The Viking Axe
The “axe” is such a basic sounding and well-known word around the world that we typically use for cutting and chopping wood. The Vikings took what seems like a basic tool and made it one of the most feared weapons heard around the world when in the hands of a Norseman. The Vikings used strategic maneuvers with a combination of fearlessness and true Norse craftsmanship to change the way enemies looked at the axe. The Vikings were able to wipe out groups of enemies and cities using axes to completely decimate everything in their site that needed to be destroyed. Below are some of the tactics and thinking behind the Vikings using axes as well as their choice of axe.
The axes with short hafts have a big advantage in that they can be hidden easily. A small axe can be hidden under a cloak and used for a surprise attack on the enemy and were often held in reserve behind a shield.
Many believe that an axe was more difficult to control than a well-balanced weapon such as a sword. With a well-made axe, this is not the case. An axe also has an advantage over any other edged weapon in that the curved edge concentrates all the power of the blow into a small section of the edge. This gives the axe enough force to penetrate through mail or even a helmet.
Axe Battle Techniques
The curved shape of the head allowed for many techniques implemented by the Vikings:
The axe head can be used to hook an opponent’s ankle, thus throwing the opponent off balance and onto the ground.
It can be also hooked over another body part such as the neck, to force a person to move in a direction that they do not want to go.
The axe can also be used to hook the edge of a shield, pulling it away to press an attack, or to even disarm the opponent.
Other Ways to Use the Axe
The pointed tips at each end of a Viking axe head were very sharp and could also be used as part of an attack. The tips can also be used for a gruesome slashing attack. The tips can create nasty wounds when used for stabbing as the axe horn widens a lot more than a spear point or sword.
Axes were sometimes used to land a non-lethal blow by using the axe hammer, this is the backside of the axe head. This was done to really humiliate an opponent, or in some cases, was used against opponents considered so inferior that they are not worthy of a proper blow.
It would seem highly unlikely that axes were thrown in fights, but when desperate, a man will do whatever has to be done to succeed, so learning to throw axes was a lifesaving skill in itself.
Other interesting moves with axes are described in the Viking sagas. These include jumping up and hooking the head of an axe over the wall of a fortification to make it over the obstruction. Another technique would be to use an axe left-handed; this would cause the blows to come in on the undefended side of an opponent.
Next Article: To Be Continued….
Next breakdown we will be talking about how the axe was used for DEFENSE.
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