Who were the Viking berserkers in Viking age

If you are a Viking enthusiast, you stand the possibility of having heard about the Viking berserkers. If you are but the word “berserker” is strange to you, fear not because this this piece of writing will give you a vivid depiction of the Viking berserkers.

Despite living in the sagas and folklore, the berserkers became the demons of war and the fear for the enemies.

Who were the Viking berserkers?

Common knowledge is that the Viking berserkers were the elite Viking warriors who would wear no mail coats and join the battle in a trance-like fury. According to some materials depicting the Viking berserkers, they would fight until their final breath was taken.

Image of Viking berserker
Viking berserker would wear no armor to join the battle

The Viking berserkers worshiped Odin and they devoted all their life to Odin. When they attacked their enemies in the battle, they would howl like wolves. Legend holds it that neither fire nor iron could even harm the Viking berserkers. They felt no pain. But after the battle, the Viking berserkers would feel no energy, as weak as a baby.

Viking Berserkers appeared in sagas and poems

In one skaldic poem composed in the 9th century, the berserkers appeared in the line army in honor of the King of Norway Harald Fairhair. The poem was the conversation between a valkyrie and the ravens which were the holy birds in Norse mythology:

I’ll ask of the berserks, you tasters of blood,
Those intrepid heroes, how are they treated,
Those who wade out into battle?
Wolf-skinned they are called. In battle
They bear bloody shields.
Red with blood are their spears when they come to fight.
They form a closed group.
The prince in his wisdom puts trust in such men
Who hack through enemy shields.

A translation from the skaldic poem “Haraldskvæði”

The “tasters of blood” in the myth were the ravens and the berserkers were described as the fearless warriors. To clarify, they wielded their spear to deprive their enemies of life and would smash the shield lines of the enemies.

The famous Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson wrote in one of his poems:

His (Odin’s) men rushed forwards without armour, were as mad as dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were strong as bears or wild oxen, and killed people at a blow, but neither fire nor iron told upon them. This was called Berserkergang

The Heimskringla: or, the Lives of the Norse Kings

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