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What caused the Viking Age?
September 29, 2008 8:36 PM   Subscribe

What caused the Viking Age? It has long been a source of, er, conflict among Nordic scholars. A new study ($ub-only) suggests the Viking Age was triggered by a shortage of women (lack of).
posted by stbalbach (43 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, I can't read the article, but I'd always understood the raiding parties to be one method of keeping disruptive, violent, adolescent males out of town.
posted by pompomtom at 8:50 PM on September 29, 2008


What caused the Viking Age?

Scholars estimate that around 785, Mt. Loki, NE of Iceland, erupted spectacularly, pumping hundreds of millions of tonnes of red-hot longships from the deepest bowels of the Earth and high into the planet's atmosphere. This eruption was felt as far away as China, causing Yan Zhenqing, famous calligrapher, to spill his inkpot, resulting in his strangulation.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:50 PM on September 29, 2008 [13 favorites]


I blame too much sleep.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:54 PM on September 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's easier to name stuff that guys WON'T do for chicks:

1. Uh....
posted by jimmythefish at 8:55 PM on September 29, 2008


I can't access the article, but it seems to be merely a review in which a new (or old, maybe) theory is put forth. Which makes calling it a new study a bit of a stretch. No new data, no "this settles it, folks" results. Just the research equivalent of an op-ed.

Frankly, I'm amazed the author managed to get press coverage.
posted by kisch mokusch at 8:57 PM on September 29, 2008


Shortage of women, eh? Should I prepare for an invasion of rowdy, mead-chugging Chinese men looking for brides?
posted by zoomorphic at 8:59 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lars: The Celts have huge warehouses full of Greek fire, they could burn our village down within forty five minutes! We must strike pre-emptively - lest we see mushroom clouds over the fjords!
Sven: (sharpening axe) They hate us for our longboats!!
posted by pompomtom at 9:05 PM on September 29, 2008 [25 favorites]


Oh boy! The Viking Age! That's where I'm a Somali pirate!
posted by mwhybark at 9:06 PM on September 29, 2008 [15 favorites]


Should I prepare for an invasion of rowdy, mead-chugging Chinese men looking for brides?

If you're in Tibet, yes. If you're in the Africa, in about 2 years. In the USA, maybe 5-8 years.
posted by GuyZero at 9:07 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Legend has it one of Hillary Clinton's ancestors was a Viking.

His first book?

It's Rapes and Pillage
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:14 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you're in Tibet, yes. If you're in the Africa, in about 2 years.

Aw sheesh, I forgot how the bride shortage in China is actually fueling the sex slave trade in SE Asia. Back to jokes about dead babies.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:17 PM on September 29, 2008


The World of the Vikings

Vikings

BBC - Vikings
posted by mlis at 9:24 PM on September 29, 2008


The good news is that the bride shortage is self-correcting in the long run.
posted by GuyZero at 9:43 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd always understood the raiding parties to be one method of keeping disruptive, violent, adolescent males out of town.

Spring Break?
posted by dhartung at 9:52 PM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I also cannot read the article, but...

Hey! I wrote a (detailed and well-received) paper my sophomore year outlining how a shortage of women could easily have accounted for much of the Viking expansion.

*pats self on back*
posted by Elsa at 10:30 PM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hey what you got against short wo... oh.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:12 PM on September 29, 2008


Hey, if you were stuck here all winter, you would get itchy feet come springtime too!

I went abroad and brought back a wife. When I think about it, wifey actually came here and found me...

/Reverse viking
posted by Harald74 at 11:35 PM on September 29, 2008


Dad, who's all mad about geneology, said that he recently discovered through DNA that we're all Vikings. Explains the shortage of women.

/Remember pillage, THEN burn.
posted by OneOliveShort at 11:40 PM on September 29, 2008


I'm amazed the author managed to get press coverage.

