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Old 11-24-2018, 09:46 AM
davidmich davidmich is offline
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Question regarding a cruel Viking practice.

Hi

I've been trying to verify a cruel Viking practice that I heard about of throwing children (caught up in their raids) up in the air and skewering them as they landed on their spear tips. If this was indeed practiced, what was it called?
I look forward to your feedback.
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Old 11-24-2018, 10:53 AM
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That sounds like the sort of story that every nation has told about its enemies, in every conflict ever, but which has never been verified for any of them.
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Old 11-24-2018, 11:29 AM
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I do believe there are verified instances of such happening during the Sepoy Mutiny. Bayonets rather than spears, but the same game.
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Old 11-24-2018, 11:47 AM
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That sounds like the sort of story that every nation has told about its enemies, in every conflict ever, but which has never been verified for any of them.
Yeah, it was a common meme and mentioned in multiple chronicles( probably simply repeated from one to another ). The Scots and Irish also got accusations of this sort. While I wouldn't entirely discount the likelihood that infanticide of this sort happened during raids at some time or another( barbarism breeds barbarism ), it seems unlikely this was a traditional past time.

If we don't take the various chronicle mentions at face value and we probably shouldn't, the strongest bit of "evidence" seems to come from a medieval Icelandic saga written by Christians several hundred years after the fact about their pagan ancestors. It refers to one Ölvir Barnakarl( Olvir "Children's Man" )and claims his nickname came from not indulging in that charming hobby of spearing infants. But it seems it actually was likely referring to him having an unusually large brood of kids, in much the same vein as that shining example of fecundity Johann der Kindermacher.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 11-24-2018 at 11:50 AM.
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Old 11-24-2018, 04:37 PM
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Yeah, it was a common meme and mentioned in multiple chronicles( probably simply repeated from one to another ). The Scots and Irish also got accusations of this sort. While I wouldn't entirely discount the likelihood that infanticide of this sort happened during raids at some time or another( barbarism breeds barbarism ), it seems unlikely this was a traditional past time.

If we don't take the various chronicle mentions at face value and we probably shouldn't, the strongest bit of "evidence" seems to come from a medieval Icelandic saga written by Christians several hundred years after the fact about their pagan ancestors. It refers to one Ölvir Barnakarl( Olvir "Children's Man" )and claims his nickname came from not indulging in that charming hobby of spearing infants. But it seems it actually was likely referring to him having an unusually large brood of kids, in much the same vein as that shining example of fecundity Johann der Kindermacher.
If geni.com is to be belived, Ölvir is my 29th great grandfather. https://www.geni.com/people/%C3%98lv...00006803156915

So I'd like to see some more solid evidence if anyone wants to repeat this slander of my family!
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Old 11-24-2018, 04:49 PM
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Old 11-24-2018, 04:52 PM
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If geni.com is to be belived, Ölvir is my 29th great grandfather. https://www.geni.com/people/%C3%98lv...00006803156915

So I'd like to see some more solid evidence if anyone wants to repeat this slander of my family!
I wonder who your other 536,870,911 29th great grandparents are.
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Old 11-24-2018, 04:55 PM
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I wonder who your other 536,870,911 29th great grandparents are.
Quite a few of them are going to be Ölvir, but I geni won't even tell me how many of lines to him are confirmed.
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Old 11-24-2018, 06:58 PM
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That sounds like the sort of story that every nation has told about its enemies, in every conflict ever, but which has never been verified for any of them.
So you’ve got nothing?
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Old 11-24-2018, 07:27 PM
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So you’ve got nothing?
A romanticised picture of Vikings as noble savages that were a well defined group is a myth?

Or that the events were violent, but no more than anyone else at the time, including Charlemagne’s armies?

Or that the mechanics of throwing struggling children into the air to be piked seems unlikely to anyone who has ever tried to get a toddler in having a tantrum into a car?

The story seems to have more in common with myths like Satanic ritual abuse than anything to do with reality.

That said I would appropriate a reliable cite or claim that it happened.

