The iron inlay is very subtle in normal lighting. The photo to the right shows another modern reproduction blade which has been slightly etched to bring out the appearance of the inlay. The pattern welding in the wire inlay is clearly visible. Sword and photo by J. Pringle , used with permission. Most blade inlays are in monosteel blades; few have been found in pattern welded blades. An example of a historical pattern welded blade having an iron inlay is shown to the right.
All throughout the Viking period, there was changes to the length, proportions, tip, and hilt design, categorized by Jan Petersen in his book De Norske Vikingesverd published in Petersen's classifications are still widely used today. A classic example of a Petersen type K dating from the 9th century is shown to the left. Surviving Viking-age swords run the gamut from exquisite to rubbish.
They vary in materials, proportions, length, balance, and weight, as well as varying in the skill of the smith who fabricated the blade. Some historical Viking-age sword jump into the swordsman's hand and become an extension of the arm, eager to do the swordsman's bidding. Other swords seem to want to resist the swordsman's will in every possible way.
When one examines and wields an inferior sword of this kind, one has to ask: was this the smith's intent? Was there a warrior who wanted a weapon so unresponsive? Is there some aspect of this blade that was prized by a Viking-age fighter that we do not recognize or appreciate in modern times? Some blades have acquired a near mythic status in modern times, notably blades inlaid with the Ulfberht mark.
These blades have been much discussed in popular media, often with claims that can't be supported by the evidence. Another well-known inlay marking is Ingelrii. The marks are often augmented with crosses on either end of the inlay and with inlaid geometrical patterns on the reverse side of the blade. The sketch left shows the Ulfberht inlay, but the artist has made the inlay much more visible than is typical to the naked eye.
The photographs show the inlays in the reverse side left and front side right of an Ulfberht blade from the 10th century. So many swords are found, manufactured over such a wide span of years, that these swords clearly are not the work of two smiths named Ulfberht and Ingelrii. They are thought to be the products of families of sword makers, or perhaps associations of sword makers. The swords are believed to have been made in Frankish lands along the lower Rhine in what is now Germany, a region that has made fine swords and cutlery from medieval to modern times.
Because many of these blades are found, widely distributed throughout the Viking lands, it is believed that the Ulfberht and Ingelrii swords were prized in the Viking age and thought to be superior to other swords. It's possible that the original Ulfberht invented a new way to make a blade, using a uniform steel having a higher carbon content than the typical monosteel blades of the period. It's further possible that he chose to identify his blades with the inlay, despite the fact that the inlaid letters are extremely hard to distinguish in normal light, as is seen in the modern reproduction blade seen above and again to the left.
Only when the blade is etched does the inlay stand out in sharp relief, as seen in the historical Ulfberht blade seen above and again to the right, which was etched in modern times to bring out the inlay. If we strip away the hyperbole, there seem to be three broad classes of blades inscribed with the Ulfberht mark. Some of the Ulfberht swords have well-made monosteel blades using good quality high-carbon steel. Some evidence suggests that this steel is crucible steel.
The process for making this steel would have been unknown to northern smiths in the Viking age. The steel could have come over existing trade routes from middle Eastern or Asian lands, where the process was known. However, the evidence for the blade material being crucible steel in Ulfberht blades is not solid at this time. It may simply be well-made bloomery steel created using processes known to Viking smiths. Some of the Ulfberht swords have well-made monosteel blades using good quality but lesser-grade steel, of the kind that could have been made by a skilled northern smith in the Viking age.
Some of the Ulfberht swords are clearly inferior, being less-well designed and fabricated, using lower-quality materials. In some cases, the Ulfberht mark is poorly formed, or misspelled. At least some of these are thought to be Viking-age counterfeits, made by smiths to capitalize on the Ulfberht name. One surviving blade is inlaid with Ulfberht on one side and Ingelrii on the other, a double counterfeit!
The best indication of a genuine blade appears to be the metallurgical quality, an area which has received insufficient research. Additionally, it is likely that additional Ulfberht and Ingelrii blades remain to be identified, since the inlays are sometimes not visible to the naked eye and are revealed only by X-ray analysis. It seems unlikely that nonferrous materials were used for blades in the Viking-age. I am not aware of any archaeological evidence for the use of bronze sword blades in the Viking age, although a bronze axe head from the Viking age survives in Iceland.
