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Ivar The Viking


Paul Du Chaillu





My Dear Childs.- Years of our unbroken friendship, going back more than a quarter of a century, have passed away, and the recollection of all your kindnesses during that time comes vividly before my mind. Many a time your home in Philadelphia, at the sea-side, or at Wootton has been my home, and many of the happy days of my life have been spent with you and your kind wife. Three years ago I lay on a sick-bed at your house, and all that tender nursing, the skill of the physician, and loving hands could do that winter was done for me, and for all that I am indebted to you and to Mrs. Childs. Now a twenty miles' walk day after day does not fatigue me. "Ivar the Viking"was partly written, after my recovery, under the shade trees of Wootton and in the midst of the perfume of its flowers. To you, my dear old friend, I dedicate the book as a token of the esteem and high regard I have for your noble character, and in grateful remembrance of all you have done for me.


New York, September, 1893






The story of "Ivar the Viking "depicts the actual life of Norse chiefs who ruled at the period therein described, and also gives the customs, religion, life, and mode of thinking which prevailed among the people. My object in writing this story is to give a view, in a popular way, of the life of these early ancestors of the English-speaking peoples, whose seat of power was on the islands situated in the basin of the Baltic and the countries known to-day as Scandinavia.


The reader of this volume will gain a correct idea of the civilization of the Norsemen of that period, the men who came to the gates of Rome, and settled in Britain, Gaul, Germania, on the shores of the Mediterranean, and other countries.


I begin the story of my hero with his birth, accompanied by the characteristic ceremonies attending it; then I tell of his fostering, his education, his coming of age, of the precepts of wisdom he is taught, of his foster-brothers, of the sacred ceremony of foster-brotherhood, of his warlike expeditions and commercial voyages, of the death and funeral of his father, of his accession to rule, and other similarly typical Viking events.


I speak in the narrative of the dwellings of the people, how they lived, of their "bys", or burgs; of the different grades making up society, of their feasts, of their temples, of their worship, religious ceremonies, and sacrifices, of funerals, of Amazons, of athletic games, of women and maidens, of love, of duels and sports, of dress, of men and women, of marriages. In a word, the book is a life-like picture of the period. The time which I have chosen is the epoch when the Norsemen were most surely and swiftly sapping the power of Rome, and engaged in colonization

on the largest scale.


There is not an object, a jewel, either Norse, Roman, or Greek, or a coin mentioned, that has not been found in the present Scandinavia, and is not seen to-day in its museums, and often in great numbers.


The descriptions of customs interwoven in the narrative are derived from authentic records, the sagas, the evidence of graves, and of antiquities in general. These are more fully, scientifically, and technically described in my work published three years ago, "The Viking Age".


The descriptions of dresses of the women have been most carefully drawn from the sagas, and from the handles of three keys seen in "The Viking Age", where three women in full dress are represented. The materials and jewels with which I have adorned them are those found in their graves. The attire of the men is from the garments, weapons, and ornaments of that early period, found in graves and bogs, and from descriptions in the sagas.


"The Viking Age" had hardly been published in England, when a storm of protests and adverse criticisms arose from many quarters of that conservative country; for it is there that the old belief in the Angle and Anglo-Saxon descent of the modern English-speaking peoples is most rooted, having indeed become a religion with many Englishmen.


I fully expected opposition to the new views I propounded. Had not my former accounts of African travels been received with incredulity? Did not the people laugh when I told that I had seen a race of pigmies and been in their villages? Did they not doubt my descriptions of the great equatorial forest, of gorillas, cannibals, etc.? I was before the time. I was too young; and these circumstances were against me. But then, as in the case of "The Viking Age", I found warm supporters and defenders in England itself.


I knew that it was bold on my part to attack the Saxon idol, which had been worshipped so long among Englishmen, and to try to destroy the faith in which they and their fathers had believed. Was the glorious Anglo-Saxon name, which the people had been shouting for so long, even in America, to be overthrown? What then, would become of the sturdy qualities claimed as inherited from the so-called Anglo-Saxon race? The qualities are there, only the name of Anglo-Saxon ought to be changed to that of Norse.


Nothing but absolute conviction made me take this bold step. I had never been satisfied with the assertions of historians, and could see no evidence in their writings for the conclusions at which they had arrived in regard to the name Anglo-Saxon and as to who were the conquerors and settlers of Britain.


When I traveled in the Norse lands, to the northern part of which I gave the name of "The Land of the Midnight Sun", a name which has been generally adopted since, I became convinced that the conquerors of Britain were Norse, for while visiting their museums, which contained the Norse antiquities, I saw that these objects were the same as those called in England by antiquarians, Angle, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Roman, and in France, Frankish. These facts set me thinking, and ultimately produced "The Viking Age".