Last edited by rat avatar; 11-24-2018 at 07:27 PM.
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Old 11-24-2018, 07:49 PM
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I have no information as to whether it happened or not but it seems to me, if you wanted to subdue and conquer a new land, the most horrific and brutal tactics would gain the quickest compliance.
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Old 11-24-2018, 08:21 PM
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I have no information as to whether it happened or not but it seems to me, if you wanted to subdue and conquer a new land, the most horrific and brutal tactics would gain the quickest compliance.
Consider an invasion and wide ranging brutal attacks from a people from a marginal, underdeveloped region of the world; against one of the most urbanized, culturally sophisticated zones on the planet, or how the Muslim world viewed the Crusades.

Most of the "Vikings" looking for better places to live and while it was a far more cruel world, and awful things happened those were no worse than the actions of Charlemagne’s armies.

I want to be clear that I am making no claim that the "Vikings" were nice or innocent, but they were also traders as well as marauders. Dehumanizing opponents is probably more critical for defense as making them out to be monsters evokes fear and leads to action.

Just look over the propaganda posters from the world wars as an example
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Old 11-25-2018, 01:51 AM
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A romanticised picture of Vikings as noble savages that were a well defined group is a myth?

Or that the events were violent, but no more than anyone else at the time, including Charlemagne’s armies?

Or that the mechanics of throwing struggling children into the air to be piked seems unlikely to anyone who has ever tried to get a toddler in having a tantrum into a car?

The story seems to have more in common with myths like Satanic ritual abuse than anything to do with reality.

That said I would appropriate a reliable cite or claim that it happened.
I have no idea if it happened or not nor do I have an opinion about it. My comment was about the appropriateness of his comment. This is GQ not IMHO. The very first response is a guess backed up by nothing in an apparent attempt to marginalize the question. Since a moderator has opened up opinions in this thread I’ll give mine, that was a crappy first response.
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Old 11-25-2018, 02:23 AM
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That sounds like the sort of story that every nation has told about its enemies, in every conflict ever, but which has never been verified for any of them.
Peter Sawyer, author of The Age of the Vikings, concurs: "Babies on spearpoints were later propaganda from the 13th century... Overwhelmingly the most colourful accounts came from that point. But among contemporaries, no one was in any doubt that Vikings were bad news."

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2013/08/...were-that-bad/

Regarding bad news, here are some specifics from Prof Simon Keynes of Cambridge University.
They stole anything they could. Churches were repositories of treasure to loot. They took cattle, money and food. It's likely they carried off women, too, he says. "They'd burn down settlements and leave a trail of destruction." It was unprovoked aggression. And unlike most armies, they came by sea, their narrow-bottomed longships allowing them to travel up rivers and take settlements by surprise. It was maritime blitzkrieg at first. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26431858
But, yes, their exploits were inflated in the re-telling over time.
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Old 11-25-2018, 03:42 AM
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I have no information as to whether it happened or not but it seems to me, if you wanted to subdue and conquer a new land, the most horrific and brutal tactics would gain the quickest compliance.
Maybe I'm projecting modern attitudes onto an ancient situation, but if invaders from Iran, Cuba or North Korea landed in the USA and began flinging American children in the air and impaling them on spears, I hardly imagine it would pacify the American populace (although ancient people were probably significantly overmatched in fighting ability vis a vis the Vikings).
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Old 11-25-2018, 07:49 AM
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I have no idea if this actually happened or not. However, I do know that I have read about it before, and when I went to look for some cites, I found references to it in books from the modern times all the way back to the 1800s. Some are tales (or histories of sorts) about such-and-such from some particular place, though the stories are obviously not firsthand. Anyway, the point is, the stories at least can be cited. That's not quite what the OP asked for, but it's a step in the right direction.

The Sea-king: A Metrical Romance, in Six Cantos, with Notes, Historical and Illustrative (1848)
The Religion of the Northmen (1854)
The Book of Firsts: 150 World-Changing People and Events from Caesar Augustus to the Internet (2010)
Ideology and Power in the Viking and Middle Ages (2011)
The Farfarers: A New History of North America (2011)
Wayward Heroes (2016)

The Sea King has this:
Quote:
Olver did not permit tossing infants from spear to spear as was usual among pirates, and was therefore named Barna-Kall, or The Protector of Infants.
If the book is to be believed, the practice was common.

