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Viking Era Pastimes

Author: Neil Peterson
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This was written as a paper for an archaeology course I was taking. It will be revised as I learn more. If you have anything to add or you would like to comment feel free to drop me a line.

In spite of a large body of literature on the Norse world during the Viking era the topic of Norse pastimes is poorly represented.  This paper is an attempt to provide a survey of what is currently known about the topic. A listing of available articles, archaeological artifacts, references from some of the sagas, books, and web pages will all be given space here.

The first requirement of this search is a list of the resources available. Searches of internet web pages were conducted using the Lycos, Excite, and Netscape search engines available at the Netscape web site1.  A request for references was made of the Old Norse Net mailing list2.  This mailing list is maintained and populated by all levels of people interested in Norse studies from full time academics through hobbyists. Literature searches were done on the Anthropological Index to Current Periodicals (1965-present), Humanities Abstracts (2/1984-7/1998), and Social Sciences Abstracts (2/1983 - 7/1998). Copies of all available on-line English translations of Norse literature were obtained and simple text searches were performed for each keyword. These translations include: Kormac's, Erybyggja, Grettir's, Laxdala, Njal's, and the Volsung sagas as well as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Saxo Grammaticus' History of the Danish Kings, and Snorri Sturlasson's Heimskringla. A further search was done on a wide range of books dealing with the Viking era (a complete list appears at the end of this paper). Finally the two main references for Viking era artifacts (From Viking to Crusader and Viking Artefacts - a Select Catalog) were searched for artifacts that would support the findings of the literary sources..

To begin the search it is also necessary to construct a list of required concepts and related terms. The following terms were initially used to define the search: carve, entertain, feast, game, horse, hunt, leisure, music, pastime, sing, skald, skate, ski, sport, story, stories. "wrestl" as the root of both wrestle, and wrestling. The Old Norse word "Glima" was added to the search. Glima is the form of wrestling used by the Viking era Norse as well as modern Icelandic sportsmen3. Tafl (Old Norse for table) was added to the search list as it is the short name for the board game (Hnefatafl) often played by the Norse during the Viking era4.  Multiple search passes were required as variations on these words were adding including: ball, bat, drink, drank, drunk, ale, mead, wine, malt, beer, dance, harp, lyre, pipe, play, scald, skee, swim, swam, chess, and archery.

When searching the internet web pages each search word was searched for using a compound search designed to eliminate lower quality pages by requiring that the target word be paired with either Norse or Viking with both terms being required. Thus the actual searches were of the form "BOTH <target> AND (Norse OR Viking)" Web pages found through these searches were used to find additional sources (the On-Line Medieval and Classics Library5 was found using this method) and to provide additional keywords for the searches. With the exception of my own page on Hnefatafl no web pages dealing with Norse pastimes were uncovered of a sufficient academic content to warrant including them as documentation. Several reputable and well documented pages were discovered on other Norse topics and are worth a visit as a starting point into investigating Norse culture. A complete list of applicable web sites is found in Appendix E.

The literature search was conducted using each search term individual term followed by generic searches using "Norse" or "Viking" as the sole search criteria. The lists of references obtained with these generic searches were small enough to permit a manual search within them for applicable publications. No articles existed within the literature search on related topics.

Additional research through the Old Norse Net mailing list revealed the presence of only two known works Vikingarnas Lekar by Bertil Wahlqvist (year unknown) and Íþróttir fornmanna á Norðurlondüm by Bjorn Bjarnason 1905. A third book possibly entitled Vikingen som Iþrottsman was suggested. The author and year are unknown. All of these works are not yet available in English and a translation of them is outside the scope of this paper.

Only fifteen of the twenty-four books studied made any mention of pastimes or any of the other search keywords. Detailed results from those fifteen books are recorded in the table in Appendix A. Of those books only thirty-four of the eighty-eight pastimes mentioned (39%) are supported by any documentation at all. These references are differentiated from the undocumented references in Appendix A and include artifacts, or period references supporting the author's hypothesis. Undocumented references are included but are not weighed as heavily in the discussion that follows.

