Okay, I’ve been talking about a lot of serious stuff lately. But a reader asked me what’s wrong with horns on Viking helmets. You guys who know the history behind it can just go elsewhere if you’re too bored, but for you folks who don’t know martial arts or history, (or willing to bear with me), I can explain.
What’s Wrong with Horns on Viking Helmets?
When we’re talking northern peoples, they never wore horns on their helmets when it came to battle. (There might have been ceremonial helmets, but honestly, no. Just, no.) The whole horned Viking started in the 1870s when (and I quote from Wikipedia):
…Carl Emil Doepler created horned helmets for the first Bayreuth Festival production of Wagner‘s Der Ring des Nibelungen, which has been credited with inspiring this, even though the opera was set in Germany, not Scandinavia…
So, the whole horns on Viking helmets was made up in the late 1800s, and is not factually correct.
Let’s Talk Battle, Shall We?
I’ve been trained in at least four different martial arts. Three happen to be Asian (with a smattering of weapons). The fourth is European long sword. When fighting hand-to-hand–or even with a sword–having anything to grab onto your opponent is a huge advantage. Grab a horn and you’ve got control of your enemy’s head. Where the head goes, there goes your enemy. Can you imagine how easy it would be to snap a neck? Or pull him down so you can gut him? Yeah, I’d want my enemy to have horns on his helmet.
Horns would also get in the way of fighting, because you’d have extra weight on your head that could pull you one way or another. And can you imagine wearing your horned helmet on a ship? OMG–I can hear Viking moms now! “Beorn! Take that horned helmet off, or you’re going to poke somebody’s eye out with it!”
Look, space was at a premium on long ships. I don’t think there was room for them.
Were There Ever Horns on Viking Helmets?
Public Domain, Link
Okay, so the image of the Viking with the horned helmet is made up due to the 19th Century Romanticist Viking Revival. But were there ever horns? Maybe, according to the Denmark National Museum, but they were probably “headgear [that] was worn for display or for cultic purposes.” Yeah, they say there are images on golden horns of men wearing horned helmets who might be beserkers, but honestly? It’s unlikely, especially because of the reasons I gave above. Plus, no verified Viking battle helmet has ever been found with horns, and depictions of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 on the Bayeux Tapestry shows the Anglo-Saxons with conical helmets, not ones with horns. (Yeah, the Anglo-Saxons were Viking descendants–I get that, but still.)
Sure, there were other cultures that had horned helmets, but those weren’t everyone. Case-in-point, the Japanese Samurai. A Samurai often had an elaborate headdress on his helmet to identify him and to protect the vulnerable spot on his helmet (that being the center weld). Samurai were originally mounted archers, which made them more likely to be mounted, commanding their ashigaru or foot soldiers.
I hope that helps. As always, leave your messages in the comments below.
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