Headmaster's Blog

“We” Come From the Land of the Ice and Snow

I remember reading about Vikings as a boy. I thought they were cool. Who doesn’t. Those horned helmets, animal skins, open longboats with a single sail crossing treacherous oceans.

At the time, I was also smitten with a group called Led Zeppelin and played The Immigrant Song over and over again. It was about the Vikings. Do yourself a favour and crank up the volume!

“We come from the land of the ice and snow; From the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow
The hammer of the gods; We’ll drive our ships to new lands; To fight the horde, and sing and cry
Valhalla, I am coming!

On we sweep with threshing oar; Our only goal will be the western shore
How soft your fields so green; Can whisper tales of gore; Of how we calmed the tides of war
We are your overlords”

Magical stuff for an 11 year old with dreams of far-away places he would someday hope to visit.

There are a few truths and a few misconceptions in most legends and the Viking saga is no different. They came “from the land of the ice and snow”. Norway is a harsh country with very little farmland. Little farmland means little food and desperate people do desperate things. In winter there is no sunlight. In summer, there is no night time (hence the “midnight sun”). The Vikings were a warrior race who fought and killed each other for farmland. They were fishermen. As the boats got bigger, they travelled further across unforgiving oceans with “threshing oars” and massive muscles “to new lands”, especially to the “western shore” of Europe and the “soft fields of green” as far as the eye could see – bountiful farmland. They were merciless conquerors, fearless; driven by hunger. They became the “Overlords” who took whatever and whoever they wanted and few stood against them. The “tales of gore” cannot be repeated in a College newsletter. Where did they go? How were they defeated?

With cries of “Valhalla, I am coming”, they became the stuff of nightmares. They fought with no fear of death – because death was welcome. Valhalla was a place of eternal honour and happiness for those who died in battle; a place prepared by the ferocious Viking War-gods – Odin, Frigg, Balder, Loki, Thor, Freya, Heimdall. So where did they go? How were they defeated?

During the Age of the Vikings, in the 8th and 9th centuries, mothers would warn their children to go to sleep because the Northmen were coming. “Behave son or the Northmen will get you”. The Vikings raided the towns and monasteries, even reaching Paris in 845. The Viking leader, Rollon, decided that he would like to stay on in the soft fields of green rather than return to the icy land of the midnight sun and so demanded that the province of Normandy in France be handed over to him and his people. In the following hundred years, Rollon and his successors were influenced by Charlemaine and converted to Christianity. Eventually the Vikings became shopkeepers, nurses and teachers.

Q: So where did they go? A: Mainly Normandy and Scandinavia.
Q: Who defeated them?
A: Jesus

My family name originated in Normandy. My hair isn’t blonde, but, I wonder …???