Ball playing, hunting, and wrestling, although mentioned (sometimes frequently) are not documented at all in the books. Several of the other pastimes only have a single piece of supporting documentation used by more than one book - a poem by Earl Ragnvald Kali dating to the thirteenth century is a good example of this. This poem which lists the accomplishments of a Norse nobleman, is used to document tafl, skiing, carving, harping, skaldic skill, and archery (weapons) skill in several of the books including Simpson and Page. The authenticity of this source is brought into question due to an additional source attributing the second half of the poem to King Harald Harðráða6.

The text of the sagas being used for this paper are those on-line copies provided by Project Gutenberg and the On-Line Medieval and Classics Library7. These sources provide electronic versions of texts for which copyright has lapsed.

The sagas themselves provide documentation for all of the suggested search terms. The applicability of the sagas as a valid documentation must first be brought into question before the usefulness of these references can be determined.  The first problem with the sagas is that for the most part they were not written down until the 12th century or later. These means that although they might have been an accurate description at the time that they were created they will have been edited for content. This editing can take the form of leaving things out that later recorders knew could not have been done or activities that had gone out of favour, or adding more contemporary activities and attributing them to historical figures.

Sagas also have a weakness in that they present a skewed idea of Norse life. The sagas were above all else entertainment. For this reason a saga might well recount a ball game in which violence broke out, but not a game that was played and enjoyed by all parties. This is because the fighting itself is entertaining but the second game may not appear as it is not exciting enough to warrant retelling.

Bearing these concerns in mind, the sagas still provide a valuable source of informal information about life in the Viking era and may be useful in filling in the gaps left in the archaeological record.  To produce the reference counts of keywords found in the sagas (Appendix B) the following assumptions were made:

  1. Mention of an activity is only counted if used in a leisure context.  Thus riding a horse to battle, or using a bow in battle would not be counted but leisure riding or an archery competition between two groups would appear in the table.

  2. Compound words such as "ball-play" are only counted once under the most applicable category (in this example that would be ball).

  3. All references to Chess are assumed to be Hnefatafl. Sources such as Murray and Simpson seem to be in agreement that chess was not introduced to continental Scandinavia until the 12th century. Thus, as the new and popular game at the time the sagas were being written down, it would most likely replace references to the game of Hnefatafl which would be out of fashion by that time..

  4. References that were "kennings" or alternate poetic word choices for search terms were not included. For example a reference to a boat as a sea-horse would not appear in the counts.

Some of the search terms used within the sagas are rather vague, specifically the 148 references to "game", "sport", and "play". Although some eleven of them refer to Hnefatafl, as can be judged from Grettir's saga "playing at 'tables'... saw that he was playing at 'hnettafl'"8,  others clearly refer to entirely different types of "play": wrestling, ball games, practical jokes or other types of team or individual sports.  The first three tables in Appendix C break the ideas of "game", "sport", and "play" down further based on context within the sagas. A column entitled "misc." appears in each of these tables.  These are references that cannot be made more specific even making use of the context they are found in. Although there are hints that in some cases an indoor game was meant9, perhaps referring to Hnefatafl, in other cases strength and agility are mentioned as being important which makes it more likely that wrestling or ball are the game that the author meant. As a result of the inability to classify them these references have been dropped from further consideration.  It is interesting to note that as a result of this breakdown five new pastimes were added to the list: "turf", "pet", "juggle", "dice", and "trick" or practical jokes. This additional pastimes are discussed in more depth below.

Of the seventy-eight references in the sagas to entertainment all but seven of them refer to the act of providing food, drink and a place to stay for another person. The seven references that step outside this meaning bear further examination. Grettir's saga provides us this word used in the context of having overnight guests who are provided with all of the ale they can drink and entertained by their host telling stories10. Heimskringla contains two references to drinking11 and two to feasting12 as entertainment. Laxdala saga provides one reference that mentions story telling as entertainment13.  The most interesting reference is that found in Laxdala saga which speaks of "drinking, and games, and all sorts of entertainment"14 clearly setting entertainment apart of the drinking that it is linked to in earlier references. It is likely that this word is being used overall as a generic reference to the sort of happenings at a feast that each author is assuming his audience to be familiar with. The final table of Appendix C breaks down the idea of "entertain" into these more common search terms. Where the word is used in a context of more that one activity (such as feasting and drinking) a reference is recorded for each activity involved.

The combined results of the tables in Appendix B and Appendix C are simplified to the root pastimes and are shown in Appendix D. This table is used as the basis for all further commentary within this essay.

