Norse culture – As fierce as they are, the Norsemen are more than mere barbarians. Although they live in villages scattered along the entire length of the Northern Lands shoreline, they shared many traits that mark them as belonging to a common culture.
For most Norsemen, life follows a simple pattern. After the snows melted in the spring, they will prepare their fields and plant their crops. If the household is a wealthy one, this will be done with the aid of the family slaves. Then the men will turn their attention to the sea and go raiding, trading, or fishing while their young and women stay at home to tend the crops and herds. In the Autumn, the men who had gone to trade or raid will return home, hopefully laden with treasure. After the crop is harvested and the snows come, they will turn their attention to hunting and taking pelts, either for clothing or trading. Although there were certainly many variations on this basic pattern, the lifestyles of most Norsemen no doubt follows the same seasonal patterns and incorporated the same elements of constant outdoor adventure.
Considering this ruined lifestyle. it is no wonder that the Norsemen have a well-developed spirit of self-reliance and independence. Although they acknowledge the classes of king, nobleman, freeman, and slave, they were fiercely individualistic and firmly maintained that all Norsemen were equal. It was not uncommon for a group of Norsemen to demonstrate this essential truth by drowning or killing a king they no longer wish to follow.
Family ties are of great importance to the Norsemen. The family is a large unit of kinsmen, including uncles, brothers, and kinsmen. It stands together in all things, and to attack one member of it is to attack the entire family. In the reverse, if one member of family committed a social transgression, the consequences often fall on the entire family. For instance, if a man killed someone, the killer’s cousins might be called upon to pay blood-money to the victim’s family.
As the example above suggests, the Norsemen have a elaborate code of laws. This code allows for divorce, property holding among women as well as men, orderly inheritance, mutual obligations between chieftain and follower, and all of the other relationships necessary to the orderly functioning of a society. Generally speaking, in their legal code Norsemen respect honesty, loyalty, honor, generosity, and individual freedom. Outside of the legal code, they also admire warlike prowess, hardihood, and courage. Notably lacking in their legal code or personal value system was any concept of mercy.
The lack of compassion amongst the Norsemen is probably a function of their outlook on life, which seems as bleak and cold as the climate of their native land. Although they believe in a blissful after-world, Valhalla is a realm for warriors, and the only way to gain entrance is to die courageously in battle. Here, warriors would spend their days fighting and their evenings feasting. Even then, the refuge offered by Valhalla is a temporary one. All the men and gods are doomed to vanish in Ragnarok, a final, terrible battle in which all the gods and men are destined to perish. In the face of such certain doom, the only noble response is to fight honorably as best one can, and to take what pleasure is available in life