Vikings could be pretty violent during the Viking Age, but so could everyone else, said Andy Grosberg of St. Cloud, Minn., a member of the Viking Age Society that is exhibiting at this year's Norsk Hostfest.
"This is early Kevlar," said Grosberg, patting a chain mail shirt he is putting together.
When it's completed, the shirt made from hundreds of tiny links taken from electrical fencing will weigh about 45 pounds.
Andrea Johnson/MDN • Andy Grosberg, right, and Melissa Hoppe from St. Cloud, Minn., of the Viking Age Society, are exhibitors at the Norsk Høstfest.
"It's better than leather," said Grosberg, "which was better than nothing."
A chain mail shirt can't be cut, so it protected the Viking wearer from glancing blows and cuts from a large knife or sword. It isn't as good against forceful blows, so the one wearing it could still suffer a broken rib or some major bruising.
Grosberg said that chain mail shirt would have been worth the price of a farmstead during the Viking Era. A good sword would cost about $40,000 in today's dollars.
It was the law that every Viking man had to keep his weapon at arm's length. Melissa Hoppe, Grosberg's fiancee, said even slaves were given weapons, though the slave usually got a short knife compared to his master's larger weapon.
"The owner always had the bigger knife," she said.
Grosberg said that pillaging was actually a pretty small part of a Viking's life. The word "viking" actually means to make one's living from the sea. That is what most Vikings did. For the most part, Vikings wanted their relations with their trading partners to be friendly, he said.
Grosberg joined the Viking Age Society when he was looking for a Renaissance Fair group to join. He is part Norwegian, he thought "Let's go be a Viking." It turned out to be an awesome hobby, he said. Hoppe is part German, "but we don't hold that against her," he said. She joined the group too and has learned about weaving.
Hoppe is weaving belts at Hostfest using an inkle loom. She said most of the costumes that people in the group wear are pretty authentic, though a bit more modern than you would have found in the Viking Age. She was wearing a linen dress and a linen apron. Grosberg also wears typical Viking Age attire.
The club, which has been at the Hostfest for many years, is holding regular demonstrations of crafts and combat throughout the Hostfest. It can be found at the Viking World Display.