Most of the Viking age swords appear to have come from outside Viking lands, notably from Frankish lands along the Rhine. There are a few instances in the sagas in which people are described fabricating weapons, but never swords. The stories suggest that some swords were acquired as gifts: from kings; from earls; from family members. Weapons were taken from grave mounds by men brave enough to enter the grave and battle the ghostly mound-dweller. It's not clear how men maintained their weapons. The stories are filled with examples where, during hard use, a weapon became so dull that it no longer cut.
Sharpening weapons must have been a routine chore, as it was with agricultural implements. Men must have routinely sharpened their weapons with a whetstone. The whetstone shown to the right was found in a Viking-age context. The wear patterns indicate it was primarily used for sharpening a long-bladed weapon such as a sword rather than shorter weapons or agricultural tools. While generally, men sharpened their own weapons, sometimes they asked others to do the job for them.
There also appear to have been professional sword sharpeners. The word used is flot , which has the sense of fat or grease from cooked meat. Prior to a battle, men prepared their weapons.
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Swords were highly prized heirlooms during the Viking era and were used for generations. The bas-relief shown to the right illustrates an episode from chapter 17 of Grettis saga. When a young man, Grettir prepared to leave Iceland to travel to Norway. His father had a low opinion of Grettir and refused to give him a sword, saying, "I don't know what useful thing you would do with weapons.
Some swords are mentioned in multiple sagas, spanning centuries. Later, Skeggi returned to Iceland with the sword, probably near the beginning of the 10 th century. A squall capsized the ship, and all aboard were drowned. Gellir had the sword with him, but the saga says its fate is unknown. Archaeological evidence also supports this kind of long and continued use of sword blades. The photo to the left shows an early 11 th century crossguard fitted to a blade made during the migration era, centuries before the Viking age. This evidence suggests that sword blades several centuries old continued to be maintained and used.
A nearly identical crossguard was found at Hedeby, rough-worked with flashing from the casting process still visible.
A sword's scabbard provided protection for the blade when not in use. Scabbards were usually made as a sandwich. The innermost lining was fleece or fabric, since the natural oils in the wool helped keep the blade from rusting. Wood surrounding the fleece provided the physical strength to protect the blade, and leather covered the entire structure. Scabbards, being organic, rot away, but they leave their traces on the surviving blades in ways that inform us about the scabbard construction.
These close-up photos of an early 9 th century Viking sword blade show the remnants of the scabbard on the blade. The photo to the left shows the full width of the blade immediately adjacent to the crossguard. The wood grain of the scabbards wooden core is clearly visible.
The Silver Sword (The Dream Merchant Saga, #2) by L.T. Suzuki
To the right is an extreme close up of the edge of the same blade, near the point. The traces of the fibers of the fleece that formed the innermost layer of the scabbard are visible on the blade. Many scabbards had a metal chape at the tip, to protect the point of the scabbard and sword , and some had metal mounts at the throat of the scabbard, as seen in the modern replica above.
The Jelling-style chape shown to the left is made of bronze and dates from the 10 th century. A modern replica chape is shown to the right, mounted on the point of a scabbard. She intentionally damaged the scabbard so that the sword fell out on its own. There are examples in the sagas where swords stuck fast in their scabbards. The sword finally came out of the scabbard howling. It makes one wonder how often this sort of thing happened in actual combat. Little is known about details of the scabbard, belts, baldrics, and suspension hardware, since little has survived.
The organic materials rot away, leaving only the metallic chapes and belt fittings. It is thought that, early in the period, scabbards were usually slung from a baldric, a belt over the shoulder, as shown to the right. Later, swords hung directly from the waist belt. In the sagas, there are few examples of swords being slung from the shoulder. He drew the sword and slung the scabbard over his shoulder.
Some swords had a strap on the hilt which could be pulled over the hand, allowing the drawn sword to hang while another weapon was being used. A highly speculative interpretation is shown to the left. Surprisingly, though, when hung from the pommel, the sword is not much in the way. After the pole weapon is dropped or shifted to the other hand, a simple flick of the wrist brings the sword up neatly into the hand. A speculative interpretation of this move is illustrated in this combat demonstration video , part of a longer fight. Booth ruins at the site remain visible today right.
The boy undid the peace straps and drew the sword. Refur ran him through with the spear. Invariably in the sagas, this situtation ends up going badly for the unprepared fighter, but one might imagine that even a sword bound in its scabbard could be used for pommel strikes or other moves.
