Why did Ancient Vikings name their swords?

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belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Swords are actually a less-common Viking weapon; preferred weapons were spears and short knives. However, swords were carried by kings and other high-class Vikings, and were often named for their heritage, supposed magical qualities, or important events. These names allowed the weapon vast cultural significance, as well as cultural value; swords were passed down through generations. Names were often dramatic:

Gramr (Fierce), Grásíða (Grey-sides), Gunnlogi (Flame of Battle), Fotbitr (Foot-biter), Leggbir (Leg-biter), Kuernbut (Millstone-breaker), Skrofnung (Gnawer), Nadr (Viper), and Naegling (Hole-maker).

This type of name was said to give the sword immense power, drawing on the power of the trait, attributes, or history that it referenced. Names that referred to lineage or heritage could draw on the power of the entire heritage of its past; names that referred to animals, such as "Bear," could channel that animal's power during battle. While some warriors carried swords in battle, they were usually considered heirloom weapons, and the more pragmatic spears and axes were not often named. Named swords were also of great monetary value, and considered very important in the continuation and honor of a given family, clan, or dynasty.

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thetall's profile pic

thetall | (Level 3) Educator

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Vikings were known to be expert seafarers who traveled across the waterways to trade and at times lay siege to establishments along the coasts. Some of the weapons Vikings used include battle axes, swords, bows and arrows and the spear. Vikings used the sword as a weapon of honor. This is because close combat signified strength, boldness and courage. During their time the sword was an expensive weapon and although rare, it was one of the ultimate sign of a true warrior within the society. Among Vikings, swords were considered as part of the heirloom and status symbols. The swords were passed on from generation to generation and given names. The names of the swords were also seen to show relationships between different generations. The names were acquired by how the sword was used in battle or point to how it was made. The names given the sword also pointed to some mystical qualities of the weapon that could be channeled by the wielder during an encounter.

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