Today we started learning about the Vikings, with the help of a brilliant book called SCOTLAND’S VIKINGS by Frances and Gordon Jarvie (ISBN 978-1-905267-10-1) and the BBC primary school history website, which you can find here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/vikings/
The Vikings first arrived in Scotland in the 790s, and most of their first visits were violent raids on the Scottish coast. However, later on, farmers, traders and craftsmen also came across from Scandinavia and settled in Scotland – so the history of the Vikings in Scotland was not entirely violent and warlike!
The Viking raiders came in long-boats called drakkars. These were long and narrow and relatively light, so they could move very quickly and could even be dragged overland for short distances. “Drakkar” means “dragon ship” because there was often a frightening dragon’s head carved on the prow. Here is a picture of one of these dragon prows:
Blackwolf drew this picture. The SCOTLAND’S VIKINGS book suggested designing your own drakkar prow, so Blackwolf created this one, with two dragon heads so that it looks extra scary!
We learnt that the Viking raiders often targeted religious communities because the monks were men of peace, not warriors, so they were not able to fight back. Also, the abbeys and monasteries often had valuable religious ornaments made of precious metals. In the year 795 AD Vikings attacked the monastery on the island of Iona. They attacked it again in 825 AD and this time they killed the abbot, Blathmac, because he refused to co-operate with them.
Shardspirit imagined what it would have been like to be at Iona abbey when the Vikings attacked. She has written the following story about it:
It was rainy on the night the attack happened. And it was sudden. I was just out minding the sheep when suddenly they came out of nowhere, on their big ships. The norsemen with their boats! I had heard rumors but never had I imagined them attacking our little abbey on Iona isle. I saw them jump off the ship and swarm around the abbey breaking their way in anywhere they could. It was too late to warn the abbey, and if I tried to help then they would get me too. Helplessly I watched the brothers and sisters of the abbey being slaughtered like cattle before a feast. Some of them tried to run, but they were caught up with and killed. I thought the attack would never end. Then the attackers set the abbey on fire. After a while I could not bear to watch anymore and I hid in some bushes till morning. Only in daylight could I really see how bad the damage was. There were no survivors, half the building was burned down and the cattle were either dead or milling uncertainly about. I gathered up as many as I could and put them in a smaller pen before seeing if any food had been left over. Though as I thought it had all been taken. I decided to look down by the shore and see if there was anything left over or something that I could get back to the mainland with. I found a boat that the attackers had left and got it ready for sailing. I would have to come back for the cattle another time, so I let them out of their pen, so that they wouldn't starve and sailed out. It was evening when I reached the mainland. I sank to my knees. I was hungry, I was tired and I didn't know where to go, but I was alive and that I was grateful for.
We intend to get out and about to see some real Viking artefacts in the National Museum of Scotland – we’ll blog about it when we do.