The Religion of the Northmen refers to vikings as "heathens" and "Norwegian Vikings in heathendom", and so might be a bit biased, but claims that the practice wasn't just savage cruelty, but was also an offering of human sacrifice to Odin.

The Book of Firsts refers to a Viking who was teasingly dubbed "Child-Friend" because unlike the other Vikings, he did not throw babies into the air and catch them on the end of his spear. This story at least has some consistencies with Olver mentioned in The Sea King. There is some consistency in that different books do refer to Vikings who did not engage in this practice as being viewed as weak in the eyes of their peers.

The Farfarers gives the detail that the Vikings stood in a circle, and tossed the babies from one spear to another, catching it and tossing it across the circle over and over.

Wayward Heroes also mentions that the babies were considered offerings to Odin, and states that the Vikings considered it "wholesome" when the child's mother had been beheaded or captured, and the father killed, and the homes burned to the ground. I suppose in that sense, rather than leave defenseless babies to die from exposure when there was no one left to take care of them, they sacrificed them to Odin instead. It's horrific by modern standards, but it seems a bit more justified than spearing infants merely for sport, as other references imply.

So, there you go. That's what the books say. It was either a sport of sorts where Viking warriors would stand around in the circle and spear-chuck the baby back and forth, or it was an offering to Odin, or perhaps both, or something else altogether. And they are all stories. I did not see any firsthand accounts in any of the books, nor have I seen any elsewhere.

My own take on this (which is taking a hard left turn into IMHO territory) is that there is enough consistency between the stories for me to think that there is some truth to it all. Exactly what that truth is, I have no idea though.
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Old 11-25-2018, 08:09 AM
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All of these "corroborating details" make the story less likely, not more. Sacrifices to Odin? There's never been any verified instance, in any culture, of babies being sacrificed to the gods (but it's a story that many cultures tell about their enemies). A warrior being named "child-friend" because he remarkably didn't engage in this practice? Even among the Nazis, most soldiers wouldn't commit the worst atrocities, and there was no pressure on them to do so: They just quietly found someone else to do it. There's no way that being a conscientious objector would be remarkable enough to warrant a nickname. The quickest way to pacify a populace? Quite the opposite: There's nothing to motivate an enemy against you as strongly as baby-killing (which is precisely why every culture in history has accused its enemies of baby-killing).

And it just doesn't make any sense, anyway. The Vikings were often cruel, yes, but they weren't motivated by cruelty. They were motivated by profit, the same as most cruel people now and throughout history. They raided and stole, not because it was cruel, but because they wanted the stuff. When trade was more profitable than theft, they traded instead. When they abducted women, it was because (surprise, surprise) they wanted women. But there's no profit in baby-spearing.
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Old 11-25-2018, 09:26 AM
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There's never been any verified instance, in any culture, of babies being sacrificed to the gods (but it's a story that many cultures tell about their enemies).
Woah, there, with the "never". Depends exactly what your cutoff for "baby" is, but even leaving aside some pretty solid evidence for the practice in Carthage, young child sacrifice is very well attested from preColumbian Americas.
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Old 11-25-2018, 12:59 PM
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Note that the sagas are known as unreliable, and often are more myth than historical fact.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient...dence_01.shtml

Those stories from the 1800's are from an era where Europe was particularly fascinated with Vikings and as an example, even mistranslated of the word "horns" were even changed into stories of vikings drinking out of the "skulls" of their enemies.
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Old 11-25-2018, 02:04 PM
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To quote my previous cite,

Quote:
Many popular ideas about Vikings are nineteenth-century inventions. Others are the result of early historians accepting sources which modern scholars now regard as completely unreliable. In Scandinavia the Viking Age is regarded as part of prehistory because there are practically no contemporary written sources.
The "The Sea-king" is one of those known to not be reliable, but yes dramas of this era the basis of a lot of myths we take as facts. It is important that their "sources" were the Sagas were tales in tales in prose themselves.

