Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Viking Tribes notes


A Facebook site I often visit, Medievalist, which is a gateway for their blog of delightful medievalness, Medievalists.net, which posts medieval art, book reviews, videos, the adorable "Five-Minute Medievalist} column, and abstracts of scholarly papers on the medieval world. 

Sometimes I find myself disagreeing with posts. Especially when it comes to misinformation about vikings and the blatant appropriation of other cultures. (I guess it's fitting, considering they were raiders, but they're still raiding other cultures long after they ceased to exist.

This one particular paper, Norsemen And Vikings: The Culture That Inspired Decades Of Fear by Alexandra McKenna and John Broom, a paper given at the West East Institute International Academic Conference, October 2014, was not only rife with typos, it was loaded with wrong information. (The overall consensus was that it was a generically bad academic paper.)

So naturally, I posted a teeny comment. Four hours later, I'd traversed every Wiki post ever written on vikings and norsemen, from the Nordic Iron Age to the end of the viking era. This compaction is what follows. I really do need to revisit it but not now. I'm kind of sick of it.

Re: "...not all Norsemen were Vikings." And not all Vikings were Norsemen either. (And, oh, the typos... I thought papers were supposed to be proofread before publication.) "In one sentence, Medieval Britain was a land dominated by people of Norse decent, ..." Really?

And the in another sentence, (via Alby Stone), the paper attempts to co-opt the British Grail stories as stories inspired by Odin? Bah! Terrible paper. Truncated history at its worst.
Someone replied to my post saying: In the paper they said that not all Norse were Vikings. It was more of an occupation. Warriors would go on Viking expeditions. Many of the Norse were peaceful farmers just trying to make a living.
Nothing like revisionist history in the making.
Another more enlightened soul wrote: On the contrary, farming was rare in Norse Scandinavia due to landscapes and forests. In fact the nobility of the Norse were the few who had farms.
So I was on a roll. Not all Vikings were Norsemen.There were many nordic tribes and "Scatinavia" was comprised of thralls (slaves), karls (farmers), and Jarls (nobility—merchants). 

Slavery (from across Eurasia) was the central hub of Norse society—and not all Norsem were even Norse! The thralls, for instance. Slaves were often sold to Arabs for silver. Slaves made really good rowers...

Scandinavians of Thule were comprised of many tribes (modern terms: Nortmanni/Norwegians, Swedes and Dane) Rhos, Geats, Heruls, Dani, Jutes/Gutes/Gotlanders, Goths, Hallins, Suiones: Suehans/Suetidi (aka Varangians); and even Finns/Fenni (Hämenites/Tavastians Kvens, Karelians; possibly Sáami) who were radically different groups/tribes. 

The early Irish scribes distinguished between the different types of vikings Finn-Gall and Dubh-Gall. Generally speaking Norwegian vikings raided Ireland, Scotland, Faroes, Iceland, and Greenland; the Danes plundered Ireland, England and France; and the Swedish vikings raided Russia. All were different viking groups (aka Ascomanni, Lochlanach, Dene, Rus, Varangians).

The Vikings practiced an austere form of primogeniture, the eldest son got the entire farm, cattle, wealth, everything. There was also political unrest, not enough farmland, and all those landless younger sons (not firstborn) were encouraged to go a plundering (or kicked to the kerb).

This was also true of the landless younger sons of noblemen of 14th c. Spain, who plundered the New World with an equal vengeance. Perhaps it was because they were the offspring of vikings. Visigoths were considered the forefathers of Spanish nobility—A Spanish saying: an arrogant man is: "haciéndose los godos," acting like a Goth.

Wald [ruled] the Woings, 
Wod the Thuringians, 
Saeferth the Sycgs, 
Ongendtheow the Swedes, 
Sceafthere the Umbers, 
Sceafa the Lombards,

I don't know if I'll ever get back to this and turn it into a blog, add all the lost links—I never thought I'd put this much time into it, so I didn't save my urls. But then I said that about the Viking Redhead Myth post too. It doesn't hold up as well as a standalone blog entry, not like the Lindisfarne post. It needs context, but I'm tired.

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