For a moment, imagine what a Viking warrior looked like? I would assume that most of us have stereotyped them as blond and long-haired men with beards, wearing horned helmets, and looking to be always ready for war.

Let’s think about the prominent horned helmets we thought the Viking warriors wore. Did you know that this was only an idea from an 1876 production of an opera based on Norse mythology?

Where it all began

Viking statue. Justin6898 / CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A production of Richard Wagner’s opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), was believed to have brought the idea and popularity of horned-helmet-wearing-Viking-warriors that we know today. In an article released by History written by Elizabeth Nix, the depiction “may have been inspired by 19th-century discoveries of ancient horned helmets that later turned out to predate the Vikings. They may also have taken a cue from ancient Greek and Roman chroniclers, who described northern Europeans wearing helmets adorned with all manner of ornaments, including horns, wings, and antlers. But not only did this headgear fall out of fashion at least a century before the Vikings appeared, but it was also likely only donned for ceremonial purposes by Norse and Germanic priests.”

Citing an excerpt from a ThoughtCo. article written by Robert Wilde, after the release of said production, “within just a few decades, the headwear had become synonymous with Vikings, enough to become shorthand for them in advertising. Wagner can be blamed for a lot, and this is one instance.”