The beginning of the Viking age had no certain national kings. There were three Viking social classes back then: Jarls (the noble), Karls (the freemen), and Thralls (the slave). People from this class could move among classes, particularly the lower classes. The progress of the Viking age paved the way for the kingship in their time. However, the kingship didn’t become a strong position until later.
The noble or the Jarls in the Viking age were rich. They possessed not only the material treasure but also the high social rank. The Viking Jarls stood at the highest point compared with the other classes. They could be wealthy landowners, traders, or merchants. The Jarls were allowed to have slaves and employ the Karls to work for them. The Jarls could be materially powerful enough to become a king and they could also be reduced to the Karls. This change of social class was common in the Viking age.
Karls or the freemen occupied the largest part in the Viking population. The majority of the Karls were the farmers. They were free to own land, have slaves, and employ the workers for them. What distinguished the Jarls and the Karls were the level of richness and the social status. The Karls could both work on their own land (if they had their land) or they could work for the others. In the latter case, they would become the helpers (different from the slaves) so that the people that hired them would pay them with food and shelter.
Thralls or the slaves were the lowest rank in the Viking social classes. The Viking thralls had no rights to possess anything. They would live to work for and to serve their masters. As they got no possession and property, they had to work for the other to get food and shelter. Many Viking masters treated their thralls very well. There were many ways to have a slave. The Viking captured their slaves in wars and raids or through a crime or punishment.
The slaves were allowed to get married. But one note was that the children of this thrall love affairs would become a thrall like their parents. The Viking laws allowed the people from other social classes who was convicted of theft would become the slave for the victim of the theft.
Other Viking Social Classes
Other than three social classes that we have mentioned, the others included Viking vagrants and paupers. They were so poor that they had no food or accommodation at all. To be poor and homeless in the Viking time was not a cool idea. They would have to live in different places and begged for food and drink from other people. With the trait of never bowing down before anyone, the Viking really looked down on the begging activities. This meant that the normal Viking did not respect the Viking vagrants and paupers for the coward begging actions.