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What is the greatest symbol of the Viking people?
No, not the horned helmets. The Vikings didn't actually wear horned helmets. What? No, no, not the longships. Well, sort of the longships, but that't not what I'm getting at here. Yes, right, the spectacled helmets were pretty popular, too. True. But what I meant was ... What's that? Oh, right, right, the axes were a pretty defining characterisic, yes, right you are, but ... oh, correct, of course the lobed swords were a big part of the Viking mystique ... but ... ALL RIGHT! KNOCK IT OFF! Go ahead and ruin my lead. I hope you miscreants are happy. I guess you would prefer this, then?
Shields were very important to the Vikings. They used them often and well. They really liked their shields. I like Viking shields, too. I hope someone buys me a Viking shield for Christmas.
Not very exciting is it? Then for Odin's sake, just play along, will you? You already know what the page is about, so stop trying to ruin it.
(Editor's note: Our writer has taken a much needed vacation. His doctor's tell us he should be fine very soon. And he has sent back the rest of this description from his hospital room. Enjoy.)
This viking shield is a wonderful and accurate replica of an early Viking shield. Made from thick, stained hardwood, the shield is probably stronger than the actualy shields made in the 8th and 9th centuries.
It's most prominent feature is the steel rim, a feature that was found in only the most extravagant of Viking shields (and a most effective one I might add. And, while I'm adding things, please, please help me, they keep me strapped to the bed here for 12 hours a day and feed me all sorts of strange medications. Please, contact my lawyer at ... oh no, here she comes... Ahem...) So, Viking shields. Very very impressive those Vikings shields. Whoo weee. I'm just sitting here writing about Viking shields. Hello Nurse!
The shield also features a historically accurate steel boss on the front, used by the Vikings to protect their hands against blows that made it through the wood of the shield. The pointed shape of the boss would have been ideal for deflecting swords, spears and axes.
The shield features steel reinforcements along the boss for more durability and strength. The back of the shield is lined with a thick felt for comfort and to prevent scuffing and scratching if you choose to mount it on a wall. A strong leather arm strap ensures a firm grip and a securely bolted wood handle lines your hand up with the boss.
Brilliantly designed and masterfully crafted, this Viking shield will outlive you and your children if cared for.
Materials: Polished and stained hardwood. Felt backing. Leather arm strap and securely fastened wood hand grip. Steel boss,rim and reinforcements.
Size: 29 inches in diameter. 1/2 inch thick.
Some Monks in England were walking around on their Island at Lindisfarne more than 1,000 years ago, doing monk-type things (chanting and slamming books into their foreheads, I believe) when some strange ships were spotted in the distance.
The monks and many of the island residents wandered to the shore to greet the strangers. I can only imagine that they were smiling and waving to their new, heavily armored friends. Their new friends smiled back. And they waved, although it was battle axes and swords, not hands.
This was the first recorded encounter between the English and the Vikings, and it didn't involve trading beads and planting corn, mind you. Most of the residents of the Holy Island were slaughtered and everything of value was looted. The Vikings made it very clear from the start that they weren't interested in a happy, warm-and-fuzzy, symbiotic, "let's grow together" type of relationship.
Things didn't get easier for the English after that. Or for the rest of the world for that matter. The Vikings went on a three hundred year shopping spree in the home towns of their enemies, burning, looting and raping (in the early years, the Vikings did it in that order, which proved a little rough for them. The chronology was reversed after a few bad outings, though).
What made the Vikings so formidable? Well, their lightning fast ships were one. Their superior fighting skills and masterfully crafted weapons and armor were another. But it was the shields of the Vikings that truly symbolized their people. Whether the shields were hung on the rails of their longships or thrust forward in battle, they were always present and arguably the most important part of a Viking's war gear.
Viking Shields were made of the stoutest wood that could be found (although usually this was spruce, firs or other conifers). It is rumored that they used laminated wood to give the shields strength and often used leather on the rims to provide additional strength. Particularly well made shields featured iron or steel rims.
Viking shields were often painted with topically important symbols or designs, and though this looked quite cool, aesthetics wasn't the primary purpose of the designs. You see, wood, as any beaver knows, has grain. And if you've ever split wood, you know that it's a heck of a lot easier to split with the grain. Well, it seems the enemies of the Vikings' had done a fair amount of wood splitting. They would strike the shield with the grain, making it much easier to turn said shield into firewood. Although the Vikings appreciated firewood more than most, they prefered to take it from the homes of their enemies, not from the tattered remains of their shields. So, they painted the shields to disguise this grain.
Early Viking shields were designed with large steel bosses on the front (bosses as in the round steel cap type, not the guy who fires you type). These bosses protected the hand when your shield was turned into firewood (See above paragraph).
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The pollaxe (or polaxe, or poleaxe) became popular in the 14th and 15th centuries, during the golden age of plate mail. Armor became so strong during this time that it became really, really difficult to actually kill anyone (well, anyone of importance, right?). So the polaxe was created. A long shaft, crowned with a steel head that featured an axe-blade on one side and a spike or hammer-head on the other. And usually with another spike at the top, just to make it deadly from any angle.