Some swords had healing stones lyfsteinn associated with them, stones which removed the evil from an injury inflicted by the weapon. Injuries inflicted by the sword would not heal unless the healing stone was rubbed on the wound. The pain and swelling subsided immediately. A few Viking-age swords were single-edged. These swords differ in many significant regards from the more typical double-edged Viking sword. The blades typically are broad, with parallel edges nearly the entire length. One side tapers to form the point. The blades tend to be heavy and unwieldy, and the overall sense is one of crudeness.
The single-edged blade shown to the left was found in the Telemark region of Norway. Sources suggest these single-edged swords were most common in the earliest part of the Viking age, during the transition from the Migration age. Their distribution is uneven, with finds in for example Dublin and in parts of Norway. Since few examples have been found in other Viking lands, it is hard to believe that these weapons were common. More likely, these were lesser quality weapons made by local smiths who lacked the tools, techniques, and materials to make higher quality double-edged blades.
The thick, strong but heavy backbone of the single-edged blades meant that lesser materials and lesser skills could be employed, yet still result in a serviceable, if chunky, weapon. The surviving Viking-age swords span a wide gamut. Some are magnificent works of art. Some are plain, workaday tools for combat. Some are formidable weapons that leap into the hand and become an extension to the warrior's body. Some are worthless, unbalanced lumps of iron that seem only to thwart the warrior's intention at every opportunity.
It is clear that not every bladesmith was accomplished, and it is possible that some warriors struggled with inferior weapons. As described in more detail in the axe article, desperate men sometimes threw their weapons at their opponents, including their swords. Sometimes during a fight, men discarded their weapons to grapple, using empty-hand moves against their opponents.
These moves included breaking the back or the neck right , or throwing a man down to finish the fight using a secondary weapon, or even by biting out his throat if no other weapon was readily at hand. However, punches and other blows do not seem to have been used. Indeed, the wrestling move of breaking a person's back still retains its currency in modern Icelandic.
From the stories, we know that Norsemen enjoyed wrestling and practiced it as a sport discussed in more detail in the article on Viking-age games and sports. Grettir was unrecognized, and he was urged to participate in the contests. Did Vikings also practice wrestling in combat? The answer clearly is yes. Again and again in the sagas, men drop their weapons and run in to grapple. The Viking age swords were short enough that, when in distance, it was only a short step to be within grappling range. A speculative reconstruction of running in under a weapon to grapple is shown in this Viking combat demonstration video , as part of a longer fight.
It seems likely that sport wrestling right was the way that Viking-age warriors kept in fighting trim. Many of the same moves used in sport wrestling can be used in earnest wrestling and in other forms of fighting. There are several examples in the Icelandic sagas where grappling is described as a normal part of combat. In other cases, an armed man might choose to discard weapons that had become useless, and close the distance to grapple.
In chapter 65 of Egils saga , Egill and Atli's shields were so badly shattered by the exchange of blows that they became useless, and they threw them away. Egill also threw away his sword and grappled with Atli, eventually killing him by biting through his throat. Parrying with an empty hand occasionally shows up in fights described in the sagas. Parrying with the hand didn't always work. Fights could go on for such a long time that combatants might ask for a truce, or for a break in the fight to recover their strength. They fought for a long time. They rested, leaning against their weapons.
A truce during a fight was sacrosanct. It was unthinkable to break a truce, although the sagas say it occasionally happened. One such truce-breaker was Hrafn, described in chapter 12 of Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu. Gunnlaugr and Hrafn fought for a very long time. Eventually, Gunnlaugr hacked off Hrafn's leg. Hrafn dropped back onto a tree stump, while the two discussed the fight. Hrafn asked for a drink of water, and Gunnlaugr asked for and received promises that Hrafn would not trick or deceive him. Gunnalugr brought water in his helmet to Hrafn.
As Gunnlaugr handed over the helmet, Hrafn struck a powerful blow at Gunnlaug's head with his sword. Gunnlaugr killed Hrafn, but Gunnlaugr eventually died from his head wound. To repay Hrafn's cowardly betrayal, Gunnlaug's father, Illugi, killed and mutilated a number of Hrafn's relatives. The stories say that fighters sometimes swapped weapons from one hand to another. In chapter 10 of Droplaugarsona saga , it is said that Helgi showed his skill in arms in a fight against Hjarrandi.