While these stories seem to be given more weight in English sources this is due to the pervasiveness of these stories. If you can read Swedish, (and probably in Norwegian and Icelandic too but I can't struggle through them to read them) you will note that they use terms to indicate these stories about kings are most likely fictional and the sources are unreliable.

Even Google translate will convert Sagokung to "fairytale King"

https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagokung

As my Swedish isn't very good, but google translate picks some bad translations, here are some translated passages from that page with a few minor fixes.

Quote:
"Saga" originally meant a (literally meant) "statement", contemporary Swedish speakers can interpret the word according to modern meaning, which is that "saga" means a (not believed) "suspicious story"
...
The compound word "sagokung" began to be used in Swedish as historically technical term rather late, [ 2 ] when it was established that nothing could be proved of kings in Sweden before Erik Segersäll.
...
"Sagokung" is thus a value-neutral designation, which primarily refers to the fact that the only information about a person is in one or more (relatively late) statements , and that the person's existence can not be proved.
A modern analog for Americans is that of the American West. While in general we buy the ideas of dime store western novels. The Wild West is based on a false understanding of what the past was like, yet even Tombstone plays up a false story to drive tourists there to spend dollars.

The viking invaders weren't saints and lots of bad things were done by them, but the stories of the 1800's are mostly romantic myths similar to modern US myths about the Wild West
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Old 11-25-2018, 06:56 PM
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While these stories seem to be given more weight in English sources this is due to the pervasiveness of these stories. If you can read Swedish, (and probably in Norwegian and Icelandic too but I can't struggle through them to read them) you will note that they use terms to indicate these stories about kings are most likely fictional and the sources are unreliable.

Even Google translate will convert Sagokung to "fairytale King"

https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagokung

As my Swedish isn't very good, but google translate picks some bad translations, here are some translated passages from that page with a few minor fixes.
Your translation is pretty good, but you appear to have taken the wrong lesson away from them. The point is that the word "Sagokung" does not mean, "fairytale king", it means "king from the sagas". The sagas were meant to be historical, but recorded decades to centuries after the events involved, and only the more recent events are documented in multiple independent sources. So the references to genealogies going back to the Norse gods are obviously wrong, whereas descriptions of more recent kings and individuals have a better chance of being correct.

When the wikipedia-article says, in your translation ""Sagokung" is thus a value-neutral designation", that's what it means. It is a term that includes the early individuals in a genealogy that places the Norse god Frey as king of petty kingdoms in Sweden in 63BC (according to some interpretation of generations), his descendants obviously fictitious rulers recorded only in these genealogies, with no real information about life and deeds, but it also includes rulers in the Viking age, attested in multiple sagas with detailed lives and interactions, and with independent corroborating evidence in archaeology and contemporary sources from other parts of Europe.

In the early 19th century the Sagas were treated as perfect historical documents, then they were rejected as completely unreliable fairy tales for a while, and now they are seen as flawed but valuable evidence of late Norse prehistory.

Last edited by naita; 11-25-2018 at 06:57 PM.
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Old 11-25-2018, 07:47 PM
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That sounds like the sort of story that every nation has told about its enemies, in every conflict ever, but which has never been verified for any of them.
Sadly, any act of cruelty, no matter how heinous has been committed throughout history. I know there's at least one account of Japanese solider in the Phillipines or Nanking, China, throwing a baby up in the air impaling it on his bayonet.

While the passages on this page excepted form (linked below) doesn't detail the act of throwing and impalement, I take what is written as highly, highly true and accurate and not apocryphal. The page is http://malacanang.gov.ph/75102-manil...acre-and-rape/, "The Presidential Museum and Library is the primary office within the Office of the President responsible for preserving, managing, and promoting the history and heritage of the Philippine Presidency, and particularly of Malacañan Palace as its official seat."

The opening passages from the page:

"It is when one turns from the purely combat aspects of the sack of Manila to the plight of the affected civilians that the full horror of the ordeal becomes manifest. To this day, many of the survivors cannot talk about it.

Two things must be borne in mind. First, there were no novelties in the Japanese conduct in Manila in February 1945. All of it had previously been seen in Nanking in 1937—the mass killing, the bayoneting, the beheading, the rape, the slicing open of women after being raped, the impaling of babies on bayonets, the gouging out of unborn fetuses from pregnant mothers."