Taken together the references from modern books and historical sagas present a picture of a race of people who had a large number of leisure activities and the time to spend on those activities.  Making the assumption that frequency of references in the sagas indicates a preference for that pastime the most popular ways of filling up leisure time appear to be feasting, and drinking. These two pastimes account for 897 of the 1342 references to pastimes (66.8 %). This wealth of evidence is supported by the book references with these activities either being the second or third most common activities mentioned and ranking first, and third in numbers of documented references. It is also worth noting that of all the search terms these two and only one other appeared in every one of the sagas searched. Clearly these pastimes were close to the hearts of a people who were often weather bound for weeks at a time.

Unfortunately these activities are unlikely to leave much of an identifiable record in the artifacts from the time. Although we have some plates15, bowls16, cutlery17, and drinking vessels18 it would be impossible to determine much, if anything, about the feasting habits of the Norse merely from these artifacts.

Attempts have been made to collect information about these artifacts such as Trotzig's19 work analyzing metal vessel remains from Gotland. These works however, tend to focus on the easily classifiable features of the vessels (material, method of construction, decoration, and so on) with considerably less attention paid to the content of such vessels and their social uses. Trotzig does, however,  provide enough material to allow us to confirm that the Norse did drink.

The sagas provide a rich field of study for the activities occurring at a feast but with almost nine hundred references in the nine works searched for this paper a detailed analysis is outside the scope of this paper.  Informally it can be noted that these feasts often lasted several days20, and involved a lot of drinking21 and entertainment ranging from performers22 through board games23 to sporting activities24 held during the day.

The documented book references to feasting occur in Foote25 and Roesdahl26 who use a quote from Adam of Bremen about a multi-day feast given by King Svein Estridsson (c.1050) for the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen - although no details of what occurred at the feast are given. Graham-Campbell27 provides a useful organization to this summary of Norse pastimes as he documents feasting using reference to Swedish rune-stones and the Hávamál to support the hypothesis that feasting would have included drinking, story telling (skaldic verse), singing, dancing, and games both indoor such as Hnefatafl and dicing, and various outdoor sporting activities.

Drinking is documented in books by Foote with a reference to a clerical writer of the twelfth century28, and Simpson who shows a drinking horn29, images from a Gotland stone30,31, and a metal figurine32. Perhaps the most obvious indication of the prevalence of alcohol comes from Page who uses the following Hávamál verse

Not as good as they say it is
is ale for the sons of men.
For the more he drinks the less he knows
of his mind, that man.33

Although Page only quotes three verses of the Hávamál having to do with alcohol some sources place as many as fifteen alcohol related verses in the Hávamál34.  Clearly this was a topic close to the Norseman's heart.

The story telling, mentioned in conjunction with feasting or entertaining, is the same as the skaldic arts mentioned in eleven of the book references, four places in Heimskringla, and once each in Grettir's and Laxdala sagas.  This was probably the single most popular method of passing the evenings among the Norse, especially during the winter. The Hávamál is quite clear that a guest should be given food, drink, and a place by the fire then be allowed to tell his tale, for the enjoyment of the others in the hall.

Warmth he needs if he's just come in
Chilled right to the knees.
Food and clothes is what a man wants
Who has tramped across the fells.

A wash he needs when he sits to eat,
A towel, and a hearty welcome.
Good humour, if he can manage it,
Converse, and time to respond.35

Simpson documents that Norse folk understood dancing based on a picture of two women dancing carved into a plaque36.  Only Saxo Grammaticus, among the period sources used in this paper, supports the argument that the Norse danced with three mentions of the pastime.  Certainly music existed at the time - a fact supported not only by twenty-six saga references and five book references including Roesdahl37 but by the remains of an end blown flute38, pan pipes39, and the bridge of a stringed instrument40.

Of the pastimes listed by far the easiest to document is the game of Hnefatafl. The artifacts associated with Hnefatafl provide a rich field for study with six boards having been found to date: thirteen square board in the Faroes41 and in the Gokstad burial42, a seven square board Ballinderry in Ireland43, at Trondheim an eleven square board44, two boards probably originally nineteen square at Wimose45 and Coppergate in York46.

In addition to these six game boards a very large number of playing pieces have been found. Some of the finds are given below to indicate the range of materials used for construction. If this game was as common as it appears (the Faroes board was carved into the back of a wooden plate) then it is likely that we are failing to interpret other possible pieces.  The cheapest form of this game would have used pebbles played on the back of a tray or box lid which was later used as kindling when it broke.

