Most people in those days believed the Vikings were a blood-thirsty lot, and probably with good reason. Seeing a fully laden Dragonship appear on the horizon jam-packed with yelling heathen warriors about to burn your town down and do unspeakable things to you would have confirmed any lingering suspicions. Yikes!
Vikings believed that if they died in battle with a sword in their hand they would be rescued from the battlefield by Valkyries , beautiful blonde maidens on flying horses, and taken to Valhalla, a hall in the sky where the gods lived and the home for fallen heroes. There they could spend all day fighting and every night having wild parties and drinking themselves senseless. Vikings who died in bed, however, were sent to a cold miserable place for all eternity. This runestone shows the journey to Valhalla.
Viking kings and princess where often send on their journey to Valhalla on burning ships laden with weapons, food and a sacrificed slave girl, to keep them company, while less important Vikings were just buried, sometimes in graves marked out like ships, as in this grave photographed by Bengt Korling from Sweden. And I bet if he was DNA tested he might find it was the grave of his great, great uncle Olaf, scourge of the local tavern.
In The Last Viking text I added in a Viking funeral, mostly because I thought it would make a spectacular illustration, but also to give the book some authenticity and proper Viking culture. Luckily, the funeral happens all in Knut’s imagination, but it does cause him some trouble with his grandparents.