Vikings weren’t always victorious. A raid on Córdoba failed, and the emir sent a gift of 200 Vikings’ heads to his Moroccan ally. Some of the vanquished Vikings converted to Islam and opened a successful cheese farm in Isla Menor!
But in 865, the Viking chieftain Hastings appeared at the mouth of the Thames with a new fleet of 80 ships just as “a big heathen horde,” according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, arrived elsewhere in England under Ivar the Boneless. “England under Attack From Vikings”.
Their immediate mission was to avenge a private grievance, the cruel death of their father Ragnar in a pit-full of snakes, but with Hasting’s fleet and other Danish private armies dotted around the country, the show took on the appearance of a concerted Danish conquest. The outcome was a Danish kingdom in England and the imposition of a stiff tax, Danegeld.
Ironically, Harald Bluetooth of Denmark (c. 910-85) was in turn obliged to prostrate himself. His bate noire was the crusading Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, a German, who could be appeased only by Harald’s submission to Christian baptism.
Most of Europe had been Christian for five centuries or more, but Scandinavia was not inclined to abandon paganism. Harald’s son and successor, Svein Forkbeard, brushed aside his father’s baptism as an aberration.
The Norwegian king Olav Tryggvason (c. 965-1000), a hell-raising pirate from the age of 12, was supposedly convinced by a wise hermit in the Scillies in England, but the methods he then employed to convert his subjects were pure Viking.
Sweden remained true to paganism by turning Christian missionaries into martyrs. Sacrifices in the golden temple at Uppsala continued into the last 11th century.
Other articles on Vikings:
1,000 Years of Viking Adventure, Denmark
Remarkable 1,000 Year-Old Relics
Viking Ship Design