Game playing (probably Hnefatafl) also appears in the direct records we have from the Viking era such as the picture stone found at Ockello, Sweden60 which shows two players across a marked board - one of whom is also drinking from a horn.

To add to the documentation for this game there is manuscript Oxon 122 held at Corpus Christi College that was written c. 925 AD. It shows the starting positions for a game entitled "Alea Evangelii" played on a nineteen square board. The traveling botanist Linneaus also documented a game called Tablut played by the Lapps in his diary in 1732 which appears to use a similar number of men to the sets above on a board similar, although smaller with only a seven by seven grid of squares, to the boards documented above.

The saga references for this game are not as numerous, amounting to only twenty-three mentions spread over five of the nine sagas studied.  Of the eight references that speak of people playing the game, rather than just mentioning the idea of the game, seven of them involve some sort of conflict over the game. It may be that the game was actually more commonly played but that, as in the eighth reference "Cormac sat down to chess, and right gay he was"61, it was a common source of fun and hence not unusual enough to warrant mention in the sagas.

Dicing is another pastime that appears in the breakdown from Appendix C. The rules of dice games cannot be reconstructed easily but the artifacts provide a bit of information. Graham-Campbell lists three dice from a single find62.  These ivory dice have no value for two but do have three, four, five, and six on four sides of approximately the same dimension. The ends of the die are marked as one and given the difference in area would be unlikely to come up at all. Wilson offers two additional finds of similar dice.  Foote is the only book reference to mention dicing and he merely mentions it in passing.

Juggling (of daggers) appears listed as a pastime in Heimskringla64.   This pastime was one of those recorded under the "other" heading in the book references. Roesdahl65 and Foote66 offer support for this pastime although the context of those references makes it appear to be more the sort of activity that an entertainer was hired to perform than a leisure activity of a Norseman. The archaeological record offers no support for the art of juggling but this is only to be expected as this art could be practiced on any number of mundane items - like daggers - that would not stand out in the record.

Outdoor sporting activities such as swimming, wrestling, ball games, and hunting would also have been a part of a large feast. Like many other pastimes these left no record in the physical remains from the Viking Era but they have left their mark in the sagas.

Swimming received fifty references in the nine sagas analyzed for this paper (including four that were part of the expanded list from Appendix C). Swimming included both speed and contests where opponents attempted to keep their counterpart submerged for as long as possible.  Laxdala saga contains a good reference to such a competition67 while Page documents the art of swimming with a reference to Harald Harðráða68.

Wrestling is mentioned throughout the sagas thirty three times in six of the nine studied sagas (including context based references from Appendix C). The sport of Glima survives to this day in Iceland.  This contest was one of strength according to the sagas with opponents being paired off again and again until close matches in strength were found.  Modern rules allow the combatants to grip leather belts around their opponents thighs, and waist. A win is recorded if the opponent is thrown off his feat or lifted clear of the ground and dropped onto any body part except his feet69.

The next common outdoor pastime would be the game played with a ball and stick. Modern web pages refer to this game as Knattleikr70 although documentation for this name or the rules are never given. Unfortunately other than a small number of saga references which mention that strength is an important factor in the game and that it is often played by two people71 using a ball and stick72 little to nothing of the rules can be determined from the saga references used in this paper.  Although there are three book references to this game none provide documentation nor do they add any information to that which is listed here other than to indicate that it was played in both summer and winter. During the winter it would be played on the ice using skates.

Although hunting could be a necessity for survival it was also a sport enjoyed by many and a multi-day feast provided a good opportunity to share the hunt with new company. Supported by thirty-two saga references and seven book references this pastime could have been practiced on foot, horseback, or on skis by a man armed with bow and arrow or spear.  Simpson adds a claim that hawking was a pastime during the Viking era although she does not offer any documentation for this claim.

As mentioned above horses could have been used for hunting but the sagas contain a large number of references to people riding with no connection to hunting. As this was the most common form of transportation in Iceland during the Viking era this is not surprising. None of the references appear to differentiate between riding as a means to travel, riding purely for pleasure, and the racing of horses, so this paper does not attempt to break that number down any further.

Artifacts supporting horseback riding are numerous including stirrups73, and harness mounts74. It is, of course, impossible to tell from the artifact the use that the riding was put to: hunting, pleasure riding, or warfare.

