I wanted to pick up my Viking Skills series, so here it is: The Sixth Most Important Viking skill, rated subjectively by myself and brought to you here on www.bull-hansen.com. I rate parenting as the sixth most important Viking skill, although I am tempted to say it should have been number 1 — it’s that essential. But anyway, having children and being able to care for them with food, safety, love and so on was extremely important to any Norse man or woman back in the Viking Age, and at least to people in modern, developed countries today, it can be hard to understand just how essential it was. We take so many things for granted these days, and often fail to understand why being childless was probably quite a tragedy back then.
I have written about childhood in the Viking Age in another blogpost, so I won’t go into details on how the Norse cared for their kids. Let me just say that I often tend to provoke people when I say that I try my best to be a traditional father. I guess they envision me spendig all day at work, just to come home to sit in the sofa reading the newspaper while a subjucated wife stands in the kitchen making dinner. That’s the «traditional father» in most people’s mind. To me, that’s the father of the Industrial Age. The traditional father is to me a father who spends a lot of time with his kids, teaching them his crafts and skills and how to survive and thrive out in the wild.
But why exactly was parenting such an important skill in the Viking Age, you may ask. Well, first of all, in the Viking Age your kids were your health insurance. If you got old (not everyone did), you needed your kids to take care of you. When the winter storm was howling around the longhouse and your old joints were aching, it was nice to have a couple of strong, grown sons who would go hunting for you and the rest of the family. Secondly, having kids meant the memory of you were kept alive after you were gone — and being remembered is essential in the Norse belief system. Thirdly, having children usually means your clan grows in numbers, which also tends to increase your clan’s power in a «might is right» – society like the Norse. Having children probably also raised your status as a man or woman, according to the sagas. By the way, the Norse society seems to have been highly sensual, and sex was not a taboo like it would become later.
Also, being able to bring up your kids as wise, caring individuals was essential. After all, there is no use in having kids who turn out to be selfish idiots with no interest in you, kids who go Viking and never return home. I believe that any man or woman who treated their kids badly were probably looked down upon, while the caring, wise and loving parent was an ideal. You wanted your kids to stick around and tend to the farm, and you wanted them to have children of their own.
And by the way, some might say there isn’t much «Viking» to this skill, that this is something that could be said about most people around the world. Well, guess what? The Norse were just that. People.
-Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen