When Vikings Ruled Their World
Many of us have the misconception that the Vikings had remained, within reason, localised and focused on conquests adjacent to their homes in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. How wrong could we be?
Yes, there were the early attacks close to home, but their realm had no bounds and their incursion into Europe and western Russia in a relatively small time slice of three hundred years, sculpted the culture of these mediaeval countries for centuries to come.
The Viking fleets grew exponentially in size and range as a product of wealth extracted from their spoils. Neither oceans, seas, nor rivers were safe from Viking plundering such were the versatility of their craft.
They would build remote fortresses where travel time from their home port was prohibitive using these as bases for their plundering and pillaging.
It was debated over the centuries about why Vikings resorted to conquest and settlement of foreign lands. Not because the small amount of arable farmland in their northern homes could no longer support the growing population, but to create their own power bases outside these homelands.
The conquered lands were forums where ambitious Viking pirates with low standing in the pecking order back home could escape these stigmas, improve their fortunes, and become their own masters.
The Vikings’ conquests were never well planned. They would blunder their way through but sooner or later would be forced to retreat; their axiom ‘live to fight another day’. All bravado and not a lot of brains. The dose was repeated over and over.
Eventually, the female side of Viking royalty and in turn folklore would prevail; commencing with a forthright and focused young woman who would stand up to her father and would represent the beginning of the most lauded line of female Viking leaders and warriors of all time.
She would see the start of a dynasty of Viking explorers, rather than plunderers. Expansions throughout the Atlantic Ocean would be through settlement, community and building relationships.
But this Viking warrior queen was more profound than that. Her own and her descendants’ explorations would lay a solid foundation of power and wealth; a foundation that would remain embedded in Icelandic folklore for a thousand years. A legacy that would threaten the lives of more than half the population of this sometimes barren but beautiful land.