Although it is, perhaps, not directly related to feasting no mention of the Norse and horses would be complete without mentioning the other horse related activity the Norse can be shown to have enjoyed - horse-fighting. Simpson describes the these fights basing her analysis on the sagas75 and the Häggeby stone76. In this competition two horses are goaded into fighting each other by men with large sticks and the presence of female horses. As Simpson points out "It was forbidden to use this stick against one's opponent's horse, but of course this rule was often broken"77  The breaking of this rule lead to fights among the human participants and backers, which are documented in the sagas providing our documentation for this sport.

Most of the book references such as Foote78 support the ideas of horse riding, horse racing and horse fighting, while a few such as Brondsted79 only support horse riding.

As both skates and skis have been mentioned in the context of ball games and hunting respectively it is worth documenting that both are listed in the two sources of artifacts. Four finds of skis80,81,  and two of skates82,83,  are currently known.  Between them these two pastimes have eight saga references and ten book references. Although it is clear that these activities were used in conjunction with other pastimes (such as hunting or ball-games) as a form of recreation it is very difficult to determine if these activities were also used as a pastime in and of themselves.  Although people perform both activities today in purely sporting fashion the sagas referenced in this paper do not provide any documentation that would prove that the Norse did as well.

Both the sagas and book references do speak of other sporting activities used by the Norse as pastimes. Page uses the poem by Earl Rognvald Kali to support the argument that the Norse practiced archery84.  Foote goes much further suggesting that as pastimes the Norse not only practiced archery but also running, jumping, rock climbing, weapons training, and rock and spear throwing. He mentions that the Norwegians were best known for archery and that competitions with prizes occurred85 - although he offers no documentation for these assertions. Archery and spear throwing are easily documented with fragments of both spears86, bows87, and arrows88 surviving. Once again, however, merely noting that the Norse had such equipment does not help us understand how it was used. Some insight in this area might be obtained by performing an analysis of any encrustation or wear marks on the points of these weapons. An analysis of the use of the different designs of arrow heads might provide information as to their use. If any are discovered that have no military or hunting purpose it would strengthen the conclusion that archery could also be a pastime. The absence of such an arrow head would not, however, prove the lack of such use - merely that special arrows were not used for competition by the Norse - unlike modern archers. Within the literature search conducted for this paper no such analysis' were discovered.

Having exhausted the activities mentioned in conjunction with feasting there remain five columns in Appendix D not mentioned.  The unusual column labeled "turf" appears to refer to a game played by having players throw clumps of grass at each other.89  This game (if it was a game) is not supported by another other references within the scope of this paper.

The playing of practical jokes is another pastime worthy of at least passing mention that was missed in the original drafting of search items.  The sagas contain seventeen references to this pastime. Several of the web pages and a small number of books also refer to "flyting"90 or insult competitions that may be related to these practical jokes.

In Erybyggja Saga91 we hear of someone playing with a goat. From the description, this animal was being treated in much the same fashion as we treat dogs today. This was recorded in the column labeled "pet".

The "toy" column of Appendix D refers to the act of playing with children's toys such as occurs in the Volsung Saga92.  A few children's toys survive in the archaeological record including wooden boats93,94, animals95,96, weapons97, and a spinning top98.

These carved wooden toys and the carved game boards and pieces mentioned above also serve well as documentation for the pastime of carving.  With only three saga references and mention in only three of the book references this pastime might appear to be less common than many other pastimes.  Given the vast number of archaeological finds that are carved or decorated with carving this seeming lack of popularity can be marked down merely as a pastime that everyone participated in, making it unlikely to figure into the excitement of a saga.

As a final pastime not documented in any saga Simpson mentions embroidery99 - documenting it with reference to grave finds at Birka and a tapestry100 without providing supporting documentation. This is interesting as the cover art for her book is an image of the Oseberg tapestry, perhaps the finest of the Norse tapestries to have survived. Needles either made of bone101, or wood102 have survived - unfortunately there is no way to differentiate those used for clothing and those used for ornamentation - if indeed there were different needles at all.

This paper has documented twenty one different pastimes ranging from peaceful indoor pursuits such as embroidery and board games through to rowdy outdoor activities guaranteed to leave an impression such as wrestling.  In spite of this wealth of material the literature on the subject is sadly neglected.

