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Viking Warriors: Dicing not only with Death

vikingAvid readers of The Orkney News will recall last week’s story where we exclusively revealed that Viking warriors were skilled knitters. In fact it was an essential part of their training. All this was discovered from extensive analysis of grave goods by Norwegian archaeologist Prof Hans Gnittink who commented at the time:

“det er en overraskelse, Vær vennlig og snakk saktere?”

And went on to say:

“Snakk til meg på norsk”

Further examination of  grave goods has resulted in archaeologists in Orkney reassessing the many gaming pieces, including dice, which are found in every warrior’s last resting place.

The Vikings loved gaming, be it the splendour of the Lewis chessmen or rudimentary gaming boards. What has been more difficult to interpret is what kinds of games they played. The Orkney News can reveal that we now know.

Johann Heinrich FüssliDean Brig a huge D&D expert has examined every gaming artefact found in Viking graves in the Northern isles. It transpires that Viking warriors were really into D&D. For those of you who may not know what that stands for it is in modern parlance Dungeons & Dragons gameplay.

For the Viking warriors, however, who dealt with dungeons, dragons and gigantic sea beasts as part of their daily routine, it would be no fun to yet again meet them in a game of fantasy.

The Viking version of D&D comprised of horrors only a warrior could expect to combat with in fantasy scenarios. Among the horrendous events the warriors had to deal with during  D&D games were:

  • Filling in tax returns after a hard 3 weeks of pillaging
  • Washing blood soaked knitted leggings
  • Washing blood soaked leather breeks
  • Washing blood soaked woollen tunics (without shrinking)
  • Removal of blood stains and bits of hair from axe
  • Returning home to wife and family with suitably chosen presents – shrunken heads, dragon claws, maidens tresses

Vikings loved their D&D games which allowed them to escape the reality of plunder, rapine and invasion by immersing themselves in the horrors of the mundane.

It is thanks to the sterling work of Dean Brig that we now have a better understanding of the hard life of these amazing warriors.

Reporter: Fergus Graemsay

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