As soon as I brought before the public the evidence I had collected, many voices rose and exclaimed: "Woe to him who tries to dispel our belief and destroy our faith!" The world is full of such examples in the treatment of new ideas. How could I escape hostility when I proclaimed that the antiquities called in England by archaeologists and others, and classified in the museums as Angle, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Roman, are Norse, consequently that the ancestors of the English-speaking people are from the basin of the Baltic and present Scandinavia, and that it is only there that one sees the antiquities of a most warlike and sea-faring race of the period of the so-called Saxon maritime expeditions?


Many apply the name of Anglo-Saxon to the people who settled in Britain, without knowing why, except that they had been taught to believe it from their school and college days, or because the majority believes so. I maintain that the earlier England, popularly placed at the southern part of the peninsula of Jutland, is mythical; that such antiquities pointed out as Angle are not found there; that the word "eng "(Swedish ang) is a common appellation all over Scandinavia; that "England", or "ang land", to this day, is the name given to flat, grassy land by the Norse

people, as it was in earlier times. The probability is, that the Norsemen, seeing the flat shores of Britain on the North Sea, called it "England", or Land of Meadows; and the people, in the course of time, were called meadow-men, as we say mountaineers, in speaking of people inhabiting mountainous regions.


Some of my critics took up the question of language. The reason they gave for not agreeing with me was, that the English had the definite article "the", and the Icelandic saga-writings did not possess it; this was, according to them, the most positive proof that the earlier English people were not Norse. One might as well have argued that the French language was not derived in great part from the Latin, as it has the definite article, and the Latin had not. Who can ever tell when the definite article was dropped or added in those languages?


I never expected that the appearance of "The Viking Age" would convert to my views men who had spent their lives in trying to prove, or in maintaining the belief in, the Anglo-Saxon myth, and who believed in the diffuse, contradictory, and often incomprehensible writings of Bede and Nennius, or in the earlier English chronicles, the authorship of which cannot be traced. But I have often wondered why no one has compared thoroughly the Norse archaeology of that period with that of Britain, which is claimed as that of the Angle, Anglo-Saxon, as being the early settlers of Britain; and the only reason I could discover that anyone had for calling these antiquities by

those names was because of blind confidence that these settlers were what the historians claimed them to be.


Those who cling to the Anglo-Saxon belief point to here and there a few graves in the ancient Friesland, similar to those found in England, as a proof that the earlier settlers of Britain did not come from the Baltic. As if it were

possible that none of these Norsemen, who used to visit Friesland as far back as before the time of Tacitus, could have failed to die there during several centuries! They forget, also, that the Romans never mentioned the people of that country as sea faring. On the contrary, the maritime tribes that harassed them "were living on the most northern shores of the sea in the ocean itself." The antiquities left by these sea-faring tribes are those that must give us light on the subject.


One might just as well assert one thousand years from now that the people of English descent of the present time living at the Cape of Good Hope were the ones that held sway over India, because they were nearer than England to India, or that the solitary graves or little English cemeteries found between England and India were those of the people who governed India. A little more research would prove to them that the great seat of power was in England. We learn from archaeology where Egypt, Greece, Rome, and many other fallen empires held their sway.

So we may know, from the traces left, where the Norsemen held theirs also, and that nowhere did they hold it more firmly than in Britain.


The controversy, to me, seems very plain. I have maintained in "The Viking Age", and shall continue to do so, until I am shown to be mistaken, that: It is in the basin of the Baltic, and in the Norse lands, that we see incontestable proofs as to who were the sea-faring people whom the Romans called first Sueones and then Saxons, as shown by the tens of thousands of graves of that period still existing; that these graves and their antiquities are the same, and of the same type, as those of a similar period in England; that in these Norse graves a great many Roman

coins of gold and silver, and many Roman and Greek objects are found, showing that these sea-faring people had intercourse with Rome, Greece, and the Mediterranean. Nay, do not the coins antedating the Roman Empire, when patrician families of Rome coined their own money, tell the tale of how early Norsemen went into the Mediterranean? Are not Norse graves often seen on its shores, by the side of the graves of the Etruscans?


I also maintain that neither at the mouth of the Elbe, nor anywhere else out of the Norse lands, do we see the remains of a dense, warlike, and maritime population a population which has left traces in the number of its graves far greater than has Rome itself.


How could the host miscalled Saxon by the later Romans, which overran Europe, till the downfall of the empire, for four centuries, avoid leaving such traces? Their population must have been very dense in order to allow them to send forth such vast fleets to fight and conquer the Romans. How is it that the Saxons, whom we know as Saxons, were not a sea-faring people in the time of Charlemagne, as we know they were not? Simply because they never had been. How is it that in Charlemagne's time, on the other hand, the Sueones who must have been the Saxons of the later Romans were dreaded by him as powerful at sea, just as they are described by Tacitus?


Have not the races which have disappeared in America or elsewhere left traces, and must we make an exception of the so-called Saxons of the Romans? This would be against the evidence of everything before us.


