Friday, March 25, 2016

Beowulf: Vikings, Heroes

I. Work in small groups:

Come up with your own definition of the word HERO

Webster's definition for hero:

The definition of a hero has changed profusely throughout the evolution of society. In the days of Beowulf and the Vikings, a hero was a man who was strong and courageous, willing and able to protect his tribe and provide for his people. But today, since our culture has vastly changed, so has the meaning of this word; now it is used for the brave and selfless people of the world. 

Beowulf is painted as a great hero before his name is even mentioned in the story, and this image does not falter against those of previous kings. Every man described as "great" through the story is also always described as some combination of warrior, ring-giver, powerful, and war-lord. Vikings were always either being attacked or attacking someone else, therefore their leaders and heroes must be warriors to keep the tribe alive.

II. Game: Work in pairs. Decide if the statements about the Vikings are true or false.

1. Vikings did not wear horned helmets. 

2. Vikings were not simply savage brutes.

3. The Vikings were famous for sailing huge distances from their home in Scandinavia between AD 800 and 1066.

4. The name ‘Viking means ‘a pirate raid’ in the Old Norse language. 

5. Around 500 years before Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the American continent, Vikings had visited its shores, landing in what is now Canada in around AD 1000.

. Among the many gods Vikings believed in were Thor, the god of thunder,  

7.  The Vikings were expert boat builders and sailors. 

8. When important Vikings died, they would be placed with all their clothes, jewellery, even their animals, in a burial ship.

9.Vikings' favourite food is fish!

10.  They were dirty and filthy.

11.  They spent all their time raiding and warring

12. Vikings were a unified army

13. They were large and heavily muscled

III. How do you associate what you saw in the segment with the Vikings fact you read about? How is the hero shown in the segment?

False: 10, 11, 12, 13

Vikings did not wear horned helmets. There is no evidence to suggest that they ever did, apart from in some ritual ceremonies. Having horned helmets would seriously impede your ability to fight effectively in close combat. 

Viking helmets were in fact conical, made from hard leather with wood and metallic reinforcement, or made in iron with a mask and chain mail. The idea of Vikings wearing horned helmets arose during the 19th century when romanticised and nationalistic views of the Viking people became popular.

Vikings were not simply savage brutes. Images of wild-haired, wild-eyed raiders are but a myth. In fact, the Anglo-Danes occupying parts of Great Britain were described as excessively clean by their Anglo-Saxon neighbours, as they insisted on bathing at least once a week and kept their hair well-groomed.

Archaeologists find evidence on a regular basis of combs, spoons and other grooming utensils that indicate the Viking people were very keen on maintaining personal hygiene.

They didn't spend all their time raiding and warring

While raiding proved an excellent source of income, many of the Vikings held farms back in their homeland that their wives maintained during Viking season. When the men returned home from a raid, they resumed their normal routine of farming.

Vikings were NOT a unified army

Due to the difficult geographic location, the Scandinavian people were very spread out to conserve limited farmland. In addition, the penetration of Christianity caused many great divisions among the people still worshipping the traditional Nordic pantheon, further emphasizing the divided nature of the people.

5. They were large and heavily muscled

Due to the short summer seasons, growing crops was difficult and resources were always scarce. As a result, many of the Scandinavian people were much smaller than commonly depicted due to limited food sources. While the living conditions in Scandinavian regions were certainly harsh and made a hard people, many Vikings suffered from the scarcity of resources and the people set up their homes over great distances with no real unified leadership. During the Viking Age, the Scandinavian people were able to make a stronger push to the outside worlds and create a reputation for themselves beyond simple barbarism. While some Vikings were driven with the lust for riches, many sought more peaceful economic relationships with the surrounding nations.


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