Our Little Viking Cousin of Long Ago - C. H. Johnston

A True Viking Must Be a Farmer

as Well as a Warrior

The boys clapped their hands, gleefully, when Lothair had finished his story.

"My," said Eric. "Wasn't Loki a crafty fellow, though?"

Thorwald laughed.

"But, boys," said he, "you must now continue your lessons, for, if you are to be true Vikings, you must learn not only to be warriors, but also to be farmers, builders of houses, and fishermen. An old Skald has sung:

"'You must learn to tame oxen,

And till the ground,

To timber houses,

And build barns,

To make carts,

And form plows.'

"All of our warriors, and even our mighty chieftains, must lay aside their weapons and work in the fields side by side with their thralls, or men, in sowing, reaping, and threshing. Even Kings must help their men cut the golden grain. All work is an honorable deed."

"We will be glad to work," said Biarne. "We wish to be true Vikings."

"You must learn how to thresh wheat," continued Thorwald. "If our crops fail there is great distress in the land."

"Have you heard the story of Helgi," interrupted Lothair, "and how he escaped from his enemies?"

"No, no, tell it to us," said both the boys.

"Once a man named Helgi disguised himself as a woman thrall in order to escape from his enemies," Lothair began. "In vain his enemies searched for him; Helgi was nowhere to be found. At length, as they looked for him far and wide, his enemies came to a barn in which was a hand mill for grinding corn. A tall, strongly built woman was turning the handle, but she worked very violently, so that the mill stones cracked and the barn was shattered to pieces, as fragments of the stone flew hither and thither.

"'Ah, ha!' said Helgi's enemies. 'This corn grinder is too vigorous to be a woman.'

"Then they pounced upon her, saying: 'More suited to these hands is the sword-hilt than the handle of the mill.'

"Helgi indeed it was. Helgi who had disguised himself as a female thrall. But—would you believe it—with the quick humor which, at times, steals over all of our people, Helgi's enemies forgot to punish him, as they laughed together over his disguise. 'Ha! Ha! Ha!' laughed they. 'His strength was too great for the disguise of a woman!'

"Now, come on, boys," said Thorwald. "We will go out and will first plant some corn. Then you shall help me to start the building of a house."

The Norsemen built their own houses, for they were carpenters as well as warriors and farmers.

The boys went out into a field nearby, were given some oats, in sacks, and were soon busy in sowing it over the ground.

After they had done this for some time they were given some carpenter tools and were instructed by Thorwald in the methods of building a house.

Many of the houses of the Vikings had only one room. The side walls were long and low, with neither windows nor doors. The entrance was at the gable end, where a small door opened into a tiny vestibule. Through this one stepped into the large living-room, or hall.

The windows were merely open spaces between the beams which formed the roof of the house. There were wooden shutters outside.

A hole was left above the center of the room by which the smoke from the fire escaped. The Norsemen had no chimneys in their dwellings. The floor was made of clay, beaten hard; while the hearth was formed by placing several large, flat stones on the center of the clay floor. Here the fire blazed merrily away, while the smoke escaped through the hole in the roof. Benches, which were often used as beds, were fixed to the walls.

A few chests were sometimes provided, in which were kept the household treasures, although many of the Vikings placed their jewels, their silver, and their gold in a large copper box, or a large horn; then, digging a hole in the earth, they would bury their treasure, marking the spot with a stone, or by some sign known only to themselves.

Thorwald dressed in gay colors, for the Norsemen loved bright clothing. His kirtle, or coat, of blue, was held together by a waist belt. Over the kirtle was flung a scarlet cloak, fastened at the shoulder with a buckle, which was of gold, studded with gems.

"Now, boys," said he, "you must work away at carpentry, so that you can build houses as well as the best of the Vikings. After awhile you will be noble warriors and great men."

Eric lay down his saw and his hammer.

"I am tired of this kind of work," said he to Biarne. "I'd rather have some adventure and some excitement in life. Oh, for another hunt!"

"Yes," answered Biarne. "Another hunt, or a fight. This life is too tame."

They were soon to have plenty of adventure.