These are the 21 most famous Viking quotes… for use in every daily situation or event.
1) Fear not death, for the hour of your doom is set, and no one can escape it
The fearsome reputation of many Viking warriors preceded them. During their 3-4 century explosion onto the world map and history, the Vikings went down as some of the medieval ages' most fierce and fatalistic warriors.
Modern meaning: Don't fear facing any sort of challenge; don't live in the "shadows"
2) Wisdom is welcome wherever it comes from
Modern meaning: Never stop learning; always be open-minded and inquisitive.
3) Better to die with honor than live with shame
A Viking warrior's life and exploits would often be regaled by those that outlived them. All they could do was try and be as adventurous and brave as possible.
Modern meaning: Live life to the fullest, be adventurous, honest, and true.
4) He with a short knife must try, try again
Regardless of any personal circumstances or shortcomings, it is one's attitude that will determine much.
Modern meaning: If you don't succeed at first, try again and keep on trying until you succeed.
5) Eagles should show their claws, even when dying.
You should stand tall regardless of whatever situation you find yourself in.
Modern meaning: always be true to yourself.
6) Old friends are the last to break away
Somewhat surprising for many of these fierce Viking warriors, loyalty and friendship played a huge role in many Viking societies.
Modern meaning: cherish those precious, close and old relationships you have fostered.
7) Too much ale and a man's heart is laid open for all to see
As quoted in the Saga of Olaf Haraldsson, this slice of wisdom talks a lot about the drinking binges that Viking warriors would often undertake.
Modern meaning: You may say or do something you might regret under the influence of intoxicants.
8) Where wolf's ears are, wolf's teeth are near
A key quote from the Volsunga Saga. Wolves were a common sight in many Viking societies in Northern Europe, the Baltic region, and the Russian steppes.
Modern meaning: where there is smoke, there is fire.
9) Oftentimes, it is not the numbers that win the victory, but those that charge forward with the most vigor
In many battles and wars, Viking warriors often were outnumbered and faced more 'advanced' militaries, yet their fierce battling nature often won the day.
Modern meaning: Don't be intimidated by long odds. Have some self-belief.
10) Even in the sheath, the sword must be sharp
One should always take care of one's physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
Modern meaning: Take care and look after yourself.
The 10th Viking quote on our list: "Even in the sheath, the sword must be sharp" Photo: Jonathan Kemper / Unsplash
11) The thrall takes instance vengeance; the coward never
A thrall was, of course, a serf or a slave in many Viking societies. Cowardice was also particularly despised by such a patriarchal and masculine society present throughout most of the Viking world.
Modern meaning: Have some form of balance – know when to act and know when to exercise restraint.
12) When truth and fairness are different from the law, it is better to follow truth and fairness
Law and justice, somewhat surprisingly, were key features of Viking societies. In fact, a huge swathe of medieval England was ruled by "Danelaw," i.e., the law of the Danes (Viking warriors who had established rule there). More information on this can be found here.
Modern meaning: Always follow your moral compass.
13) Gold is little comfort for the kinsman dead
One of the reasons why Viking warriors took to the seas and raided much of the North Atlantic was to acquire treasure. However, a strict moral code saw human life be placed before any worldly possessions.
Modern meaning: Nothing is more valuable than human life.
14) When faring on journeys, ward yourself well. Take not the harbor near the highway for thereby dwell many ill wights for men's bewilderment
Given that many in the "Viking Age" traveled and traipsed not only all over Scandinavia but also everywhere, from modern-day Canada to the then grand city of Constantinople, travel was often seen as deadly and dangerous.
Modern meaning: Be careful when you are traveling. Don't do things or activities that will cause harm.
15) A wounded coward lies low
As quoted in the Saga of Thorstein Staff-struck. There was no greater shame for Viking warriors to be accused of cowardice.
Modern meaning: When you are struggling or battling with life, fight harder, give it your maximum potential.
16) Anyone who offends a powerful man can hardly expect to wear out many new shirts
A witty saying, especially as all clothes during the Viking Age were handmade and took some serious labor.
Modern meaning: Do not anger the wrong person/authority figures.
17) It may often be that those who live long are slain with words
Slights and arguments, which could often lead to dueling, were a common part of Viking warrior society.
Modern meaning: Sticks and sticks may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.
18) The King's Palace is an easy place to enter but a hard place to leave
A slice of wisdom that deals with the obsession that many in Viking societies had for power, privilege, and possessions.
Modern meaning: Don't covet possessions. Don't let money be your master. Do not be so materialistic.
19) A rotten branch will be found in every tree
Yggradrasil was the eternal green ash tree of life in Norse mythology. As such, trees were not only an important spiritual symbol but also a valuable resource…what do you think all those famous long boats were made of, after all?
Modern meaning: Nothing is perfect.
20) The cattle are like their master
Aside from the few young men who were warriors, the majority of people in Viking societies were farmers. Cattle were important livestock throughout much of Northern and Eastern Europe.
Modern meaning: Leaders and influencers breed followers – for better or worse.
21) Heil og sæl
The final famous Viking quote is now a common expression to greet people in Iceland today. Literally, it means "healthy and happy" and was a common Norse greeting throughout the Viking Age.
In Norway, however, the fascist Nasjonal Samling party tried (in vain) to enforce it as a common greeting during the Nazi occupation (1940 – 1945). It, therefore, has fascist and nationalist overtones if used in Norway.
Modern meaning: Be healthy and happy.
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