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A Look at the Viking Weaponry We Might

See in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

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19/6/20                             By  Lauren Harris                     Edited by Ashlea Buckley

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Over the years, we have seen a variety of weapons in the Assassin’s Creed series, from real life weaponry like swords, guns, and tomahawks, to fictional weapons such as the hidden blade and hookblade. As we move into this new time period for the series, we are all curious about what weapons our hero Eivor may be using in his battles. How did Vikings fight in the year 873AD? What kind of armoury did they have? That is what we will be exploring in this article.

Weaponry and armour were important parts of life for Vikings, due to how frequently they became engaged in fights, plundering, and raids. The men would keep weapons next to their beds, in case there was an attack during the night. However, what protective gear a Viking possessed was almost always reliant on their personal wealth. Vikings had to create their own armoury out of materials they dug from the earth. Iron was difficult to dig from the ground and any weapons crafted from iron would be expensive to purchase. Despite this, it was unheard of to find a Viking with no weapons at all. Even poor men had farming equipment which could be used as a weapon if an attack began. According to my research, it was not common for women to carry weapons, however it was not a hard and fast rule. Women would generally carry knives or other sharp objects from their farms which they could use for self-defence, should they ever need to. The same was true for children. For Viking males, though, there were particular weapons that they favoured.

Swords

In the age of the Vikings, swords were not nearly as common as they would become in later years. In fact, swords were the most expensive weapon of the time due to the amount of iron it would take to forge them. Swords were double-edged and around 35 inches (89 cm) in length. Due to how costly swords were to make, Viking blacksmiths would put a lot of effort into the handle of the weapon. They would be ornate, crafted out of bone, antler, or even silver or gold if they could procure some. The pommel would often be decorated with striking patterns to make them individual to each wealthy Viking owner. Another way Vikings make their swords unique was to name them with aggressive titles, reflecting the damage they would one day do to someone else. Vikings wore their swords in a scabbard which hung from their shoulder, allowing easy access to the blade when it was needed. 

Interestingly, swords were far more than just a way for a Viking to protect themselves. They were prestigious items, often passed down from father to son. Amongst the wealthy, swords were also presented as gifts to maintain good relationships. There is also speculation that Vikings sacrificed their swords into bodies of water, as many swords have been discovered over the years in lakes and rivers, although historians cannot be sure these are not simply blades that had been lost by the owner.

 

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Axes

More common than swords were axes. Axes could vary greatly in size and head shape due to their cost, and due to their purpose. Battle axes were made with different head shapes, though generally the cutting edge would be around 3 to 6 inches long. As time moved on and smithing improved, axe heads ranged from 9 to 18 inches. Vikings loved their axes as the long handle allowed them to reach much further to attack their rivals, which meant they could stand a fair distance away from their competitor and still wound them. Viking held their axes in place with a belt.

Axes had far more uses than just battle weapons. They were uses for construction, farming, and general day-to-day Viking life.

Bow and Arrow

Vikings were hunters, and so bows and arrows were commonplace in Viking society. Initially, they did not use them for fighting other humans. They were purely for hunting animals. However, they soon realised that they could be an effective weapon for raids. Once this discovery was made, Vikings created their own archers to fire arrows at raiders, in an attempt to take as many out as possible before they reached the homestead. Viking archers shot around twelve arrows per minute, and some arrows were powerful enough to actually break through enemy shields.

Image by Archaeofox

Shields

Speaking of shields, these pieces of armour were also a key part of a Vikings weapons cache. Shields in the Viking Age were circular, up to a metre wide, with a dome of iron in the middle to protect the hand of the person wielding it. Unfortunately, this piece of the shield, known as the shield boss, is usually the only part that can be recovered by archaeologists after all these years. The rest of the shield was generally crafted from wood, It is said that the age of a shield can be determined by the form of the shield boss, as these evolved throughout the Viking Age. Shields could also be found mounted onto the sides of ships using a shield rack. This would protect the crew form incoming arrows. Recent historical re-enactments have shown that the weight of these shields made it more difficult to sail the ship, suggesting the shields were likely only mounted once it became clear the ship was under threat of attack. Shields were often intricately decorated and personalised by their wielders.

Aside from shields, Vikings had a range of defensive weapons and armour. Chainmail was popular at the time, though it was complicated and time -consuming to make – not to mention very expensive. Only the richest of warriors could be found wearing chainmail. Those who were not quite as wealthy would wear iron helmets which protected the head and nose. The poorer Vikings who could not afford such luxuries would use padded leather to protect themselves from swords and spears, though it was not very effective.

Spears

Spears were arguably the most common weapon found in Viking civilisation, as it was the easiest and cheapest to make. The low cost meant that Vikings were far less attached to their spears and thought little about hurling them at their enemies.  Spear heads came in many different shapes and sizes, from long and thin daggers to thicker and blunter designs. Like other weaponry of the time, they were frequently decorated. 

Image from History of the Vikings and Norse Culture by Njord Kane

Seax 

A lesser known but very useful Viking weapon was the seax. In essence, the seax is a large knife. Whilst almost everyone during the Viking period (male, female or child) carried a knife, only the wealthy would own the coveted seax. In fact, the seax was so revered that it had an entire tribe of people named after it: The Saxons. Seaxes vary greatly depending on the time period and culture they were used in, but a Viking seax was traditionally a curved knife which could be used for many purposes around the home and farm, whilst also coming in handy for self-defence.

As you can see, there are a variety of weapons we may find ourselves using in Assassins Creed Valhalla. What ones will Eivor favour? Will there be a Viking weapon connected to the Isu? A Seax of Eden? Only time will tell. What is clear is that there should be a wide choice of weapons for players to use in the game and, with the RPG mechanics of Origins and Odyssey still in place, we can assume there will be different levels of gear to collect all over the map. Hopefully the weapons will contain some of that ornate detail and decoration the Vikings are so famous for. Perhaps players could even customise their own weapons to give them that personalised touch the Vikings loved so much. In any case, with swords, axes, and spears in the mix, combat in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is sure to be a bloody, brutal, and rewarding experience. 

About the Author

Lauren is a online article writer who loves the Assassin's Creed franchise. 

As a member of the AC Partnership Program, she will be writing regular articles for the AC community, and her work can now be found in the Community Hub.

 

Lauren is especially interested in Assassin's Creed lore, and will be exploring this more in future articles.

Lauren Harris

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