The art of poetry among the Vikings: skalds, Nordic poets and bards

The Vikings were known not only for their unrivalled bravery and relentless conquests, but also for their cultural and artistic wealth. Among the many Viking artists, the skalds, poets and bards, stood out for their mastery of the art of poetry. In this article, we delve into the world of the skalds, Nordic poets and bards, and discover their role in Viking society, the different poetic genres they practiced and the recurring themes in their poetry.

Skalds were official poets at the court of the Viking kings. Their mission was to compose eulogistic poems in honor of their king and his family. Skalds were highly respected in Viking society, as their art was considered an expression of wisdom and intelligence. Their poems were also considered an effective weapon in diplomatic negotiations and battles, as they could inspire courage and loyalty.

Skalds used different poetic genres in their art, such as drápa, flokkr and lausavísur. The drápa was a type of praise poem used to celebrate kings or heroes. The flokkr, on the other hand, was used to express subtle, poetic thoughts. Finally, the lausavísur was a type of short poem used to convey a specific message.

Among the most famous skalds are such illustrious names as Snorri Sturluson and Egill Skallagrímsson. Snorri Sturluson was a famous 13th-century Icelandic historian and poet, best known for writing the Edda, a collection of Norse mythological poems. Egill Skallagrímsson, was a 10th-century Viking warrior and poet emeritus, and is best known for his eulogistic poems in honor of his king.

Poets: witnesses to their times

Nordic poets played an important role in Viking society. They bore witness to their times and their fears, and paid tribute to nature. Poets also had the task of conveying the stories of their people and culture through their poems.

In Nordic poetry, we find recurring themes such as nature, gods, heroes, war and death. Nordic poets often used poetic images to describe nature, such as the stars, the sun or the sea. The Nordic gods were also often represented in Viking poetry, with eulogistic poems expressing their power and their wisdom.

Among the most famous poets of Viking culture are figures such as Hávamál and Skírnismál. Hávamál was a Viking mythological poem describing the teachings of the god Odin, while Skírnismál was a poem celebrating the power of the god Freyr.

Bards: guardians of oral tradition

Bards were the guardians of oral tradition in Viking culture. They passed on the stories, poems and songs of their people from generation to generation. Bards were highly respected in Viking society, as they were considered the guardians of the culture and history of their people.

Bards often celebrated the heroes of Viking culture through their songs and poems. They were also responsible for preserving the Nordic epics and sagas, which have been passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition.

Among the most famous bards of Viking culture are figures like Bragi Boddason and Bjarni Kolbeinsson. Bragi was a famous Norwegian poet and blacksmith renowned for his ability to create lilting poems. Bjarni, meanwhile, was an Icelandic poet and blacksmith, known for his eulogistic poems in honor of nature.

The glorification of heroes in Nordic poetry

Nordic poets often glorified the heroes of their culture through their epic poems. Nordic epics and sagas tell stories of courageous heroes who braved many dangers to defend their people. Poets used these stories to inspire courage and devotion in their people.

Recurring themes in poetry glorifying heroes include glory, honor and death. Poets often describe heroes as brave and fearless, and glorify their courage on the battlefield. Death is often used as a motif to underline the nobility of heroes' sacrifice.


Viking culture was rich in art and poetry, and skalds, poets and bards were among the most talented artists of their time. Their poems and songs were an expression of wisdom and intelligence, and they were respected for their role in Viking society. Today, we can still contemplate their legacy, which is an important part of humanity's cultural heritage.