A guide to creating your Viking backstory.
The Background of the Ulfheðinn Félag
The félag originates in Norway and consists of two parts: The main part is a drengr félag (warrior fellowship) but some of the older members have formed a kaupmaðr félag (merchant fellowship).
The band is currently in the employ Thurstan of Reapole Reeve of Wessex. The merchant side of the félag is trying to get trading rights with Thurstan’s lands but are faced with being forced to convert to Christianity before they can trade with the Saxons..
To gain Thurstan’s trust the band betrayed another group of Vikings some of whom escaped the slaughter. They now guard against other Viking incursions from their base on Brownsea Island where they have a troublesome relationship with holy hermit who has always lived there.
You will need to create a backstory for your Viking character. This can then be related to the public if asked and you will be tested on it for the Basic Villager award. Your backstory will determine what clothes you wear, what weapons your use and what possessions you own. During the period we portray the first born would inherit his parents wealth. This would leave a larger proportion of younger brothers who would have to make their own way in the world. The Vikings raided to improve their lot if you were already rich then there would be no need to risk your life for gain. As such try to avoid high or rich status such as lords and rich merchants.
Country of Origin
The Vikings who invaded England were primarily from Norway or Denmark (The Norse or Northmen and the Danes) as such your character should be one from of these countries.
Why can’t I have Swedish or Icelandic character?
Iceland was not discovered until 860 with the age of settlement between 874 to 930 this makes it problematic for your character to fit in with events before that date. If you were Icelandic you would be in Iceland not England. Iceland was populated by the Norse so your character would be indistinguishable from a Norse character anyway.
During the Viking age Norse and Danish expansion went west and south west to England and France. The Swedes went East and South east to Russia and the Middle East. Rune stone inscriptions commemorating Swedish vikings who died in England refer to a narrow period at the end of the Viking age. Again this makes it problematic to portray a Swedish character between years 787 and 1066.
It is very important that you decide on a social status for your character as this will determine how you dress what weapons you can use and what skills you will need to have.
Dare to be dull!
The Vikings basic kit guides can be found here
There is also s good basic visual guide to the differences in clothing by status here
http://www.aidan-campbell.co.uk/techniques.htm (Viking Costume at a glance)
The Seax. Unless you are portraying a slave then you must own and display on your person a seax of some type. This does not have to be a large fighting seax, a small eating one will do.The seax should not have a hilt and must have a handle of antler bone or wood. It should be decorated (or not) depending on your social status. Brass, copper or sliver fittings are appropriate for richer characters.
Parents and Grandparents
You will need to be able relate your family history. This includes parents and grandparents. It would be useful to have some stories about them such as important times in their life and any important deeds they did. Try to keep these believable. A common theme that comes up would be that your father was rewarded by his jarl for saving his life. Rather than using a cliche try and tie it in with the actual history i.e. your father collected geld in Anglaland three times and survived without a scratch. You will be required to relate this backstory to public.
Non fighting skills
Whilst you are now working as a mercenary you would have originally have had a trade or skill unrelated to fighting. You will need to decide what that trade is and be able to speak about it the public at least at a basic level. e.g. If you were originally a farmer then a basic knowledge of what crops would have been grown in Norway or Denmark would be useful.
Sample professions are:
Woodworker, Bone/Anter worker, Farmer, Shipwright, Merchant (Furs, Walrus Ivory.Cloth,Metal), Jewelry maker, basket weaver, Fisherman.
It would be a good to learn a skill that you can practice at an event as there is usually a lot of time in between skirmishes. Try and keep the tools portable. Its all very well being blackmsith but you’re are not going to be able to bring a forge to each event.
There are number of resources for Viking names.
Manaraefan provide a comprehensive list
The Viking Answer Lady from the States provides a list
There is another list here
Spears, Axes, Seaxes and Swords
The main weapons of the vast majority of Vikings were the Spear and the Axe in that order. Swords were reserved for high status individuals.
Swords are very much a high status item. If you have a sword you must have a rich/high status character and have clothes to match. Braid on the hems of your clothes is a must.
Even though I am poor I picked my sword up from a fallen enemy. That’s why I have one
If you were a poor warrior and picked up a sword then it would have been immediately been taken by your Jarl. A poor warrior simply wouldn’t have been allowed to keep such a valuable item. A modern day comparison would be a normal bank worker doing one a million pound deal and then being allowed to keep the results of the deal. Wouldn’t happen now wouldn’t have happened then. Just to re-iterate IF YOU ARE POOR YOU WOULD NOT HAVE A SWORD.