THE history of the Vikings is not, as you might think, the story of a band of sea-pirates who roved the seas in search of plunder. It is rather the story of a race of brave and hardy Northmen who became sea-rovers because the rights and the freedom which their fathers had cherished were being taken from them.
Their fathers had lived on their own lands and had been freemen, but the sons were asked to become king's men and hold their land only at the king's pleasure. Rather than give up their ancient rights many of the Northmen became Vikings, and to them the sea-roving life was a noble one, full of high enterprise and ambition.
It was no easy matter to become a member of a Viking band. Even a great chief, before he could be admitted, must prove his strength and give an account of the deeds of prowess he had already done.
Thus it was an honour to belong to a band of Vikings, an honour which spurred the lads of the North to bold deeds, to mighty feats, that they might be counted worthy to become members of one or another of the famous bands.
It is of the customs and battles, of the lives and deaths of these wild Northmen that I have told you in this little book.
As these men are, as you will hear, ancestors of our own, you will perhaps wish to know more about them than I have been able to tell you.
If that is so, when you grow older, you can read the Sagas or histories of these Northmen which were written by the Skalds, or, as we would call them, the poets of those olden days.
In these Sagas you will meet with many strange adventures and see many great battlefields which you will not find in this little book.