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Viking Children! February 21, 2007

Posted by Myke Bartlett in CSC Year 08 SOSE 2007.


Children Without Childhoods

Because most children of the Viking Age had to work along with their parents, their childhood was very different to the kind of life children today have when they grow up.

A Short Life in Viking Times

The first challenge for a viking child was to survive birth. If they were born sick or disabled, they were taken away and left outside to die.

Boys were given a first name, usually named after ancestors, famous vikings or Gods. The last name identified them as son’s of their father. Hence the name of the famous Viking Lief Eriksson meant Lief, the son of Erik. Girls often used the name of their mother or grandmother or one of the female Viking goddesses.

Even after being selected to live, Viking children still suffered greatly. Diseases for which there were no treatments or cures killed many children.

It has been estimated that about one in five children died before their fifth birthday. Nearly as many did not reach age twenty. Few Vikings lived beyond their fiftieth birthday.

In industralised countries of the world today where food and medical care are plentiful, life expectancy has almost doubled from Viking times. Most of the increase has come in just the past one hundred years.


Learning Life’s Skills at An Early Age

At ten years of age, Viking children were considered to be adults. During their childhood, they didn’t attend school. By the age of five, Viking children were expected to work to support the homestead. Children were required to learn the jobs of the adults. Since most Vikings were farmers, both boys and girls were expected to keep the family farm going.

Survival during the Viking Age depended on learning these skills early and learning them well. The skills learned by Viking children depended on their gender. Girls were taught jobs related to running a household. Boys were expected to learn how to manage the farm and how to make the items required for everyday life. Until they were fifteen years old, boys and girls lived very different lives.

Viking Boys

Until they were five years old, most Viking boys were raised and cared for by their parents and grandparents in the Viking extended family. At the age of five, many boys were sent to the home of an uncle or a respected member of the community who could teach them all the skills required of a Viking man.

For the next five or so years, these boys learned all the skills they needed to be successful farmers and warriors. By working side-by-side with adults, the boys learned how plant and care for crops, raise livestock like cattle, sheep and goats and trade goods produced by the family.

Boys were taught to be skilled warriors in the use of a sword, spear and battle-axe. They learned how to make their Viking weapons and how to fight hand-to-hand, the Viking’s favourite way to fight. Viking boys were also taught how to navigate ships using the stars and coastal landmarks. Because they would spend sometime away from home when they became men, boys were expected to recognize important lifesaving plants.

Vikings were master shipbuilders. Because most communities owned a knarr and drakkar, all Viking boys were required to learn how to construct and repair these ships. Most homes also had a small smithy, the Viking name for a blacksmith building. Boys were taught how to fashion tools for making and repairing household furniture, storage barrels and chests. Some of them would become skilled artisans and make the jewelry the Vikings delighted in wearing.

Some Viking boys even learned how to read and write the rune characters of the Viking alphabet. Those that mastered this task carved the runes into weapons, memorial stones and personal belongings. Vikings who could write and read runes were believed to have magical powers and were well respected in Viking society.

Viking Girls

Viking girls remained at home with their mothers and grandmothers. Running a Viking household was a big job. It was considered very important work and girls learned the required skills from an early age.

Girls were taught how to prepare meals for the entire family. It was often inside work, done in a unhealthy darkened and smoky house. They were expected to make yarn from wool and flax, to weave wool and linen to create fabric, and use that fabric to make clothing. Since managing the farm became a woman’s responsibility while her husband was away trading or on a raid, girls were taught how to tend animals. Many of these animals lived near the house. Some of the animals shared the same living space as the Viking family members. If a girl was strong enough and wanted to, she would be taught how to handle a sword and fight like a warrior. There are many stories of female Viking warriors in the Norse sagas. One of the most famous is Freydis, the sister-in-law of Lief Eriksson, who also traveled to Vinland.

(the above information is taken from http://www.cdli.ca/CITE/v_childhood.htm)

1. Complete both of these:
Viking Boys and Girls Venn DiagramViking Kids vs. Modern Kids Venn Diagram

2. Imagine you are a Viking Child and write a diary entry for a Viking Child of your own age. What is your name? What do you do with your day? Be as accurate as possible. (200 words)



1. Anmol Verma - February 25, 2013

this website is reliable, better than wiki answers.

2. Writing Research – Viking Age | Adopted Axiom - June 13, 2014

[…] Viking Children […]

3. Balin Hanneson - June 21, 2017

its good give a lot of in fo so

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