To those with a weak stomach or would prefer not to acknowledge the atrocities committed during war, I advise you not to read the detailed accounts.
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Old 11-25-2018, 07:57 PM
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These types of atrocities did not end with the Japanese during WWII and frighteningly are no doubt being a carried out somewhere in the world today, by those who have no knowledge of what the Viking or Japanese or any number of other soldiers of countless countries, throughout countless centuries have done during the heat, anger and frustration experienced during war.
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Old 11-26-2018, 01:34 AM
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I have no idea if it happened or not nor do I have an opinion about it. My comment was about the appropriateness of his comment. This is GQ not IMHO. The very first response is a guess backed up by nothing in an apparent attempt to marginalize the question. Since a moderator has opened up opinions in this thread I’ll give mine, that was a crappy first response.
It is cold, hard, verifiable FACT that nations throughout history have told exaggerated tales of enemy brutality. It is also undeniable fact that many foolish people have laid aside their rationality and swallowed such stories whole. It is also a fact that many false stories have a certain resemblance to each other.

As such, a modicum of skepticism under such circumstances is entirely appropriate.
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Old 11-26-2018, 02:19 AM
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What about if the FACTS of what happened at My Lai and No Gun Ri are corroborated by those who committed them:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Lai_Massacre

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Gun_Ri_massacre
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Old 11-26-2018, 02:34 AM
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Yes, the links above are from Wikipedia, which can be edited by anyone, but a quick search will bring up dozens of other links that state the same FACTS that are not unique to these incidents.

BTW, I lived through the Vietnam era and saw the reports of My Lai given by the US Government on US networks where there was film of live action fighting and body counts almost every night. So the sad thing was to my pre-teen mind, hearing about My Lai was just another story of the fighting "Over there".

“Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana - 1948

Last edited by lingyi; 11-26-2018 at 02:36 AM.
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Old 11-26-2018, 03:03 AM
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What about if the FACTS of what happened at My Lai and No Gun Ri are corroborated by those who committed them:
There are countless killings of civilians, including women, children and even babies throughout the ages. That is not being contested here.

What is likely to be fabricated are stories such as catching babies on spears for the reasons given in various posts above.


It’s very possible that some Viking somewhere deliberately killed a baby. Maybe it happened sometimes. What seems questionable is that this was a common practice.
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Old 11-26-2018, 04:26 AM
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What makes me question it is the practicality of the action. Spearing kids? Sure, easy-peasy.

Tossing them in the air and catching them on spears? Messy as fuck - Viking spears were quite broad-bladed and could even be used for cleaving grown men - this is just an invitation to getting covered in a shower of babyguts. Not a neat puncture like a bayonetting.

Contrary to popular imagination, Vikings were extremely fussy about their cleanliness and appearance, I don't see them revelling in wearing entrails as a fashion statement.
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Old 11-26-2018, 03:09 PM
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What makes me question it is the practicality of the action. Spearing kids? Sure, easy-peasy.

Tossing them in the air and catching them on spears? Messy as fuck - Viking spears were quite broad-bladed and could even be used for cleaving grown men - this is just an invitation to getting covered in a shower of babyguts. Not a neat puncture like a bayonetting.

Contrary to popular imagination, Vikings were extremely fussy about their cleanliness and appearance, I don't see them revelling in wearing entrails as a fashion statement.
Intimidation, frustration or just plain nuts! A little baby entrails is nothing compared to the blood spurt from an impaled adult!

Intimidation - Look at how carelessly and heartlessly we treat the most innocent and beloved of your town. Think what we'd do to you!

Frustration - This was one of the driving forces behind My Lai. The soldiers were frustrated that they couldn't locate the Viet Gong and when they got to My Lai, they let their frustration out on the villagers. Repeated countless times before and after throughout history.

Just plain nuts! - "The Warriors" (1979)

Swan: Why'd you do it? Why'd you waste Cyrus?

Luther: No reason. I just... like doing things like that!