For all the range of pastimes covered in this paper one appears above all others to be the focal pastime of this culture - feasting. This topic alone includes three quarters of the other pastimes documented and provides over two thirds of the period references. Feasting was clearly of great importance to the Norse culture and although parts of the process such as food stuffs may be covered in various resources a comprehensive work covering all elements of a Norse feast would be of benefit to those studying this culture.


3 Gordon 1962, p. 349
4 Gordon 1962, p. 155
6 Page 1995, p. 168
8 Grettir, chapter LXX
9 Volsung, chapter XXVII
10 Grettir, chapter XIX
11 Heimskringla King Olaf Trygvason's Saga chapter 48, 74
12 Heimskringla, Saga Of Olaf Kyrre chapter 3, Saga Of Olaf Haraldson chapter 33
13 Laxdala, chapter XLV
14 Laxdala, chapter XII
15 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact nos. 52
16 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact nos. 60,61
17 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact nos. 53®59
18 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact nos. 62®65, 323, 324, 325, 350, 452
19 Trotzig 1991
20 Laxdala, chapter XXVII
21 Erybyggja, chapter XXXVII
22 Saxo, p. 216
23 Heimskringla, Saga Of Olaf Haraldson chapter 162
24 Volsung chapter XXV
25 Foote 1980, p. 187
26 Roesdahl 1991, p. 45
27 Graham-Campbell 1980, p. 126
28 Foote 1980, p. 187
29 Simpson 1967, p. 73
30 Simpson 1967, p. 173
31 Simpson 1967, p. 195
32 Simpson 1967, p. 198
33 Page 1995, p. 141
34 Auden 1983, p. 147
35 Page 1995, p. 140
36 Simpson 1967, p. 174
37 Roesdahl 1991, p. 45
38 Wilson 1992, artifact no. 72
39 Wilson 1992, artifact no. 377
40 Wilson 1992, artifact no. 176
41 Wilson 1992, artifact no. 321
42 Murray 1952, p. 58
43 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact no. 92
44 Wilson 1992, artifact no. 572
45 Murray 1952, p..58
46 Interim 1980, p. 29
47 Wilson 1992, artifact no.123
48 Wilson 1992, artifact no.43
49 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact no. 100
50 Wilson 1992, artifact no.77
51 Wilson 1992, artifact no.360
52 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact no. 99
53 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact no. 94
54 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact no. 96
55  Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact no. 97
56 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact no. 98
57 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact no. 101
58 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact no. 95
59 Graham-Campbell 1980, p. 126
60 Graham-Campbell 1980, p. 126
61 Cormac, chapter 3
62 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact no. 93
63 Wilson 1992, artifact no. 71,360
64 Heimskringla, King Olaf Trygvason's Saga chapter 92
65 Roesdahl 1991, p. 45
66 Foote 1980, p. 188
67 Laxdala, chapter XL
68 Page 1995, p. 168
71 Grettir, chapter XV
72 Grettir, chapter XV
73 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact nos. 288,289,290
74 Graham-Campbell 1981, artifact nos. 286, 287, 485, 489
75 Simpson 1967, p. 162
76 Simpson 1967, p. 165
77 Simpson 1967, p. 161
78 Foote 1980, p. 403
79 Brondsted 1965, p. 125
80 Wilson 1992, artifact nos. 21,22,23
81 Graham-Campbell, 1981, artifact no. 297
82 Graham-Campbell, 1981, artifact no. 298
83 Wilson 1992, artifact no. 24
84 Page 1995, p. 168
85 Foote 1980, p. 189
86 Graham-Campbell, 1981, artifact nos. 12,244,255®262
87 Graham-Campbell, 1981, artifact no. 266
88 Graham-Campbell, 1981, artifact nos. 12,13, 14,267
89 Erybyggja, chapter XLI
90 Simpson 1967, p. 175
91 Erybyggja, chapter XX
92 Volsung, chapter VIII
93 Graham-Campbell, 1981, artifact nos. 104, 105
94 Wilson 1992, artifact nos. 13, 315
95 Graham-Campbell, 1981, artifact nos. 106, 107
96 Wilson 1992, artifact nos. 14,73,279,315
97 Wilson 1992, artifact no. 279
98 Wilson 1992, artifact no. 378
99 Simpson 1967, p. 67
100 Simpson 1967, p. 168
101 Graham-Campbell, 1981, artifact no. 85
102 Graham-Campbell, 1981, artifact no. 86

