Vikings or Norse?

The fierce and the farmers.



Photo: Hans Splinter

We know a lot about Vikings—skilled sailors who terrified huge parts of Europe with their raiding. In their specially designed ships with scary prows and boldly striped sails, these bearded men sailed from the oceans right up rivers, stealing valuables from towns and churches as they went. The word “Viking” means both the men and what they did — as in, “The Vikings went out viking.”



Photo: Hans Splinter

But far more people from Denmark, Sweden and Norway stayed home to farm, run businesses, make crafts, work with metal, and more. They had pretty ordinary lives, although the chance some of them took — as far back as the year 870 — to sail far away to make new lives in what are now Iceland, Greenland and Canada was truly extraordinary. We call all of these people the Norse. Only some were actually Vikings.