Viking Law: Don’t Mess Around Because the Vikings Had a Thing for It

Image of Viking Law modern reconstruction of Viking Law Viking Thing

Saying that the Viking age was the very early cradle of the democracy is nothing wrong. In the days of the Vikings, there were no Parliament or High Courts. Instead, they had the Thing the very medieval form of the modern court. The Viking Thing was kind of the presentation of Viking Law where people would gather to make decisions over an event.

Don’t mess around because the Vikings had a Thing for it

In Old Norse language, “Thing” means “assembly”. It was the event when the free men would gather around, hearing and sometimes discussing with the chieftains about some matters. Nearly all people in the community regardless of gender and work could join the Thing.

Image of Viking Law Viking Thing in the Viking age
Viking always had a Thing for it

The Vikings would held the Thing at specific and regular time and it often lasted for days. Every time the Thing took place, there would be a law speaker who used his memory to recite the law of that community. Because it was by words and memory, the law might be different from places to places. Although all free men could join and voice their opinions during the Thing, all important decisions would be made by the chieftains. Because whoever dared to disobey what the chieftain or king wanted would end up nowhere. And when they voiced their opinion that the chieftain found it offensive, they put an end to their family’s living. So the Viking Thing was primarily a chieftain-orientated court.

The Viking Law allowed the killing as long as it was public and the killer was honest

In the Viking law, they could revenge for their loss of the beloved ones. If you were a Viking and you killed a man in the public still giving them the chance to react, you would experience no serious consequences. You might have to pay a small amount of money. As long as you faced the responsibility and pay the money for the loss of the victim’s family, no blood was shed.

Image of the Viking thing Viking law
The Vikings could kill for revenge as long as they did it in public and was honest and willing to burden the responsibility

There were levels for the one who stood the court. They might be charged with a fine, the least severe punishment. Or they might be declared semi-outlawed and the most severe was fully outlawed. To be a fully-outlawed person meant he/she could no longer live with the community. They had to move to isolate land and no support could reach them, even the support from family.

If a man found his wife on bed with her fella, he could kill the fella on the spot. But he had to show the chieftain at the Thing the evidence of the love affair. For example, if he killed the fella on the bed, he must provide the evidence like the bloody bed-sheet. Failing to do so, he would have to pay for the family of the victim an amount of the money. He would not face any deadly punishment because he was honest to confess to his killing deed.

Leave a Reply