If there's even a hint of sex in a new academic finding, it must be a hundred times easier to get press coverage.
posted by grouse at 12:07 AM on September 30, 2008


I missed reading up on the female infanticide when gobbling up every old norse saga and fact book on vikings that I could find - but women could often play quite hard to get. For example, Harald Luva, later Harald Hårfager was king over Sweden and wanted to marry a norweigan girl named Gyda, daughter of King Eirik of Hordaland, so he sent for her. Her reply was something akin to "why should I waste myself on someone who is only king of backwaterland. Tell him to call me when he is king of Norway too." Ten winters of not combing his hair later (hence "Luva" meaning hat) he was king of Norway and got the girl. When they combed his hair out they found it to be pretty, hence hårfager meaning beautiful hair.

Vikings also had divorce so any woman could basically up and leave a man who mistreated them or did not provide enough for the family. Perhaps mail-order brides (or in this case long-boat order brides) were just easier to handle.
posted by dabitch at 12:09 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


The viking age was a pre-emptive strike by beards everywhere after a prophecy foretold of a coming age when they would be enslaved by hipsters.
posted by mannequito at 12:27 AM on September 30, 2008


The shortage of women is one of those things
with which I'm not terribly pleased
It's tricky that I,a modern viking guy
Has a girlfriend just up to my knees

Should I escape, to pillage and rape
To Normandy or to Darjeeling?
Or should I stay, and try to assay
The sensual practice of kneeling?

A viking's duty is to travel the seas
and see lessons in looting are taught
But it just seems so wrong, with our longships so long
And our women so awfully short.
posted by Sparx at 3:01 AM on September 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that the hammer of the gods drove their ships to new lands mainly to fight the hordes, singing and crying "Valhalla, I am coming," guys. I saw it in a documentary from the 1970s.

On the other hand, I have read research suggesting that it was driven by a surfeit of powerful and commanding (yet sensitive) viking warriors questing moodily for their equal in the arts of love—preferably a woman who'd fallen through a time warp from the twentieth century, blouse scandalously torn but feisty modern sensibilities intact. Far from home and lost in time, can Susannah find happiness in... His Horned Embrace?
posted by No-sword at 3:20 AM on September 30, 2008


I can tell you what caused the Viking age. My ancestors were Vikings and my grandfather told me stories about this that his grandfather passed down from his grandfather.

People think that Vikings liked to rape, pillage, and plunder. But I can tell you, based on my family's stories, that pillaging was not one of the primary reasons. Not even close. Plundering beat out pillaging to come in an easy second.

Many Vikings signed up just to see the world and to have a good time. Few know that the Vikings had numerous happy songs and that many signed up just to enjoy these songs. In fact, Viking ships were a kind of floating musical theater, with dances and songs and laughter. And plundering.

Here's a typical Viking song (which I've translated into English). Sing it a few times and see if you don't want to become a Viking too:

Viking blood is a harsh red blood
It runs through all our veins
It comes out our noses when we fight too hard
Or sing too many refrains

posted by twoleftfeet at 3:31 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


How are Vikkings formed?

They went because they could, and because they realized they could. Because some raiders brought back heaps o' shiny stuff that they snatched from dumbfounded monks, and the guys at home said, "Well, why the fuck not?" Because English girls are easy when you've just chopped off their fathers' heads -- no dinner with the parents needed. Because success came to the young and strong and wild -- let the dull boys stay home to run the family farms. Because it beats working -- pillage beats tillage.

When there's money and chicks and adventure and power in it, there's no need to suppose a shortage of women at home, not unless you want all the Women's Studies departments to assign your text.
posted by pracowity at 3:33 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously, it's great that nowadays you can find editions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle online and check out the originals of those quotes from Wikipedia on the first Viking raids on the British Isles.

787, B manuscript:
Her nam Byrhtric cing Offan dohtor Eadburge, 7 on his dagum coman ærest .iii. scipu Norðmanna, 7 þa se gerefa þærto rad 7 hie wolde drifan to þæs cinges tune, þy he nyste hwæt hie wæron, 7 hine man ðær ofsloh. Þæt wæron þa ærestan scipu deniscra manna þe Angelcynnes land gesohtan.
They just straight-up ofsloh him! Þæt wæron cold, Vikings.

