Why did Vikings name their swords?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Swords in the Viking Age (the late eighth to the eleventh century) were very expensive and difficult to make and thus relatively rare. Usually, therefore, swords were used mainly by kings and Vikings of high status. Vikings believed that the man and the sword became one and that each gave...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Swords in the Viking Age (the late eighth to the eleventh century) were very expensive and difficult to make and thus relatively rare. Usually, therefore, swords were used mainly by kings and Vikings of high status. Vikings believed that the man and the sword became one and that each gave power to the other.

The names that Vikings gave their swords were often passed down from their fathers, and these names would allude to the physical character or supposed magical qualities of the sword. A sword, therefore, might be named Gramr, meaning fierce; Leggbitr, meaning leg-biter; or Gunnlogi, meaning battle or war flame. Sometimes the Vikings named their swords after animals or celebrated ancestors.

It was generally believed that by naming the sword, one could summon the qualities, spirit, or heritage of that name in battle, so if a sword was named after an ancestor, for example, the owner of the sword could summon the spirit of that ancestor in battle. If the sword was named after an animal, like a bear, the owner of the sword could summon the strength and ferocity of a bear.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Vikings named their swords because they were a status symbol and carried religious connotations.  Swords became part of the Vikings' family heritage and were passed down through generations.

The Viking culture required all men to be armed.  The most common weapon was a spear.  Swords were expensive and, therefore, a status symbol of wealth.  Vikings named them as one would name a member of the family.  
Swords also carried religious significance to the Vikings.  The only way to Valhalla, the Viking paradise, was to die in battle.  The sword was, in essence, the key to Valhalla.  The Vikings believed that naming it would give the sword the power of an ancestor or spirit animal.  A family sword would carry the strength of all members of the family with it, giving courage and strength to the wielder.

The cost and spiritual connection to the sword made it valuable.  It was financially valuable, but perhaps more so it was spiritually valuable.  Anything of such value deserves a name.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team