Appendix A - Word occurrences in current publications


+ - undocumented mention                                      * - documented mention

Ball Carve Dance Drink Feast Glima Horse Hunt Music Skald Skate Ski Swim Tafl Weapons Other
Brondsted, 1965       * +   + +   +       *    
Foote, 1980 + + + * * + + + + + + + + + + *
Graham-Campbell, 1980     + + *         +       *    
Hall, 1990             *                  
La Fey, 1972                    +   +        
Magnusson, 1976       + +   *     +            
Magnusson, 1980               + *   * +        
Page, 1995       *     *     *   * * * *  
Pearson, 1993 +     + +     +   + +     +    
Pulsiano, 1993   *           + * *            
Roesdahl, 1991       + *       + +           +
Simpson, 1967 + + * * + + * + * *   * + * * +
Trotzig, 1991       *                        
Tryckare, 1966             + +           +    
Wilson, 1989       + +   *     + * +   +   *
Undocumented 3 2 2 5 5 2 3 7 2 8 2 4 2 4 1 2
Documented 0 1 1 5 3 0 5 0 3 3 2 2 1 4 2 2
Totals 3 3 3 10 8 2 8 7 5 11 4 6 3 8 3 4

Appendix B - Word occurrences in Sagas and Period Sources

Entertain Ball
Carve Dance Drink
Feast Game Glima
(ride /
Hunt Music
Skate Ski
Anglo-Saxon Chronicles 9       12 3     8 / 0 4                
Erybyggja Saga 2 2     16 18 4   8 / 1     15         1  
Grettir's Saga 8 7 1   16 3 9 12 24/10     20       6 2  
Heimskringla 48       132 144 15 1 52/0 7 4 21 4 1 6 20 5 2
Kormac's Saga         5 3 1 1 10/0 1   1       2 2  
Laxdala Saga 5       7 66 6 3 19/2     16       9    
Njal's Saga     2   15 45 9   38/18                  
Saxo 6 2   3 75 53 16   11/0 11 13 5     1 9   2
Volsung Saga         109 30 7   10/0 7 6 4         2 2
Totals 78 11 3 3 387 365 67 17 180/31 30 23 82 4 1 7 46 12 6

Appendix C - Context breakdown of generic keywords from saga references

Tricks Wrestle Juggle swim misc. tafl turf music pet Ball Dice
Erybyggja Saga 2           1   1 9  
Grettir's Saga 1 3     6  3       2  
Heimskringla   1   9 5          
Kormac's Saga                      
Laxdala Saga     1 5            
Njal's Saga                      
Saxo  2     3           2
Volsung Saga         4     3      


Wrestle hunt swim trick misc.
Erybyggja Saga 1     1  
Grettir's Saga 4     1  
Heimskringla    2   1 2
Kormac's Saga 1        
Laxdala Saga     2 1 5
Njal's Saga          
Saxo          8
Volsung Saga          

tafl misc. trick wrestle dice swim toy
Erybyggja Saga     1 1      
Grettir's Saga   2 5   1  
Heimskringla 3 12     1    
Kormac's Saga    1          
Laxdala Saga            
Njal's Saga   4        
Saxo    5          
Volsung Saga         1


feast drink skald
Anglo-Saxon  9 9  
Erybyggja Saga 2 2  
Grettir's Saga 6 7 1
Heimskringla 46 46  
Kormac's Saga      
Laxdala Saga 3 3 1
Njal's Saga      
Saxo  6 6  
Volsung Saga      

Appendix D - Combined results from Appendix B and Appendix C

Archery Ball Carve Dance Drink Feast Glima Horse
Hunt Music Pet Riding Skald Skate Ski Swim Tafl Toy Trick Turf
Anglo-Saxon Chronicles          21 12     4     8                
Erybyggja Saga    9      18 20 1     1 8         1   4 1
Grettir's Saga     9 1   23  9 24 10       24 1     7 5   4  
Heimskringla       178  190 1   9 4    52 4 1 6 20 13   2  
Kormac's Saga          5 3 2   1     10       2 2      
Laxdala Saga           10  69 4 2       19 1     12     1  
Njal's Saga       2   15 45   18       38             4  
Saxo  2   3 81 59  1   11 13   11     1 9     2  
Volsung Saga       109 30      7 9   10         2 1    
Totals 6 20 3 3 460 437 34 31 32 26 1 180 6 1 7 50 23 1 17 1

