Swords may not have been the most common weapon in use by the Vikings, but it was by far the most prestigious one.When it came to quality, the cost was such that it was only in power of the wealthy Vikings to buy them.
Due to the high price, they were often used as gifts from chieftains or kings to “verðlauna” good followers. To the owners, they were one of their most precious possession and often given names.
The earliest types were single bladed, but in the latter part of the Viking era, they were double bladed.
They were typically made of two main parts. The blade and the hilt, where the hilt then was usually divided into the guard, grip and the pommel.
Sometimes they were decorated, but normally they were not. When it came to decorations, the hilt was usually the decorated part, were the different use of metal, such as silver and copper.
Some swords have been found with the so called ULFBERT engraving which was a sign of quality. The ULFBERTs were a Frankish production of high quality. With the use of these by the Vikings, the Frankish king Charles the Bald forbade their export.
The wearing of the Viking swords
The swords were usually worn in a scabbard that hung from the waist. The scabbard was usually made of wood and clad on the inside with woven fabric and leather on the outside.
At the end of the scabbard there usually was a protection called shoe or “döggskór”. Archaeological finds show that shoes made of metal were more common in Sweden and the Baltic, with wood or bone more common in Norway and Iceland.
The Vikings wore their swords on more occasions than just when fighting. It was common for well off Vikings to carry theirs in public, during festivities and even when participating in parliamentary sessions, though the swords were never worn inside the save haven (innan vébanda).