793, D manuscript:
Her wæron reðe forebecna cumene ofer Norðhymbra land, 7 þæt folc earmlic bregdon, þæt wæron ormete þodenas 7 ligrescas, 7 fyrenne dracan wæron gesewene on þam lifte fleogende. Þam tacnum sona fyligde mycel hunger, 7 litel æfter þam, þæs ilcan geares on .vi. Idus Ianuarii, earmlice hæþenra manna hergunc adilegode Godes cyrican in Lindisfarnaee þurh hreaflac 7 mansliht. 7 Sicga forðferde on .viii. Kalendas Martius.
Fyrenne dracan, for reals. It's right there in the Chronicle.
posted by No-sword at 3:44 AM on September 30, 2008 [10 favorites]


Fyrenne dracan

Fiery dragons.

Damn foreigners

Here came dire portents over the land of the Northumbrians, and miserably terrified the people; these were tremendous whirlwinds, and lightning-strokes; and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. Upon these tokens quickly followed a great famine:—and a little thereafter, in that same year, on January 8, pitifully did the invasion of heathen men devastate God’s church in Lindisfarne Island, with plundering and manslaughter. And Sicga died on Feb. 22.”

Gotta love the plundering!
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:14 AM on September 30, 2008


The Viking Age! That's when I'm Ralph Wiggum!
posted by DU at 4:36 AM on September 30, 2008


It's more easily explained by Norse inheritance law, where the eldest son got everything, and the other sons had to go starve in the woods. No homestead, no money, no wife. Hopping on a longboat was pretty much the only choice for second (and third, and twelfth) sons. Bring back enough loot, and the king back home would let you have some land of your own.

If he wouldn't, you'd hop back onto the longboat, and go make someone on the boat king someplace where the locals couldn't do much about it, and he'd give you some land and a bunch of locals to work it for you.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:04 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I guess India will become the next Viking state then?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:54 AM on September 30, 2008


Fiery dragons.

Come on, this is way pre-Frenchification. Fiery drakes!
posted by No-sword at 7:17 AM on September 30, 2008


Hmmm, Vikings need(ed) women, Mars needs women. Simple coincidence, or something far more sinister?
posted by tommasz at 7:19 AM on September 30, 2008


No homestead, no money, no wife.

The "they did it for the chix" hypothesis fits pretty well with the stuff I just read in the Red Queen. Good book.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:23 AM on September 30, 2008


Her nam Byrhtric cing Offan dohtor Eadburge

I've spent way too much time on the internet. The first thing I thought of when I saw this:

if I looking for frog

her nam Byrhtric green frog

I lost my frog

Love, Eadburg

P.S. I'll find my frog

posted by languagehat at 7:39 AM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is an entirely plausible theory. In my own life experience I have confirmed, from first hand accounts, that it is also the driving force that sends the bulk of male ESL teachers from Canada, USA, and the UK into Eastern Europe, Japan, and Central Asia.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:15 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Huh, I was just reading this account of the war for Troy being partly about acquisition of women in a time of scarcity.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:19 PM on September 30, 2008


Harald74,
I think reverse viking would be me going to Norway to find a bride. Is Ingrid Toerlen available?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:14 PM on September 30, 2008


Huh, I was just reading this account of the war for Troy being partly about acquisition of women in a time of scarcity.

I think this was alluded to in the Red Queen as well. I'm reading the Iliad now, and I've been contemplating that motivation for the participants (in light of the hoopla over Chryseis and Briseis, it's not at all difficult to believe), so this is very timely. Thanks, Durn Bronzefist.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:29 PM on September 30, 2008


All wars are wars of scarcity.
posted by bitslayer at 3:56 PM on September 30, 2008


I've been contemplating that motivation for the participants...

Reputation crops up a lot. Never underestimate vanity as a reason for fighting, either in Homer or elsewhere.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:39 PM on September 30, 2008


i had a boyfriend from sweden who asked me once,
"do you know what is a reverse viking?".
man, had no idea you could do that with horns.
posted by liza at 7:48 PM on September 30, 2008


All wars are wars of scarcity.

Scarcity of sense and decency.
posted by pracowity at 9:17 PM on September 30, 2008


Vikings preferred male grooming to pillaging
posted by homunculus at 2:08 PM on October 25, 2008


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