A Brief History Of The Norwegian Vikings

During the Viking Age, the Norwegian Vikings were renowned sailors, explorers, warriors, and conquerors. In stark contrast to the their Scandinavian neighbours in terms of navigation, more specifically the Danish Vikings and the Swedish Vikings respectively, the Norwegian Vikings mostly set sail westward and northward towards north-eastern present-day England, Scotland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland (the latter two being colonised primarily by Norwegian Vikings along with their Gaelic-speaking thralls or slaves taken from Scotland and Ireland).

By comparison, the Danish Vikings went mostly to contemporary England and France (Normandy, more specifically) and to a lesser extent in Ireland whereas the Swedish Vikings mainly sailed southward towards the Byzantine Empire on a series of rivers as well as deep within contemporary Ukraine and Russia. However, Norwegian Vikings were also present in Normandy, France, along with the Danish Vikings, giving the name of this region in the process (i.e. stemming from the Normans, the men from the north). Their adventures and achievements throughout this tumultuous period of time are recorded in the Icelandic sagas.

Image source: www.pixabay.com

The Norwegian Vikings were skilled traders and colonisers overseas, managing to go as far west as Greenland and Vinland (i.e. Newfoundland in contemporary Canada), establishing a colony on North American soil there for a brief period of time. But, above all, the legacy of the Norwegian Vikings is clearly visible in the local culture and history of Scotland (especially in the small archipelagos of the Orkneys and Shetlands), north-eastern England, Ireland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands.

A Viking Age ship replica at Lofotr Viking Museum in Vikingveien, Bøstad, Norway. Image source: www.pixabay.com

The Norwegian Vikings excelled at travelling far and wide geographic distances over the turbulent waters of the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean in search for new lands to settle. As previously mentioned, one of these lands was Iceland, a country which has a long-standing connection with the Kingdom of Norway.

The first Norse colonisers of Iceland were Norwegian Vikings from south-western Norway and their Gaelic-speaking thralls of both Irish and Scottish descent. Over the passing of time, Iceland was successively settled by other groups of Vikings but the dominant Norse origin of the inhabitants stemmed from Norway. The social status of the Norse settlers to Iceland stemming from south-western Norway varied, but they were mostly impoverished or exiled Norwegians.

As tales about a bountiful land situated in the North Atlantic Ocean became more and more popular in early medieval Norway after the discovery of Iceland by Naddodd and Hrafna (i.e. Raven)-Flóki Vilgerðarson, successive waves of Norwegian settlers came to this country and subsequently traded timber, fish, and ivory, the natural resources that it had to offer.

Below you can take a look at a detailed animated history of Iceland by Suibhne, including, most notably its early history and Norse settlement:

But before reaching Iceland, many Norwegian Vikings settled midway in the North Atlantic, establishing colonies in the Faroe Islands, the Shetlands, and the Orkneys (as well as in the early medieval British Isles).

The settlement of the Faroe Islands during the early Middle Ages follows the same pattern as that in Iceland. While it is possible that Irish monks known as Papar inhabited these islands before the arrival of the Norsemen, it was later on with the arrival of the Norwegian Vikings and their Gaelic-speaking slaves from Ireland and Scotland that they became certainly populated.

Below you can take a closer look at a short historical documentary on the Faroese Vikings by History With Hilbert on YouTube:

The Faroe Islands represented a commercial and navigational hub for the Norwegian Vikings on their way from south-western Norway to Iceland and beyond to other locations. Ultimately, the Norwegian Vikings kept on voyaging westward across the cold and turbulent waters of the North Atlantic to reach southern Greenland and, from there, the shares of North America in Vinland (or Newfoundland, on the present-day east coast of Canada). Key explorers and colonisers from Norway (or of Norwegian descent) during the Viking Age to these overseas colonies and territories include Erik the Red, Leif Erikson, Freydís Eiríksdóttir, Naddodd, or Ingólfr Arnarson (the first permanent settler of Iceland in Reykjavík).

Documentation sources and external links:

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4 Responses to A Brief History Of The Norwegian Vikings

  1. Great stuff! Truly fascinating people! I remember seeing Viking “markers” where we vacationed in Newport, Rhode Island. There was a book, “Vikings in New England,”or something or other. Wish I still had that.

    • Victor Rouă says:

      Thank you very much for time, readership, and attention here on The Dockyards! Thank you so much for your comment as well! Indeed, the Norwegians are a very fascinating and beautiful people. I am a big fan of Norway and have been as such for a long time. I also had the privilege of meeting and even living with some Norwegians while I was an international student in Aalborg, Denmark (they were students as well). I’ll I have to say in a nutshell is that I had very good experiences with them. They are a people of renowned explorers, seafaring conquerors, poets, writers, and artists (both visual artists and musicians). I love traditional Norwegian folk music very much as well. All the best, take care, and stay safe!

    • Victor Rouă says:

      By the way, a great book on the Vikings is Vikings in History by F. Donald Logan: https://www.amazon.com/Vikings-History-F-Donald-Logan/dp/0415327563. I have it myself and I should read it as soon as possible. At the moment though, I’m still stuck at the Arhurian cycle (i.e. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green, a very underrated Inkling member in my humble opinion). Once I’m done reading this and Kjersti Egerdahl’s finely illustrated The Viking Hondbok, I really need to see what F. Donald Logan’s book is all about. I am certain it’s a great read. All the best once again!

  2. Paul Fitzgibbons says:

    Thanks much! I’ll have to check this out. Enjoy your reading.

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