Helgi threw up his sword and shield and caught them in the opposite hands, which allowed him to strike a blow against Hjarrandi's thigh. The move would seem to be very risky, yet Helgi was considered to be one of the three best fighters in Iceland Eyrbyggja saga , ch. Perhaps only someone as skilled as Helgi could pull this move off successfully in the chaos of battle. A short video demonstration of the sword and shield swap is available here in QuickTime or Windows Media format.
The sagas say that occasionally the pommel was used to strike a blow. Typically, the blows were not meant to be lethal, but rather were intended to humiliate. It's not clear how boys trained to learn the use of weapons. A few wooden swords and fragments have been found, some of which represent faithful copies of real weapons, but we don't know if they were toys or serious practice weapons. Nor is it clear at what age boys started training. It has been suggested that as soon as boys were able to stand and grasp objects, wooden toy swords were put in their hands.
Perhaps the first steps in teaching the use of weapons began with boys as young as three years old. Archaeological evidence suggests that even young boys had exposure to and skill with weapons. A number of child-size iron weapons have been found in children's graves. The sword, spearhead, and axehead shown to the left were found in a child's grave in Norway, along with a similarly sized shield boss. The sword, probably cut down from a full-sized sword, is only 39cm long 15in.
The hilt suggests a date in the first half of the 10 th century. A modern reproduction of the child's axe is shown to the right. Although small, it's still a formidable weapon. The axe head is 5cm 2in. We don't know if these were training weapons, or weapons meant for use in earnest combat by children, or simply tokens of the family's wealth. The evidence from the sagas is contradictory. One episode suggests children were not capable of wielding adult-sized weapons. Egill was six years old.
The deed is quite believable if young Egill used an axe similar to the one shown just above. There are examples that suggest that boys were "excused" from combat. They were not expected to participate, and they were shielded from it. In chapter 14 of Hrafnkels saga , Hrafnkel and his men attacked Eyvindr and his party. The boy traveling with Eyvindr did not participate because he didn't think he was strong enough.
After the fight began, he was free to ride away on his horse. The boy was twelve years old. Other episodes in the sagas suggest that boys did participate in killings, particularly for revenge. The boy kept his side of the bargain, and after the killing, he said that it was not too much work to acquire the axe. The stories suggest that Norse people were familiar with the concept of "mock" combat, called skylming. It's not clear whether this "fencing" was sport or practice, or perhaps both. In chapter 12 of Gunnlaugs saga ormstunga , Gunnlaugr came upon two men fencing who were surrounded by many spectators.
Gunnlaugr walked away in silence when he realized they mocked him as they fought. The sagas occasionally mention berserks , warriors with exceptional ferocity and strength, some having supernatural powers.
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But the sagas don't seem to agree on just what made someone a berserk. It's not clear that the word berserkr had a consistent meaning in the saga age. Some berserks were valiant warriors, the vanguard of the king's fighters and were admired. Others seem to have been thoroughly evil men, roaming the countryside challenging weaker men to duels, with their wealth and their women at stake. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem.
Return to Book Page. Preview — The Silver Sword by L. Suzuki Goodreads Author. What happens when your greatest dream is also your worst nightmare? In this sequel to 'The Magic Crystal', having survived their first big misadventure thanks more to luck than skill, fate conspires once again to force Princess Rose, Tag and Cankles to embark on another perilous quest.
This time, Loken the nefarious, shape-shifting Sprite steals away with the dreamstone th What happens when your greatest dream is also your worst nightmare? This time, Loken the nefarious, shape-shifting Sprite steals away with the dreamstone that is imbued with the power to make wishes come true.
Fearing the Sprite will deliver the magic crystal to the evil Sorcerer, Tag and Cankles undertake this mission with the reluctant Princess in tow. Armed with nothing more than sheer determination and an old, cherished sword, the three unlikely friends must move in secret. Tag must find the courage to meet his destiny head-on as they race against time toward the treacherous Dragon Lands to hunt down Loken.
They must stop him before he hands the magic crystal to the malevolent Sorcerer so he can use it to unleash its true powers on this realm, a terrible magic that will allow Dragonite's dreams to come true, while immersing the world in a terrifying nightmare. Get A Copy. Kindle Edition , pages. Published December 23rd first published September 18th More Details Dream Merchant Saga 2. Other Editions 2. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Silver Sword , please sign up. See 1 question about The Silver Sword….
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