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Scandinavia around 500 AD-particularly Denmark and Sweden
wanted to be a vampire
heroesforghosts wrote in little_details
I’ve been trying to find some sources for information and I’ve found it to be really hard. If anyone knows any information or could send me in the right direction, it would be amazingly appreciated.

I’m looking for information about 500 AD Scandinavia. The basic background is that I’m working on a novel about Wealtheow, the queen of the Danes who was a member of the Wulfing clan. I can find stuff about Beowulf, of course, but not a lot about the actual society that Beowulf took place in. There’s a lot of stuff out there about Vikings but since that’s about three hundred years later that’s not much help either.

I’m mainly looking for background information, like attitudes towards sex and marriage. Would a peaceweaver be expected to be a virgin, what would be the repercussions of an extramarital affair, things along that line. Also, were the landscapes of Sweden and Denmark different from its current condition? I remember reading it wasn't as cold but I can’t remember where and find that again for the life of me.

Basically, if someone could point me in the direction of some sources about life in the 500’s, I would give them my first born.

You want to talk to SCA and other reenactment group people. Not all of them will be into Dark Ages stuff, but the ones who are know everything. I will see if I can scrounge up some links for you; my period tends to be 1500s England, but I've flirted with other stuff briefly and may have some helpful bookmarks.

Yeah, so all of what I have that's from that time period is Celtic and is in reference to how to make garb. Sorry. XD

You should check out the Havamal, aka King's Mirror, although it's a little later than your setting, it is the traditional law codes written down, including the definitions/degrees and punishments for rape or sexual misconduct.
One thing worth noting is that the culture along the coasts and fjords was much more homogenous, even across long distances, than inland groups that had less access and contact with others, because there were ships putting in along the coast all the time from other coastal areas. And the Wulfings were a coastal group, if I remember correctly.
Also, both the Arabs and the Byzantines wrote about the norsemen that came down into Russia and Constantinople, beginning about ninth century. Ibn Fadlans account of meeting them as a diplomat sent into Russia recorded a lot of details borne out by archeology- Charles Lamb translated it, and Michael Crichton turned it into a bestseller/movie.:)
Anna Commena's history has a lot of on Varangians too.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and other writings-Bede, etc. of that period cover the Norse influx into the British Isles, and the Icelandic sagas are pretty good for traditions-such as Harald Fairhair had several wives. You might also look into period accounts of Vortigern and the norse that came into Britain on his invitation, since that's right about the time period you're looking for.
PV Glob's Bog Bodies should have useful info too.
You can also check the archeological reports on places like Birka
Also, is an SCA resource that covers everything- It collects online discussions on every possible topic, as well as articles and links. There's a fair amount on Norse there.

The period of time you're referring to was during the Germanic Iron Age.

Therefore, I'd suggest researching that period of history in general. There was a lot of "cross-pollination" of society during this time, in that there was a lot of similarity in the way things were structured. I know more about Norway than Sweden and Denmark, in that until 9th Century, Norway was ruled by disjointed petty kings and clans and it wasn't until King Harald Fine-Hair conquered the country that it was united under one king.

Attitudes were very much the same then as in the later Viking Age, so you can probably use that as a good starting place so far as attitudes. Norway and Sweden were probably the most similar, to the point of being essentially interchangeable to a casual reader (unless you're really aiming to stand up to archaeological scrutiny beyond what might be needed for most readers of a novel). To get that level of detail forget the internet, you're better off contacting your local university's archaeology department and talking with a professor there to get some pointers as to what academic books to plunder. In general, however, I'd look in your library for books on the Germanic Iron Age.

A quick look on Amazon reveals "Iron-age Societies: From Tribe to State in Northern Europe, 500 A.D.700 (Social Archaeology)" and "Landscapes of Power, Landscapes of Conflict: State Formation in the South Scandinavian Iron Age (Fundamental Issues in Archaeology)" as possible academic books worth an investigation. The latter is pretty expensive so it might be worth seeing if you can get it from the library.