It is by comparing the graves and antiquities of the Norse lands with those of England that we have the proof that the early settlers of Britain were Norsemen. The scene in this volume, of Ivar going to visit his kinsmen on the

banks of the River Cam, in England, has been described, because there is a cemetery there whose antiquities show its Norse origin, and the Roman coins buried with them, of Trajanus, 98-117 A.D.; of Hadrianus, 1 17-138; Faustina, wife of Antoninus Pius, 138-161; Marcus Aurelius, 161-180; of Maximianus, 286-305, show how early Norse settlements began.


What are the objects found in that cemetery, and described in the beautiful work of the Honorable R. C. Neville, "Saxon Obsequies, Illustrated by Ornaments and Weapons Discovered in a Cemetery near Little Wilbraham, Cambridgeshire", printed in 1852? Swords, axes, umbos, cinerary urns with burned bones, wooden buckets

with bronze hoops, bronze tweezers, spear and arrow heads of iron, ear picks, iron knives, iron shears, brooches, beads of glass, and other material fired by cremation.


I will quote the words of Mr. Neville himself: "That so large a number of urns containing human remains should have been discovered in conjunction with skeletons, affords a remarkably satisfactory confirmation of the coexistence of these two modes of burial. My experience enables me to state with confidence that the urns now discovered differ entirely from any [Roman] I had before encountered, and resemble closely those usually met with in Anglo-Saxon burying-grounds, etc."


If the reader opens "The Viking Age", and looks over its thirteen hundred and sixty illustrations, he will see the same objects as those described and illustrated by Mr. Neville, and the same descriptions of graves.


It is time that the views of antiquarians and historians of the old school should be entirely set aside or remodeled; and that the old England, placed popularly as existing in the southern part of the peninsula of Jutland, and comprising a territory of a few square miles, be considered a myth that had no reality, except in the brain of its inventors. When I say that the antiquities found in England are the same and of the same type as those found in the Norse lands, I call this a fact and not a theory; and when I say also that these are not found in the Saxon lands, I call this a fact and not a theory. When I say that the antiquities found in England are not found in the so-called earlier England of the historian, I call this a fact and not a theory; and if I am wrong it can be easily disproved.


But let me add, that after the appearance of "The Viking Age", everybody was far from being against me in England. I found there many adherents to my views, and some even went so far as to write to me, that after the publication of the work, and upon seeing its illustrations, they did not believe that Stonehenge was Druidical,

but was simply of Norse origin, for there were many graves containing Viking remains in the country round about.


The Roman records are correct. No countries but the islands of the Baltic and Scandinavia correspond to their description. It is there that we find a great number of Roman objects. Coins are there found from the time of the foundation of the empire those of Augustus 29 B. c. to 14 A. D., of Tiberius 14-37, Claudius 41-54; then in increased number those of Nero 54-68, Vitellius 69, Vespasian 69-79, of Titus 79-81; in still greater number those of Trajan 98-117, Antoninus Pius 1 38-161, of Faustina the elder, wife of Antoninus Pius, of Marcus Aurelius 161-180, of Faustina his wife, of Commodus 180-192; then in decreasing quantities the coins of the subsequent emperors. By the side of these coins and other Roman objects are Norse objects, and these Norse objects are, as I have said, similar to those found in the England of a corresponding period. The mode of burial is also identical in both countries. These facts tell plainly who were the people who settled in Britain before and after the time of Ivar the Viking and of the Roman occupation.


While the controversy was going on in England, knowing the receptive and impartial mind of Mr. Gladstone, and having been several times the recipient, in years past, of his kind hospitality, and remembering the interest he had taken in my African travels, I took the liberty of addressing to him a request for his opinion in regard to the position I had taken. Mr. Gladstone, who was then in Oxford for the purpose of delivering a lecture on Homer, replied the same day. I append his letter:


Dear Mr. Du Chaillu:


You have done me great honour by appealing to me, but I fear your appeal is to a person prepossessed and ignorant.


My prepossessions are on your side. But I have not yet been able, although very desirous, to examine the argument on your side as it deserves, nor that of your adversaries.


I am a man of Scotch blood only, half Highland, and half Lowland, near the Border. A branch of my family settled in

Scandinavia, in the first half, I think, of the seventeenth century.


When I have been in Norway, or Denmark, or among Scandinavians, I have felt something like a cry of nature from within, asserting (credibly or otherwise) my nearness to them. In Norway I have never felt as if in a foreign country; and this, I have learned, is a very common experience with British travelers.


The love of freedom in combination with settled order, which we hope is characteristic of this country, is, I apprehend, markedly characteristic of Norway and of Denmark. I have not spoken of Sweden, simply because I have not been there.


The ethnography of northern and insular Scotland, down even to the Isle of Man, and the history, seem to show a very broad and durable connection.


Still I cannot call these more than feeble generalities. I earnestly hope, when I am a little more free, that I may be able to get some real hold of the subject.


I think a good deal of the argument suggested by our fishing population, and by the curious persistency with which, in some districts, Scandinavian terminations have been preserved.

Yours faithfully,


W. E. Gladstone.



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