Network Dynamics (Saga & Society)


Network Dynamics in Saga and Society by Richard Gaskins

This is another great article on the social dynamic in Viking society ( I am just going to use the term “Viking” for shorthand rather than going into the specific ethnographic background, as we should all know now they didn’t call themselves “Vikings” ).

Of particular interest within the article, pg. 172 highlights an aspect of leadership and network dynamic based upon trust:

Throughout this pattern of development networks represent the importance of being connected – replacing the social model of rugged individualism.  For self-evolving social networks, in the absence of any master planner, the driving humanistic for is trust.  Trust in oneself is good as far as it goes, but it is no substitute for trust in one’s chosen allies.  No one can be self-sufficient; and no one has enough wisdom to see where history will end up, nor enough power to impose any grand design.  This emphasis on trust is entirely consonant with the value system on display throughout the sagas, which grants highest priority to honor even at the cost of an individual’s own life.  The fact that trust is constantly being tested in the sagas by personal ambition, by sheer evil, and even by bad luck only add to its premier value for maintaining alliances.  The formal extraction of oaths and allegiance and other such institutions of trust, as described in Sturlunga saga, further underscore the value placed on trust.

Some follow up reading based upon the works cited:

Byock, J. L. (1993). Feud in the Icelandic saga. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Jon Vidar Sigurdsson Chieftains and Power in the Icelandic Commonwealth: (The Viking Collection Vol. 12)

Miller, W. I. (1997). “Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland”.

Warbands, Brotherhoods, Lið


Ingroup identification, identity fusion and the formation of Viking war bands                    Ben Raffield, Claire Greenlow, Neil Price & Mark Collard


This was a great article showing the group identity of the Viking Lið, Warband.  The part that I am interested in took concerning leadership is the following:

A more detailed definition has been offered by Lund (1985). He suggests that a lið was a retinue of warriors sworn to a leader who was responsible for feeding, equipping and rewarding the warriors for their service. Hedenstierna-Jonson (2009) has also emphasized the importance of reciprocal relationships between leaders and their followers in connection with lið. The size of lið was not fixed and likely depended on a leader’s reputation and wealth. As such, it is probable that some lið comprised no more than a couple of ships’ crews while others were much larger (Lund 1985; Jesch 2001; Brink 2008). The lið’s autonomous nature is indicated in the ninth-century Annals of St. Bertin, which describes Viking groups operating on the continent as part of a fleet in 861. It refers to these groups as ‘brotherhoods’ (Lat. sodalitates) and explains that they dispersed from the main force to overwinter in various ports along the river Seine (Nelson 1991, 95–6).

Further readings from the Bibliography which I shall pursue..

Lund, N. 1985. “The Armies of Swein Forkbeard and Cnut: Leding or Lið?” Anglo-Saxon England 15: 105–26.

Hedenstierna-Jonson, C., and L. Holmquist Olausson. 2006. The Oriental Mounts from Birka’s Garrison. An Expression of Warrior Rank and Status. Antikvariskt Arkiv, Vol. 81. Stockholm: Kungl Vitterhus Historie och Antikvitets Akademien.

Schjødt, J. P. 2011. “The Warrior in Old Norse Religion.” In Ideology and Power in the Viking and Middle Ages, edited by G. Steinsland, J. V. Sigurðsson, J. E. Rekdal, and I. Beuermann, 269–96. Brill: Leiden.

Whitehouse, H., and J. A. Lanman. 2014. “The Ties That Bind Us: Ritual, Fusion, and Identification.” Current Anthropology 55 (6): 674–95. doi:10.1086/678698.


Part of the course work I had for OLA 809, was to assess my leadership strengths according to the Gallup study of the Four Domains of Leadership Strength.  This assessment is based upon the book, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow.  After I received the results from the test, I found that my most dominant Strength Domain is Strategic Thinking, with my secondary Strength Domain being that of Executing.  The test assesses 34 strengths and the top 5 are where most of one’s time and thoughts are spent dealing with life’s vicissitudes. My first 5 out of the 34 are:

  • Context: Enjoy acquiring information about the past from experts and feel capable when I am knowledgeable about various periods of history
  • Intellection:  Enjoy scrutinizing issues, theories, concepts, and philosophies from a variety of angles
  • Ideation: Enjoy expending metal energy to devise innovative ways of doing things which is an ongoing stimulus to my thinking
  • Achiever: Driven by mental and physical energy for hours when situations demands such effort
  • Input: Enjoy acquiring new information and insights about unique discoveries, events, and people with a curiosity that is not easily satisfied


Hávamál 60

Of seasoned shingles | and strips of bark
For the thatch let one know his need,
And how much of wood | he must have for a month,
Or in half a year he will use.