Last edited by lingyi; 11-26-2018 at 03:09 PM.
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Old 11-26-2018, 03:42 PM
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Intimidation, frustration or just plain nuts! A little baby entrails is nothing compared to the blood spurt from an impaled adult!
And they probably didn't impale adults in the air directly above themselves, either. When someone's on the ground and you impale them, the mess mostly ends up on the ground. When you toss someone in the air and then impale them, the mess mostly ends up on you.
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Old 11-26-2018, 03:43 PM
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Edit: Viet Kong not Gong
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Old 11-26-2018, 03:44 PM
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And they probably didn't impale adults in the air directly above themselves, either. When someone's on the ground and you impale them, the mess mostly ends up on the ground. When you toss someone in the air and then impale them, the mess mostly ends up on you.
Again, not the Vikings, but Vlad the Impaler sure displayed a lot of people in the air! And displaying an enemy's head on a pole was/is a common practice in various countries. Somebody has to erect those poles!

Last edited by lingyi; 11-26-2018 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 11-26-2018, 04:09 PM
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And they do that by doing the messy part on the ground, and then lifting up the pole.
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Old 11-26-2018, 04:29 PM
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In college, I took a course on the history of early Christianity. And I read a lot of (translated) original sources from the first century or two after Jesus.

One story I read in several sources was that the Christians would steal a Greek or Roman baby, and encase it in a ball of dough, and then throw it around the room, dropping it and beating it until the baby was dead. Then they would bake the ball of dough, baby and all, and share it for a ritual meal.

(Some of them also documented how the Christians extract blood from babies or children of non-Christians, and used it for their sacrament.)

I think this is extremely unlikely, despite there being several extant versions of the story, rich in detail, and similar in detail. I think it's more likely that the Christians were unpopular, and their neighbors misunderstood the cannibalistic aspect of the eucharist thing ("this is my blood you drink, and my body you eat") and made up some stories, that were "click worthy" enough to be repeated. And I suspect the same of that Viking story.

Did some Viking impale an infant on a spear? No doubt. Was it routine for them to toss infants around on the ends of spears as a sacrifice to Odin? Not bloody likely.
  #35  
Old 11-27-2018, 10:28 AM
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Farmers and villagers had little to fear from the Vikings. As a matter of fact, they made excellent trading partners. Churches and monasteries on the other hand were a beloved target for the travelers since they were packed with worthwhile bootie and offered little or no resistance. Since the Vikings were not christened in the 9th century they had little scruples when it came to robbing religious institutions. Since history was mostly written by monks in monasteries, there was probably some bias there.
The 10th century Arab intellectual Ahmad ibn Fadlan spent some time with the Vikings (a tale very loosely depicted by Antonio Banderas in the 13th Warrior). He describes many of their habits. Impaling children or other unusual cruelties are not in his accounts. He is mostly disgusted by their lack of personal hygiene: "They are the filthiest of all Allah’s creatures: they do not purify themselves after excreting or urinating or wash themselves when in a state of ritual impurity after coitus and do not even wash their hands after food."
(http://sciencenordic.com/old-arabic-...-dirty-vikings)
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Old 11-27-2018, 12:43 PM
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IIRC the propaganda of WWI could get nasty, the Germans were called Huns and there were reports published that on their rampage through Belgium they bayonetted babies for fun.

Or recall the testimony of the nurse from Kuwait that Saddam's army dumped babies out of incubators to take them (the incubators) back to Baghdad hospitals. Later demonstrated that the "witness" was IIRC the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and it was all fabricated.

Everyone slanders their enemy, and what's more horrible than sadistically killing innocent babies?

Old (tasteless) joke -
Q: "What's easier to load, a truckload of bowling balls of a truckload of dead babies?"
A: "Dead babies, you can use a pitchfork."
I'll refrain from the "How do you tell their dead?" follow-up.

