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68. VIKING BONDI

An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


68.      VIKING BONDI

The Gulathinglaw and Frostathinglaw (which Snorri Sturlusson says date to the reign of Hakon the Good, 935-961, but are probably earlier) record that each ordinary freeman serving in the levy is to have an axe or sword, ash thrusting spear (spjot), and a wooden shield of 2 boards thickness with at least 3 iron strengtheners ‘laid across it.’ These were the obligatory folkvopn (folk-weapons), which in Denmark and Sweden also included an iron helmet (stalhufa). Men of more substance were also expected to provide themselves with a mail corselet or quilted jerkin ( for which see below), ordinary men also sometimes having to supply either one such corselet per rowing bench or even on occasion per man.

This man wears cloak, loose trousers, and for protection a quilted and padded leather jerkin, a common substitute for mail, capable of turning or at least slowing any blow except a direct thrust. Saint Olaf’s Saga records some huscarls wearing such jerkins at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030; these were made of reindeer hide and we are told ‘that no weapon could cut or pierce them any more than if they were armour of ring-mail, nor even so much.’ What appear to be such jerkins are shown on a number of Gotland picture stones. In fact the sagas make it quite clear that mail was not as common amongst the Vikings as is so often suggested. Irish chroniclers record that of all the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf only 1-2,000 had mail coats.

He also wears a round-topped cap, possibly of leather. Other hats were pointed or had broad brims.



Next: 69. VIKING ARCHER in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath