Famous Viking Sword
A modern day swordsmith recreates the ultimate weapon of ancient times — a sword that is both coveted and feared.
The Vikings were a ruthless group of warriors, and they carried one last weapon: a sword 1,000 years ahead of its time. But the secrets behind this amazing sword’s design, creation, and use have remained shrouded in mystery for centuries.
Now, thanks to a combination of modern science, archaeology and metallurgy, we have been able to recreate this Viking proto-sword that their warriors revered – the Ulfberht sword.
Secrets Of The Viking Sword
Crafting these swords was a game changing process; they were a high-tech blade as well as fashionably designed artwork. Considered by some to be one of the greatest blades ever, it remained an intimidating weapon more than 1,000 years after last being used for warfare.
But so far nobody has been able to find out exactly how this style with complex metal treatment spread around Medieval Europe. No one understands where or when they were first made either.
The Ulfberht sword is thought to have been produced between 800 and 1000 AD. The combination of strength, lightness and flexibility made it the perfect weapon for combating chaos during Viking battles.
Since Viking swords have been discovered thousands of times across Scandinavia and Northern Europe, most were found in rivers or excavated from burials. Out of the 171 items that are marked Ulfberht, only two thirds managed to stay intact long enough for archaeologists to dig them up more than 200 years ago.
What is Ulfberht
Ulfberht swords are all-steel swords from the Viking era with an inscription labeled “Ulfberht” or variants just below the center of the blade. Because Ulfberht is engraved into thick steel, it might have been hammered in using a chisel prior to cooling.
Several Ulfberht and Ingelrii swords are known in addition to the swords where there are inscriptions. The names “Ulfberht” and “Ingelrii” appear to be names, but they also bear symbols like those found on the other side of the blade.
Swords are all-steel swords from the Viking era that carry an inscription in big letters on their blades. The letters were mostly made from thin twisted rods, and hammered into the blade. They may have been banged in place by the smith after he shaped them – or more likely, they could have been hammered in first to form a shape then dropped back out as chisels cut out the shapes. Consult Mikko Moilanen’s article for details.
Besides Ulfberht swords, other Latin-named key words found on such blades include “Ingelrii” and one with an inscription of “in nomine domini.” Sometimes the blade is engraved with another word or symbol, including a series of asterisks.
Mysteries Of Ulfberht Swords
Visit the Ulfberht swords and discover how they were made — despite that fact that experts haven’t been able to solve them until this very day.
Swords were one of the most important and deadly weapons in medieval warfare. In an age before gunpowder, it was usually just as effective to stab someone with a hunk of steel than anything else you had at your disposal.
Some might believe that everyone was using swords during medieval times, but the truth is they would quickly run into a problem with this: money. Even if someone tried to equip an army with swords, there would be too much difficulty involved in obtaining them since it was expensive back then.
Depending on where you lived, a sword could cost about $1,200 to $24,000 in today’s money. Such swords were considered expensive. Of course it is difficult to translate the prices between medieval and modern times because their economies are so different. But essentially if you wanted a quality sword it wasn’t cheap.
The Ulfberht swords were like Ferraris in the time period, representing wealth and status. Finding one was difficult because they never existed on a big scale, meaning that not many were made to begin with and most no longer exist.
We have precious little information about who made these famous swords, but we do know that they were most likely created in the Kingdom of Francia (around modern-day France and Germany). Historically this area has generally been where the best swords are manufactured, which may well mean that Ulfberht “brand” blades would not only be some of the best examples produced there, but also some of the best in all francia.
These swords were known to be stronger, sharper, and more flexible than other types of metal which gave the user a huge advantage in battle. You could block an enemy’s sword without fear that your blade would shatter. And these blades would cut through any type of armour better than other traditional blades before it became fashionable in the era where warriors preferred mail coats as protection.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons between ancient European swords and lightsabers, and if anything, Ulfberht sword smithing is arguably more similar – they were centuries ahead of competitors carving out technologies we wouldn’t see again for hundreds of years (literally).
The secret to Ulfberht swords was the perfect distribution of carbon in their blades. Swords were made by mixing iron and carbon to produce steel. Too much carbon and the sword becomes brittle, too little, it will just bend. The Ulfberht managed to find that perfect balance and delivered sharper, more durable blades than their rivals. The methods used are still undetermined, but it is thought that they may have borrowed ideas from Arab sword makers to produce their famous “Damascus Steel.”
To make high quality steel, first heat the minerals iron and carbon in a crucible with trace amounts of other minerals. And getting these materials from as far as India was done because there were trade networks established during this period that spanned across the world.
The metal craftsmanship was high, with few impurities in the steel. The Ulfberht swords became famous and enriched those who created them.
Legendary Norse Mythology Swords
From ancient Germanic tribes to medieval Viking raiders, most Norse cultures have never shied away from war. This is reflected in their mythology as well as the weaponry of mythological figures who wielded these weapons. Most people can name a couple Nordic weapons but there are many more fascinating weapons that exist within Norse mythology. Here’s a look at 11 of the most renowned Norse mythological weapons.
This famous viking sword is named “A Stream of Anguish,” which accurately describes its story.
Angurvadal was a magical sword that carried runes carved into the blade. It shone brightly at times of war, and gleamed dimly at times of peace.
Frithiof tried to prove himself worthy of Ingeborg’s hand by going on a mission to Orkney. He managed to fight some battles in the region and succeeded in capturing King Ring in order to force him into giving up his daughter as an allied one day. However, while he was at sea returning home with his prize-winning king, they were betrayed and Frithiof lost both the battle and Ingeborg when she married her rapist.
Frithiof was sad and alone after being ignored by his father and the King Ring, so he left with Viking warriors to seek his fortune. After many years of battle and plunder in a distant land, Frithiof returned home to be reminded that old King Ring had died of old age still unmarried. The new king granted both the throne and Ingeborg’s hand to Frithiof.
One of the more mysterious objects in Norse mythology is a small, weapon-like wand. This steel sword/dagger, according to Fjölsvinnsmál, was kept in what would be the Scandinavian underworld – Hel- and was secured with nine locks.
In Norse mythology, Laevateinn is depicted as either a wooden staff or dagger. It has also been associated with the god of mischief Loki and Death. This has led some scholars to believe that Laevateinn may have been an arrow or dart invented by Loki which he used for killing the god of sun Baldr.
After Baldr’s death, the sun god was brought to an obscure location called Hel instead of Valhalla. This suggests that Laevateinn is more than just a weapon – it also has magical qualities which may have led to Baldr’s death. If this magical object caused Baldr’s death, then Laevateinn might be one of the most important objects in Norse mythology because his death started the chain of events leading up to Ragnarok.
Freyr’s Mysterious Sword
Frey’s sword first appears in Norse mythology as a unique weapon, like his sister Freyja. Like Freyja, Freyr is a fertility deity from the Vanir tribe of gods who originated outside of the Aesir standard pantheon—the two fertility twins are deities that were accepted by the Aesir but belong to the more peaceful and loving Vanir tribe of gods.
Although Freyr and Freyja may not have been well-armed, this does not mean that they weren’t. Both are quite capable fighters, Freyr even wields a powerful magical sword which has the ability to fly off his hand and fight on its own if he is wise enough to use it.
Freyr, a Vanir god, was invited by the Aesir gods to live in their hall. However he did not want to be too far from home and married Gerðr-a Jötnar goddess at the foot of Yggdrasil tree. A victorious Freyr, a Norse god who longed to win the heart of a beautiful giantess called Gerðr by exchanging love for her frightening views on human life, had to forfeit his magical sword in order to get what he desired. After forfeiting this blade and naming it Totsungur (“The Thing That Chops Into Pieces”) Skírnir presented the weapon back to its owner with these words: “Now you have obtained from one maiden as great a treasure as was ever given away before.” And so Freyr lived happily ever after reigning over Álfheimr – the realm of elves.
Freyr had to fight from time to time but could do so with a giant antler. With this he managed to defeat the giant or jötunn Beli. However, once Ragnarok began, Freyr fought using that same antler against the unbeatable and flaming jötunn Surtr as he led his flaming hordes into Asgard with his sword of fire. Freyr died in that battle and Asgard soon fell after.
Freyr’s magical sword, Laevateinn, may or may not be the name of a sword with sparse evidence to back up this theory.
The sword of King Hogni, dainslief or “Dain’s legacy” in Old Norse was crafted by the famous dwarven blacksmith Dain and had a very specific magic imbued in it.
The blade itself was cursed or enchanted depending on your perspective because every time it was drawn, it needed to take life. If the sword hadn’t claimed any lives yet, it could not be sheathed until one has been taken.
The sword Dainslief is capable of killing anyone with just a touch. It does not need to be poisoned or anything, instead the blade is so deadly that it kills its target instantly. This also means it cannot miss making contact and therefore cannot be dodged or blocked either.
All this makes it peculiar that Dainslief is the central figure in Hjaðningavíg, which tells of a never-ending battle between Hogni and his enemy Heoinn. The latter had abducted Hogni’s daughter, Hyldr. The story parallels the Greco-Trojan war created by Helen of Troy in Homer’s Iliad. There, though, the fighting ends eventually. But while the war between these two lasted forever—or at least until Ragnarök.
Skofnung, a sword belonging to the famous Norse king Hrólf Kraki, was very powerful like Dainslief. 2nd rewrite: Skofnung is one of the swords owned by King Hrolf Kraki. It was just as potent as Dainsleif, and so it possessed many supernatural properties.
One of Skofnungs properties was that it was impossibly sharp and powerful – never dulling and needed no sharpening. It also had the ability to produce wounds which would not heal unless they were treated with a special stone. Skofnung could also only be drawn when women are present or on Sundays, as sunlight is harmful to its hilt.
Skofnung was much more than just a blade forged by a skilled smith. Historical records show that the sword had been imbued with the souls of its 12 most loyal berserkers and bodyguards, making it one of the strongest magical weapons in Norse lore.
In Norse mythology, Heimdall is known as the watchman god. This Asrur god watches over Asgard and Bifrost—the rainbow bridge–for signs of intruders.
Heimdall led a lonely life in the beautiful Himinbjörg fortress atop Bifrost. From there Heimdall was able to see what was happening in all Nine Realms, which gave him a quality reflected in his sword, Hofund. When he might be attacked with other powers and energies from across the Nine Realms – Heimdall could draw upon that power too and “supercharge” Hofund to make it even more powerful and deadly than it already is.
Due to his loneliness, Heimdall rarely fought anyone. However when Loki attacked Thor with the Frost Jötunn and Surtur charged towards him with the Fire Jötunn he had no choice but to fight them back. The first one to get in their way was Heimdall who started by using Hofund against Loki, which resulted in all three of them dying.
Tyrfing was a legendary sword, made to never stay sheathed until it had taken a life. This meant that like Dainslief, it would be cursed to not corrode or rust for its entire lifetime (compared to Dainslief which corroded and rusted). In addition to this power, Tyrfing possessed the ability of being able to cut through stone and iron as if they were cloth or flesh (more powerfully than Daineslf). The final enchantment added was that every strike must be on target – harder than with most swords in lore.
The sword in the scabbard was made by Svafriami, king of Tyrfing, who succeeded in capturing Dvalinn and Durin, two dwarves. The two dwarven blacksmiths cursed the blade so that it would cause three great evils to happen before killing its maker.
After the dwarves confessed their crime to the king, he became angry and tried to kill them, but they fled into a rock fissure before he could slay them. With his blade plunged up to its hilt in solid stone, it was impossible for him to reach two hidden dwarves already buried deep below ground.
King Svafriami had won a lot of battles with his sword, Tyrfing. But the berserker Arngrim managed to take the blade away from him and kill him in its single blow. The sword was then wielded by Arngrim and his twelve brothers who were all eventually killed by Hjalmar armored in steel, but Arngrim struck first. Hjalmar was wounded mortally with Svafriami’s sword despite wearing armor that can’t be pierced by iron, this proves there are some swords which can cut through anything – including invulnerability
King Svafriami conquered many battles using Tyrfing until he was killed by warrior Arngrim who took it away from him and dealt a fatal
The second event was strange and made some people afraid. It’s called Tyrfing because it’s a cursed weapon from the Norse mythological period. The sword went to Heidrek, grandson of Arngrim, who unthinkingly unsheathed it for everyone to see – for his brother Angantyr as well as all their menfolk- without thinking about what might happen in an area full of so many living things. As soon as he pulled the blade from its sheath, it took over control and when told that blood had to be shed before the blade would again return into its scabbard, he killed his brother with one stroke even though neither knew anything about these curses until after this deed was done.
The final victory for evil was the death from his own weapon of Heidrek, who was stabbed by eight mounted thralls in the tent while he travelled.
Norse mythology features many weapon-related tales, all of which are associated with the glory and excitement that is often found in Norse war.
But, like so many modern companies today, the Ulfberht brand was quickly beset with competitors. Hoping to capitalize on the success of the Ulfberht brand, other forgers created knock-off swords that used inferior materials and poorly constructed blades. And since people purchasing these swords were relying on them for battle, this had deadly consequences.
Ulfberht is a Frankish name, which might imply that the original inventor was also a man. However since these swords were made for roughly 200 years, he certainly wasn’t the only manufacturer.
Meaningful pieces of history have been hard to uncover for archeologists, who are still baffled by the origin of mythical Ulfberht swords.