Whether in film, theatre, song, or even video game media, you’ve likely seen portrayals of Vikings with all sorts of historical axes at the ready. Look no further than animated films such as How to Train Your Dragon or video games such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and you’re likely to be enamored with the razor-sharp contemporary and traditional axes that would turn heads in more ways than one.
It’s not uncommon for you to see someone throwing an axe in such media productions, only to see the wooden handle and the blade enter a coordinated circular dance as the axe head attempts to find its target.
With all this, you’ve likely found yourself deeply invested in these cold steel tools in some form or other. Are they designed specifically for throwing? How are they made? Could you throw an axe? All these questions and more are covered below as you now turn your attention to what has to be one hell of a simple yet effective tool!
Did Vikings Use Throwing Axes?
Between the eighth and 11th centuries, Vikings were honestly some of the most imposing and domineering people, no matter where you’d search. They conquered numerous lands and many a house would be built in those same conquered lands.
You can break down the results of their success into their way of life, proper honing of an intense fighting style, and well-designed handmade weaponry. The last point is where the noble axe enters the fray.
Recall that this was a simpler time and one well before the era of today where you can simply spend some money (which is arguably more readily available) and have access to all sorts of weapons.
Back then, peak efficiency was almost a requirement. Swords and knives existed, but there were challenges with each. For starters, while a sword was an amazing weapon, it was often an expensive one to acquire and own. A knife, on the other hand, while easier to pay for, was not the most efficient thing to carry.
An axe was almost the perfect tool. It wasn’t blunt, could be carried in one arm, feels great to hold, had a balanced weight and was sturdy enough to hold up in battle. Best of all, it didn’t cost an arm and a leg for what was undoubtedly a quality item.
Therefore, you found that the Viking throwing axe was an incredibly common weapon of choice. The equation was simple. They were functional, practical, durable and useful handmade weapons that still managed to be effective.
What Is a Viking Throwing Axe Called?
This question may strike you as a little weird if nothing else. What would you call a Viking throwing axe other than a Viking throwing axe? It’s not like anyone is asking what a hammer is called, right?
Well, here’s the thing. The term technically encompasses a series of Viking axe types. For example, there’s the bearded axe or “Skeggøx”. Even this was both a tool in everyday life, and it was also crafted to be a weapon.
You would often find such axes associated with Scandinavians from the Viking age.
What Are the Types of Viking Axes?
Technically speaking, there are several Viking axe categories, and they may differ in various areas, such as price, weight, shaft length, blade design, etc. Below is a look at two of these, which are the bearded axe and the Dane axe.
The Dane Viking axe is believed to have originated in Scandinavia around 600 BC. It was typically identified by its distinct blade style that was crafted to be beneficial in several different ways.
First, the axe’s cutting edge had a longer overall length than usual, running well below the pole. Even with such a design, skilled warriors could don the blade in a single arm. Additionally, safety concerns would be non-existent as a warrior could grip the Viking axe right behind the beard, which meant the gripping hand would be kept safe.
Disarming opponents with this axe was also a common thing considering the beard could be used to latch on to enemy weapons and pull them away, allowing for a quick strike to follow up. To this end, the Viking axe served a defensive purpose plus its typical offensive ones.
On the offensive note, it could split shields, cut with lethal force, inflict blunt force trauma if desired, and even tear armor away.
You may find people calling this one a hafted axe or a Danish axe, and it was a gold standard for battle. The well-sharpened cutting edge could be anywhere from 8 to 12 inches long. At the haft which could be up to 4 feet long, the steel blade was tapered.
If a Viking warrior were privileged, you would sometimes find that their arms would be Dane axes, complete with stiffened steel affixed to the blade. This would give the Viking axe a harsher edge.
The design chosen meant warriors were meant to be grabbing and wielding it with both hands. Even despite the form factor and the steel head, it was surprisingly convenient to wield. Therefore, Viking soldiers could exercise tremendous control and choose to strike disastrous blows whenever they so desired.
What Did Viking Axes Look Like?
Visually, a Viking axe would usually either fall under the long axe or hand axe variations. However, there were several variations that fell under each category. Here are a couple of points about the variations:
- A Viking axe would sometimes feature horns at the bit’s heel and toe
- Hammering elaborate designs in the blade was often done
- To offer protection to the top of an axe, it may be fitted with a cap
- Whether long or hand axe, you found that the handle length would vary. A handle could be anywhere from 30 cm to five feet long
As the name implies, these axe variations had longer handles. They would often range from three to five feet long and were obviously not for hatchet work. It was all about battling here, and they provided the distinct advantage of being able to go at opponents from a safer distance than shorter axes.
You may imagine these axes to be hard to swing and out of control but the combination of wood and steel here was an expert blend. Therefore, each one was surprisingly convenient to swing around. This build style never compromised on durability.