Appendix E - Related Internet web pages




Norse or Viking General

Pages of Links

Books Containing no related Information

Blair, Peter Hunter
1963 Roman Britain and Early England, W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York, USA

Donovan, Frank R.
1964 The Vikings, American Heritage Publishing Co., New York, USA

Griffith, Paddy
1995 The Viking Art of War, Greenhill Books, London, UK

Harrison, Mark and Embleton, Gerry
1993 Viking Hersir, Reed Consumer Books Ltd., London UK

Haywood, John
1995 The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings, Penguin Group, London, UK

Jones, Gwyn
1984 A History of the Vikings, Oxford University Press, Oxford UK

Jones, Gwyn
1986 The Norse Atlantic Saga, Oxford University Press, Oxford UK

Loyn, Henry
1994 The Vikings in Britain, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, UK

Pulsiano, Phillip (ed.)
1993 Medieval Scandinavia - an encyclopedia, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York,

Wilson, David M.
1980 The Northern World, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, USA

Cited References

Auden, W.H. and Taylor, Paul B.
1983 Norse Poems, Faber and Faber, Ltd., London, UK

Brondsted, Johannes
1965 The Vikings, Penguin Books, New York USA

Foote, P.G. and Wilson, D.M.
1980 The Viking Achievement, Sidgwick and Jackson, Hertfordshire, UK

Gordon, E.V.
1962 An Introduction to Old Norse, Oxford University Press, Oxford UK

Graham-Campbell, James
1980 The Viking World, Frances-Lincoln Publishers, London, UK

Graham-Campbell, James
1981 Viking Artefacts A Select Catalogue, British Museum Publications Ltd., London

Hall, Richard
1990 Viking Age Archaeology in Britain and Ireland, Shire Publications Ltd.,
Buckinghamshire, UK

1980 Bulletin of York Archaeological Trust Vol. 6 No 4, York, UK

La Fay, Howard
1972 The Vikings, National Geographic Society, Washington DC, USA

Magnusson, Magnus
1976 Viking: Hammer From the North, Orbis Publishing, London, UK

Magnusson, Magnus
1980 The Vikings, Elseveir-Dutton Publishing Co., New York, USA

Murray, H.J.R.
1952 A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess Clarendon Press, Oxford

Page, R..I.
1995 Chronicles of the Vikings, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Ont.

Pearson, Anne
1993 The Vikings, Reed International Books, Ltd., London, UK

Roesdahl. Else (tr. Margeson, Susan M., and Williams, Kirsten)
1991 The Vikings, Penguin Books, London, UK

Simpson, Jacqueline
1967 Everyday Life in the Viking Age, Dorset Press, New York, USA

Trotzig, Gustaf
1991 Craftsmanship and Function, Statens Histotiska Museum, Stockholm, Sweden

Tryckare, Tre
1966 The Viking, Cagnar & Co., Gothenburg, Sweden

Wilson, David M.
1989 The Vikings and their Origins, Thames & Hudson, London, UK

Wilson, David M & Roesdahl, Else
1992 From Viking to Crusader, Rizzoli International Publications, New York


"Anglo-Saxon Chronicles"
1996 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
The Project Gutenberg Etext #657

"Erybyggja Saga"
The Story of the Ere-Dwellers
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33

"Grettir's Saga"
1995 Grettir The Strong, author unknown
Project Gutenberg's Etext #347

1996 Heimskringla The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, by Snorri Sturlson
The Project Gutenberg Etext #598

"Heitharviga Saga"
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #32

"Laxdala Saga"
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #34

"Kormac's Saga"
1995 The Life and Death of Cormac the Skald: Anonymous Icelandic Epic
Project Gutenberg Etext #265

"Njal's Saga"
1996 Njal's Saga by Unknown Icelanders
Project Gutenberg Etext #597

1997 The Danish History, Books I-IX by Saxo Grammaticus ("Saxo the Learned")
Project Gutenberg Etext #1150

1997 The Story of the Volsungs
Project Gutenberg Etext #1152

      Updated: 4 Dec, 2007
Text © Neil Peterson, 2006
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