Last edited by md2000; 11-27-2018 at 12:43 PM.
  #37  
Old 11-27-2018, 04:43 PM
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A ball of dough big enough to completely enclose a baby? How the heck would you bake it uniformly through? There's a reason nobody makes loaves of bread that big.
  #38  
Old 11-27-2018, 06:56 PM
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Farmers and villagers had little to fear from the Vikings. As a matter of fact, they made excellent trading partners. Churches and monasteries on the other hand were a beloved target for the travelers since they were packed with worthwhile bootie and offered little or no resistance. Since the Vikings were not christened in the 9th century they had little scruples when it came to robbing religious institutions. Since history was mostly written by monks in monasteries, there was probably some bias there.
The 10th century Arab intellectual Ahmad ibn Fadlan spent some time with the Vikings (a tale very loosely depicted by Antonio Banderas in the 13th Warrior). He describes many of their habits. Impaling children or other unusual cruelties are not in his accounts. He is mostly disgusted by their lack of personal hygiene: "They are the filthiest of all Allah’s creatures: they do not purify themselves after excreting or urinating or wash themselves when in a state of ritual impurity after coitus and do not even wash their hands after food."
(http://sciencenordic.com/old-arabic-...-dirty-vikings)
So what are we to believe? Were the Vikings dirty as the Christians and Ahmad Ibn Fadlan described them or this
https://www.danishnet.com/vikings/cl...gs-take-baths/

"What we do know from the excavation of Viking burial mounds is that personal grooming tools are some of the most common items found. Items such as razors, tweezers and ear spoons have been found. In fact combs seem to be the most common artifact found from the Viking Age. We also know that the Vikings made a very strong soap which was used not only for bathing, but also for bleaching their hair. Vikings bleached their hair as it seems blond hair was highly valued in the Viking World.

Accounts of Anglo-Saxons describing the Vikings who attacked and ultimately settled in England suggest the Vikings might be considered to be ‘clean-freaks’, because they would bathe once a week. This was at a time when an Anglo-Saxon might only bath once or twice a year. In fact the original meaning of Scandinavian words for Saturday (laurdag / lørdag / lördag) was ‘Washing Day’.
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Old 11-27-2018, 07:26 PM
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Is there any reason they couldn't be both clean freaks and filthy? Different cultures have different notions of what constitutes "clean". A lot of Ibn Fadlan's description seems to be based on ritual uncleanness, and if the Vikings had any notion of that at all, it would have been different from the Muslim notion.
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Old 11-28-2018, 12:45 AM
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Agree with Chronos. Nothing in Ibn Fadlan's description is incompatible with combing their hair or bathing once a week. Which would make them cleaner than a lot of the contemporaneous Christians. But I'm with Ibn Fadlan that it's nice to wash after excreting, which I suspect neither the Vikings nor the Christians did.
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Old 11-28-2018, 01:39 AM
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Sounds like a pogrom activity.
  #42  
Old 11-28-2018, 03:10 AM
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So what are we to believe? Were the Vikings dirty as the Christians and Ahmad Ibn Fadlan described them or this
https://www.danishnet.com/vikings/cl...gs-take-baths/.
Actually Ahmad also not(ic)es their obsession with combing their hair. "Every frickin' day" I paraphrase. Apparently haircare was not big among Arab millennials.

Regardless of their grooming and hygiene, I believe there is consensus under modern historians that the picture we've been presented about Vikings is not even close to reality. They were stinky but generally friendly. Definitely compared to some of the other armies marching around.
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Old 12-07-2018, 01:42 AM
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Note that Sigfrid and Charlemagne being in political contact before the raids and Peter of Pisa being sent to try and convert him are also well documented, the initial conversion attempts started way before the raids did.

While the northern perspective is not captured, it is quite possible that there was also a political/religious reason for targeting monasteries outside of them being soft high value targets.

https://books.google.com/books?id=_d...alm%22&f=false

This news story says that more recent evidence of them being primarily traders.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2...t-raiders-ribe

While still not angles, most evidence seems to point to them being more similar to their other European counterparts than different outside of which god(s) they prayed to. Or to put that another way, the world was brutal at that time and the Vikings seem to not be uniquely so in that context.