Unfortunately, though, swinging weapons around with both arms meant that you could technically only be on the offensive. A shield would’ve required one hand, and considering humans only have two, an axe that required them both meant defense was compromised.
You can imagine then that it required some very skilled warriors to lug these around and press forward during battle.
The hand axe is more akin to what you may imagine when you think of a Viking throwing axe. While some of them were used in battle, they would often be developed for hatchet work such as cutting would.
The battle-ready variations would be light with a large axe head and would often feature a hook at the blade’s lower end. A couple of the advantages hand axes had over long axes were as follows:
- They required less steel and wood to make so the price of manufacture was lower
- It wasn’t uncommon to cloak a hand axe behind a shield or an actual cloak. Not even a Viking’s friends would always know that a weapon was being concealed, so you can imagine that enemies would be thrown for a loop.
- A shorter Viking axe could be held with a single hand, meaning that there would be no reason to forego a shield.
Was It Common for a Viking to Throw an Axe During Combat?
There were some Viking axe variations, such as the tomahawk that would certainly be more conducive to throwing. However, these were not necessarily the common axe choice in battle, and even if chosen, things went a bit differently than you may imagine.
You’re reading a Viking throwing axe piece so you’d think you wouldn’t have to search too hard to find something about warriors doing axe throwing in battle or otherwise. However, the truth is probably much less interesting depending on what expectations you came in with.
A Viking axe was actually not commonly thrown in battle. When you think about it, things begin to make sense. Sure, axe throwing would look cool as the cold steel careens off and the axe head lands where expected.
The problem is, where do you go from there? What if the axe was thrown somewhere on the battlefield that makes it a bit difficult to retrieve? Even if not, how vulnerable would a Viking be while going to retrieve an axe?
Nevertheless, a Viking, just like anyone else could end up in a desperate situation and may end up in a fight or flight state instead of letting a cooler head prevail. In this case, throwing an axe was most certainly on the table.
A Viking Axe for the Affluent
Not every Viking axe was made with a focus on productivity. A Mammen axe was the perfect example of this. The focus was on creating a beautiful appearance, as opposed to a razor-sharp tool of war. Instead of the typical composition, these would blend iron with a silver inlay.
Christian and Pagan patterns were present, which would make these axes a hub for controversy. It was the well off at the time who would seek out these Viking axe designs.
What’s the Construction Process for a Viking Axe?
From Viking axe restorations, it’s believed that they were manufactured as a single piece. The haft cavity was punched out with a drift.
A thinner blade would be folded around the eye, followed by a steel bit being welded onto the iron head, creating what would become the edge. Sometimes, the weld was asymmetrical being slightly forward of the eye while it would be symmetrical in other cases.
Viking axe head stabilization came from narrowing the haft and head.
What Is the Optimal Axe Throwing Technique?
Though you may have been disappointed to learn that Vikings weren’t hurling their razor-sharp axes, you may be happy to know that you can make up for it by engaging in your own throwing axe activities. So, here’s a quick look at the proper technique to do so:
- Grip the Viking axe wherever the handle feels most comfortable, ensuring that the said gripping is firm enough to be worthy of a Viking.
- Put your dominant foot behind you and the other in front, ensuring that your shoulders and hips are parallel to the nearest wall.
- Lift the axe, tucking your elbow to point it at the destination. The axe should be over your shoulder and tapping your shoulder blade.
- Breathe in and bring your back foot forward as you swing the axe through the air. Throw from your shoulder here.
- As the Viking axe lands, release your war cry in celebration.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How Heavy Was a Typical Viking Throwing Axe?
Even with all the wood and steel, it rarely exceeded 1 to 7 lbs.
What Made Axes Such a Common Weapon for Vikings?
Knives were impractical, swords were expensive, a hammer was also impractical, and more advanced weaponry hadn’t been developed yet. Something was needed that could give the versatility of a knife, be as sharp as a sword, inflict blunt force trauma like a hammer, and be durable to boot.
An axe was the perfect choice as it did all these things at a relatively low price.
Did Vikings Decorate Their Axes?
Some Viking axes, such as the Mammen axe, had decorated heads complete with special metals. These were not prioritized for their sharpness or battle readiness but were instead for the wealthy.
Do You Guys Know if I Can Try out Axe Throwing Today?
Yes. There are countless facilities that allow paying customers to let a sharp axe rip through the air as if playing sports. Check your local listings to find the one closest to you.
Is a Viking Throwing Axe Good for Chopping Wood?
Depending on the build, a hand axe is more suited to cutting wood than a long one. Today, plenty of suppliers have axes in stock. With a head of steel and a handle or American hickory or any comparable configuration, you should be well on your way!