My Rant on
Horned Helmets


I hate horned helmets for many reasons, but my biggest reason is that horned helmets imply a backwards association that is both false and insulting to the race of the Norsemen.

First, horned helmets are not period. Hundreds of actual viking helms have been unearthed in archeological sites, and to my knowledge, only a handful have ever been found bearing horns. Those few horned helmets, scholars agree, were ceremonial helmets, never worn in a fight. This is not an uncommon precedent; in later centuries, whole suits of 'parade armor' have been identified as armor never intended for combat; these suits were designed and built only for impressing a friendly crowd. Some late-period parade-armor helmets had tall antlers built into them. As they were constructed for appearance, not functionality, they were frequently inadequate for protection in combat and difficult to move in; today, they stand as proof that not all medieval armor was made for fighting.

Horned helmets are asinine. Helms were required for survival on fields of battle; imagine that you have a tightly-fitted steel cap attached to your head by a stout chinstrap, making it hard to dislodge, and someone grabs the horns on your helmet from behind. At this instant, you become helpless; the man holding your helmet's horns could twist your head right, left, or force you face-down into the dirt. Wearing horned helmets on a field of battle would only get you killed.

You can't see the tips of your horns; in the press of battle, how would you keep from stabbing the eyes of your own kinsmen who are pressed up against your back? Would you want the friendly warrior in front of you wearing sharp horns on his helmet? No: a company wearing horned helmets would be a threat mostly to itself. Also, only in Hollywood could horned helmets be used offensively; they would make a terrible weapon, and expose your head; if you should fail to kill your opponent, then they would likely get you decapitated. Again, horned helmets would most-likely get you killed in any type of combat.

An enemy weapon, like an axe or a mace, missing your head, but hitting your horns, might twist your head so hard that it could snap your neck. Again, horned helmets would likely get you killed.

Now, look at ancient drawings, paintings, sculptures, and woodcarvings of the times. Notice that no vikings were pictured wearing horned helmets until modern times. As many old works of art were done by Christians, whom the vikings attacked, and considering that the devil has horns, why would the Christian monks not have capitalized on this image of the vikings as devils?

People in the dark ages lived far closer to nature than most of us do in the modern age, and many considered it low and base to be equated to an animal. Many people of the Middle Ages avoided anything that connected their elevated-opinion of humans to lesser beasts; this is a common mindset of most post-primitive cultures. Horned helmets violate this mindset, clearly identifying the wearer with the animal.

Some beastly connotations were accepted, such as "Richard the Lion-hearted", or the many animals used on coats of arms. But the Catholic church spoke openly against baser 'animalistic' behavior, and praised anything that extended the separation between the natural world and the spiritual world. It was a cultural thing to distance yourself from primitive nature.

Horned helmets identify Norse warriors as primitive, but they weren't. The Norse lived at the highest level of culture that they knew, used the newest technologies that they had, invented several new technologies, and were one of the most widely-travelled people ever. Everyone is considered primitive if ridiculed by people a thousand years later. Imagine how people in the 31st century will characterize those of us who live in the 21st century; it isn't going to be complimentary.

For all of these reasons, I hate horned helmets. I love Hagar the Horrible, but I know that it was a fun, silly comic strip, about as realistic as Superman. Not every Roman rode chariots, not every Greek rowed a trireme, and not every knight was chivalric; few, if any, vikings ever wore horned helmets. Given a horned helmet, the first thing that any real warrior would do is cut off its horns.

It's just stupid.