Vikings: Who are the Sami?

The latest episode of Vikings “Full Moon” we see Lagertha form an alliance with King Svase and the Sami people. Which lead to me being asked question about who the Sami where? Now before I begin I will stress that I am not an expert and only know about them because I ended up reading an article about the Epicanthic fold and fell down a internet blackhole.

Here are a few basic facts:

Sami which is pronounced: SAH-mee, also know as Lapps; Samer (Though they do not like the term Lapps as it seems to have derogatory connotations)

They are a distinct ethnic group from the Far North of Europe. With Populations in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and apparently a small group in the Ukraine.

They do not have their own country but they have a distinct culture which has survived years of domination by other nations.

Earliest known recordings of them was in they 98AD by the Roman author Tacitus.

One things they are famous for is their Reindeer herding

Unlike many European groups they have proudly and impressively kept many of their traditions

From what I have gathered their society evolved separately from Viking Culture, where one was dedicated to a life at sea, using their vessels for fishing, trading and of course raiding, the other focused on hearding their Reindeer, though of course the Sami where also know to trade in whale bones. (To this day many Sami still heard the Reindeer)

So why would Lagertha seek an alliance with this people group?

I am guessing her list of possible allies grows thin and this was a desperate last chance bid at survival. Though the Sami bring a new aspect to this war, one that the Vikings may suffer against. The Viking forces probably fared better against the English and Irish because of two reasons:

  1. They took their enemies by surprise and even when they didn’t the fear that the initials attacks caused was enough to unnerve their enemies
  2. They came from Harsher living conditions, lets face it The Scandinavian countries are beautiful places to live but they can be very brutal at the same time, harsher weather would mean that only the strongest would thrive, maybe this was their edge of the English and Irish.

The Sami negate both of these because they know the Vikings and came from even harsher lands, not only that but they are a land power, not a sea power, so if used correctly their troops could easily turn the tide against Ivar’s forces.




6 replies »

  1. Hello everybody! I am a Sámi from Kautokeino, Norway. I think it is great that our often overlooked culture is a part of this show. I don’t watch this show yet, only heard about this from friends. We are a pacifistic group of people and our language (witch by the way is very rich in words, there are 1.2 million known unique words) does not even contain the word for “War” so I find it unlikely that there would be Sámi “troops” I do think that some individuals could have been in the service of Viking-kings, altough there probably wouldn’t have been many. Violence is not something any Sámi would be proud of beeing a part of, as all life is concidered holy.

    Feel free to ask me anything about my people, and I will do my best to answer your questions as well as I can.

    -Áilo 🙂

    (Norw’s , Swedes and Finns can keep their racistic comments to themselves)


  2. Hi, I am glad you went into more details about the Sami. Most other reviews I read seem to think the Sami were Vikings. They got many things wrong about them in the show. For one, they didn’t have kings. They were nomadic tribes and most definitely not warriors at all, so it makes no sense really that they would asked to fight. Also they general had dark hair and not blonde. Even the clothing is way off. They more so resemble Finns which would more accurate and maybe the show should have called them so. Sadly their culture is not really known among many people and have suffered much, and I find the show just adds to this misrepresentation. I know the show is not completely accurate historically, but their disregard for their culture is disappointing. If the Sami ever met the Vikings which I’m not sure they did, they would more than likely have given them fur, reindeer meet or other things to prevent them from attacking them. Most certainly they would not have fought anybody, unless small confrontations with other tribes, hope this helps.


    • I know I have noticed a lot of inaccuracies, though sadly I am not an expert, I do tend to worry that if I call them out on this someone will point out how wrong I am. Though King Svase may be a mistranslation, as he is mentioned in the Sagas by this title and I wonder if that is in fault to who ever wrote them, I guess that is in part to how histories are wrote and who writes them. Though for all their faults I think its great that the Sami culture is being shown on an English speaking station and a lot of people are starting to become more familiar with this over looked and fascinating culture. I only wish I was more qualified to speak on the topic.


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