Hope some of that helps.

cambridge has a department of Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic- Norway, Denmark, and sweden includedThey probbably have a website, with at the very least a list of publications. Its worth looking into

I'm not sure how useful that will be though because ASNAC is a language course.

You don't happen to understand Swedish, do you? Cause if you do, I can scan some pages from my various history books for you to read.

The actual landscapes weren't any different AFAIK -- aside from the obvious stuff like buildings and farming lands and such, that is. But yes, according to several books, it was colder. Here's a quickly translated snippet about that: "The climate during the pre-roman iron age (roughly 500 B.C.) became colder and more humid in Denmark and the south of Scandinavia. This limited the possibility of agriculture and led to many people moving south, towards the present-day border of Germany."

I can read some Swedish but more importantly, my fiance is Swedish, so he can help out. I would love to look at anything you have! Thanks so much, really.

You could try emailing your question to Helen Damico (brief bio & email address here) - I'm sure she could point you in the right direction. =)

Unfortunately there isn't a whole lot of solid data available about the time and place you're trying to research. They didn't keep written records of any sort and the story of Beowulf itself was part of (a now long lost) oral tradition long before some unknown Christian scribe put it down on paper vellum. I'm sure there are archaeological extrapolations about life in that region, but that might be the best you can hope for. This gives you a lot of creative leeway but not much to reference. I'm sorry and I wish you the best of luck.

As said above, very little data because writing was not used. All written sourceds come from many centuries later, after Christianisation. Archaeology is difficult because the lifestyle changed so little. However, one thing that is known is that Roman type armour (particularly helments) became fashionable and Roman coins, often used as pendands, spread into the area even though it wasn't in the Roman sphere of influence. There are other finds too suggesting that Roman things were very much coveted as fashionable items for rulers.

I know that in Norway, that period in time (about 400 to 560/570) was called "folkevandringstiden" in Norwegian and "Völkerwanderung" in German, loosely translated to the "Migration period" or "the barbarian invasion". Maybe googling one of those terms will bring up something more...

Because of the hun's invasion of eastern Europe, a lot of refugees wandered west, as well as north while people from the North tended to wander south because of the climate changes. The result was a period of unrest, and close to where I live there are four "castles" from that time The "castles" are no more than primitive stone walls where villagers gathered to protect themselves from wandering who wanted their food or their life. But besides the stone walls, nothing from that period of time has survived.

Norwegian Wikipedia claims that there are some Latin texts from that period of time, mentioning amongst other things "De origine actibusque getarum" by Jordane, which is a shortened version of a lost text by Cassiodorus. It mentions the German tribes by name, according to the wiki-entry.

Another historian that might be interesting is Prokopios, a Greek guy who lived at the same time (around 500 AD). He wrote about the German wars.

Gregor of Tours is also mentioned, and there is supposedly some written accounts of the German tribes' laws, but I can't find any names connected to that text.

They also mention Snorre's sagas and the volungesaga, because although they were written in the 11th century, they are based on myths who might be as old as 500 years.

Link to the Norwegian wikipedia article:

Recent writers are getting very dubious about "migration period" and all its translations - archaeologically there really isn't much to show it. About the only thing I can think of is the spread of artificially formed crania and that could just have been a fashion.

If I were you I would look up scholarly articles on JSTOR or similar, or visit your local university library. Alexandra Hennessy Olsen wrote a fabulous paper on the role of Wealhtheow and other women of the Anglo-Saxon period - but of course, Beowulf was not a Danish poem, or even contemporaneous.

Sorry to reply so late, but it occured to me that you might find something in Saxo's writings.
Saxo Grammaticus wrote down the history of the Danes up until the 1100s. He wasn't a reliable and objective modern historian, and many of the stories he tells are mythical, but he probably didn't invent them either - the stories had most likely survied through an oral tradition for centuries when he wrote them down, so they might still prove useful.

The first of Saxo's books here:

Also, as far as I know, the Danish landscape has not changed significantly since the last ice age.


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