The word Viking is a broad term that refers to the three groups that occupied what was once known as Scandinavia. These groups were the Swedes, the Danes, and the Norse. The Danes and the Norse were the most common during the beginning of the Viking age. Vikings have a reputation of raping and pillaging as they raided. However, some scholars argue that there are not any records that indicate a history of the Vikings raping anyone during the raids. Unfortunately, due to the biased writings of their victims as well as the falsely translated documents during the 19th century, the true Viking legacy was lost.
The first Viking raid occurred at the monastery at Lindisfarne in 793. Monasteries were known for storing wealth as well as not being well guarded which made them easy targets. Before the Vikings landed in England, forts and monasteries were not well fortified. This made it easy for the Vikings to lay siege to their targets and starve them out. Vikings preferred to avoid battle altogether and would retreat when met with stronger militaries. If a battle was unnecessary, it would not occur.1
The texts from the Viking Age primarily come from the English monks and clerics that recorded history. The English texts tend to run extremely biased against the Vikings since they were the victims of the raids. There are Viking texts, but unfortunately, they are written in a mostly dead language that is almost unreadable. The translations that do exist are filled with mistranslations and false information. The false translations were started in the late 1900s by a scholar named Peter Sawyer. His take on the Vikings was that they were a brutal and greedy group searching for glory and riches. These false statements are the primary reason that the Vikings have been branded villains and rapists.2
However, most sources do not include anything about rape. The rape part of "rape and pillage" did not seem to show up until the 18th and 19th centuries when Viking Age writings began to be translated. Most of today's ideas of Viking culture spurs from the translations from this time period. Unfortunately, the translations and the scholars romanticized the Viking culture and aided in ruining the reputation of the Vikings during the Viking Age. In fact, there are several scholars that agree that there are not any records that indicate a history of Vikings raping anyone.3
The impact that the Vikings made on England and the modern world is a much better legacy. The Vikings were known for their advanced shipbuilding and navigation techniques. Their longboats were made to travel both ocean and rivers without difficulty. They were able to travel to Vinland, now Canada,4 in the longboats as well as glide through the rivers of England without issues.5 They were also given credit for the creation of combs as they are seen today. Their combs were made out of bone and were used on beards and heads.6 The Vikings were seen as dirty heathens; however, they were actually cleaner than most. They had bathing and grooming techniques that were uncommon in the rest of the known world at the time.
The Viking legacy is not of the terrible deeds and their reputation for rape. Their legacy lies in their innovations and ideas. The Vikings changed the world with their advanced shipbuilding and navigation techniques. They helped the world become a much bigger and more connected place for themselves as well as the native people in the lands they settled. They traveled across Europe, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, and into Vinland. They brought better hygiene practices to England as well. The biased writings as well as the false translations caused the true Viking legacy to get lost in translation.