Did the Vikings Kill Infants on their Spears?

Posted by Ms Elly on

Did the Vikings Kill Infants on Spears?

Sometimes, we hear the tales about how savage were the Vikings during their glorious time. Some accounts tell that the Vikings threw their infants up only to catch them in the spears. This was, of course, terrible because it completely goes against today's concept of civilization and humane. That is the story but whether it is historically true or not is another story.

So did the Vikings really kill their infants on the spears?

By far, there has been only one Nordic literature source that told the story of a man who spared a life for the infants. It appeared in the Landnámabók (Book of Settlement). Landnámabók was an Icelandic account. It vividly recalled the settlement in Iceland and the genealogy of many early families living on this new land. Down to chapter 98 of the Book of Settlement, we can catch the name of "Olvir the Child Sparer".

In the book of Icelandic settlement, the Vikings had a tradition of throwing up their children only to get caught in the spears. Olivir was the only man that never took up this tradition.

According to the source, he was the only man in the region who didn't derive the infants of their lives as many other people did. The source mentioned that the practice of killing the infants on the spears was popular back to that time. A part of the story was translated as:

Ölvir Childrens’-Man was the name of an excellent Norwegian man; he was a great Viking in his clan. He wouldn’t have children caught on spearpoints. However, this practice was popular in the Viking community back then. That was the reason why he was "Children's Man".

However, the scholars haven't found any other sources about the Viking Age that told the stories of killing their infants on the spears. Is this savage action nothing but a fabrication of the modern writers?

When I look back to the date of Landnámabók, the idea that this story was baseless in reality is strongly supported. Landnámabók was written down more than 300 years after the Norse had settled down in Iceland. And the surviving manuscripts were later than that. That is not to mention whether those surviving manuscripts were exaggerated or not.

Moreover, it was certain that the Vikings loved their children no less than other tribes. The Vikings were not that savage. The majority of the Vikings were farmers and working as warriors was just a part-time job for the Vikings. They were human with normal feeling and affection towards their relatives.

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