local population, giving the identity of Gaels or Norse-Gaellic, but the last of the Vikings were defeated by the united Irish army in 1014 under the High King Brian Boru. Apart from Ireland, the Norwegian Vikings had established colonies in Iceland and Newfoundland in Canada, making them one of the earliest European explorer who encountered America long before Columbus in late 15th century.
Danish Vikings, on the other hand, were seen as a much more ambitious Vikings compared to their northern brethren. Their activities mainly focused along the English channel and western coast of the British Isles. They appeared in 834 and cam in force, giving a rather terrorizing image to their victims. Not Only that, the Danes raided settlements as far as Tours, Orleans, Asturias and these activities of raiding took part annually. The Danes were perhaps famous for Invading England and establishing their own rule from Northumbria to east Anglia called the Danelaw. For the next centuries, the Danes would wrestle the control of England with the Anglo-Saxons, but they were eventually defeated in the early 10th century by the combined forces of Edward the Elder and Aethelflaed of Mercia. Another famous example is the settling of Danes (mostly) along the northern coast of france, which was given by the Frankish King to the Danes, giving birth to the name of Normandy and their descendant, the Normans who later became one of Europe's most fearsome war-machine.
Swedish Vikings gave an interesting perspective as compared to their Danish and Norwegian brethren, since their Viking-ing activities took part mostly in Eastern Europe. The Swedes had been trading along the Baltic centuries since at least early 7th centuries, but the actual raid led by the Swedish Vikings took place at 852 AD, when they attacked Novgorod and demanded "Danegeld" from its citizen. They would proceed further with their activities along the Volga River, settling down in the region and ruled the local slavic population who reffered them as 'Rus'. The extend of the vikings (Mainly Swedish) activity in Russia is somewhat debatable, but in contrast to their Danish and Norwegian counterpart, it was mostly focused on trading and settling. Of course, by "trading and settling", such activities would often resulted in conflict with the local population, and more often than not, when arms were called, battle took place which yields loots, lands and slaves. In 10th century, they had established Kiev and attempted to attack the great city of Constantinople which ended unsuccessfully. By then, the Vikings or 'Rus' who settled in down in the region, had been completely assimilated with their Slavic subjects, leaving little traces of their Scandinavian origin.
Disclaimer: I am by no means expert in History, just a humble man with passion for learning history. Also, English is not my first language so if you do find any errors or would like to make a correction/feedback, please feel free let me know
It is also interesting to know that the Russians also bathed once a week, on Saturday. The russian banya (baths) tradition still lives today, maybe this was a remnant of the Viking customs the Varangians brought with them.
Great job on this shieldmaiden. She remembers me of Eowyn of Rohan, in Lord of the Rings.
I suppose about this bathing thing may have to do with how abundant forest and water are in eastern Europe. It was said that a house built without a bathing house was no house at all
Far too often, the Vikings are shown with odd costumes and horns, where in reality, they didn't run around with a two-meter helmet made of feathers. I mean, I know the whole "horn thing" came when monks saw them as devils and all, but I am glad your portrayl is this good.
maybe another Gunhildr- an earlier one, maybe an ancestor of the Gunnhildr I wrote for.
In any case looks like she comes from "the land of the ice and snow..." and not someone to cross , lest your head end up on a spearpoint, if not hers, the army at her back
or maybe this is just an ancestor- hanging out with the likes of Ragnar Lothbrok and such
the name- names tend to repeat in dynasties so when her father is named Frey he kind of has to name his daughter Gunhildr.