Last edited by rat avatar; 12-07-2018 at 01:45 AM.
  #44  
Old 12-07-2018, 12:30 PM
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Children were valuable as slaves.It's unlikely the Vikings killed their profits for funsies.
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Old 12-07-2018, 01:09 PM
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Children were valuable as slaves.It's unlikely the Vikings killed their profits for funsies.
IIRC, Jonathan Swift pointed out many years ago there were other uses for Irish babies; no need to throw them away.
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Old 12-07-2018, 01:21 PM
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I no longer have the book, so this is a weak cite, but I do remember Iain Moncrieffe in The Highland Clans quoting a medieval Hebridean chronicle that told of Scots under the Earl of Ross, during a raid on Skye in 1261, who had “taken the little children, and laid them on their spear-points, and shook their spears until they brought the children down to their hands; and so threw them away dead”. He didn’t say his source, though, so I’d take that cum grano salis. Wikipedia quotes the line in an article about the Manx king Magnus Olafsson, and cites a 1995 article in the Scottish Historical Review.
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Old 12-07-2018, 01:46 PM
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I no longer have the book, so this is a weak cite, but I do remember Iain Moncrieffe in The Highland Clans quoting a medieval Hebridean chronicle that told of Scots under the Earl of Ross, during a raid on Skye in 1261, who had “taken the little children, and laid them on their spear-points, and shook their spears until they brought the children down to their hands; and so threw them away dead”. He didn’t say his source, though, so I’d take that cum grano salis. Wikipedia quotes the line in an article about the Manx king Magnus Olafsson, and cites a 1995 article in the Scottish Historical Review.
The problem is assigning only to one side. While I have stated that I think the behavior is the probably the unfortunate norms of the time, if we go by what is written down Charlemagne wanted to act like a true king of Israel and this resulting in the ‘Massacre of Verden’ in 782, where he ordered the death of 4,500 Saxons is the earliest known act of "barbarism" in these related groups I can find. While there is not enough information to say with certainty it is unlikely that the raids that followed these attacks weren't in part used by the Vikings to justify their actions.

Perhaps even if the events you mention above are historically accurate they were in response to mass murder committed by the attempts to forcefully convert people to Christianity.

History is written by the victors, but in this case the victors routinely resorted to massacres in the name of a "peaceful" faith. The claims of moral failings are almost universally reserved for ones opponents, just as it is in modern times.
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Old 12-07-2018, 02:22 PM
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The problem is assigning only to one side. While I have stated that I think the behavior is the probably the unfortunate norms of the time, if we go by what is written down Charlemagne wanted to act like a true king of Israel and this resulting in the ‘Massacre of Verden’ in 782, where he ordered the death of 4,500 Saxons is the earliest known act of "barbarism" in these related groups I can find. While there is not enough information to say with certainty it is unlikely that the raids that followed these attacks weren't in part used by the Vikings to justify their actions.

Perhaps even if the events you mention above are historically accurate they were in response to mass murder committed by the attempts to forcefully convert people to Christianity.

History is written by the victors, but in this case the victors routinely resorted to massacres in the name of a "peaceful" faith. The claims of moral failings are almost universally reserved for ones opponents, just as it is in modern times.
As I said, I don’t know the original source of that quote, nor the date nor the author of it, save that it was said to come from a Hebridean chronicle; i.e., from the community that suffered the raid. So it may just be the usual propaganda.

Ross’ raid is historically attested, though. It took place in the context of the Scoto-Norwegian conflict over ownership of the Hebrides. The raiders who were said to have committed these atrocities were Gaelic Scots from the mainland, not Vikings.
  #49  
Old 12-07-2018, 02:29 PM
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As I said, I don’t know the original source of that quote, nor the date nor the author of it, save that it was said to come from a Hebridean chronicle; i.e., from the community that suffered the raid. So it may just be the usual propaganda.

Ross’ raid is historically attested, though. It took place in the context of the Scoto-Norwegian conflict over ownership of the Hebrides. The raiders who were said to have committed these atrocities were Gaelic Scots from the mainland, not Vikings.
Yes my point is that was more than a century after the Northern crusades started which involved subjugation and forced baptism of indigenous people. There is very little high ground for any of the Christian nations to take during that period.

"Viking" really isn't a valid historical grouping of peoples BTW, so it makes these types of discussions a bit challenging.
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