The Vinlander Way of Life


     The center of Vinlander life is the rural homestead, which houses about 20 adults and 20 children on average. There are almost no cities or even villages larger than this -- the exceptions being the feudal city of Hvalrik and the growing market town on Manhattan. The typical homestead includes about 4 free families related to the owner, and a family of slaves. They live by a combination of farming, herding, and fishing.

     There is a single central building, the longhouse, which everyone lives in (free or thrall). A typical longhouse is perhaps 30 yards long and 8 yards wide. Two rows of vertical posts run the length of the building and hold up the roof. The sturdy walls are made of both earth and wood. The roof is shingled, the floor is dirt strewn with grasses. A fire pit fills the center of the hall, providing warmth and light. A hole in the roof above serves as a chimney. Running the length of the inside walls are raised platforms, used for both seating and sleeping. Important people may have their beds curtained or in a side closet, but all living space is communal. During the day, tables could be set up on trestles. Clothes and cooking utensils were stored in chests, which could also be used as seats. Weapons, tools, and supplies would be hung on the walls, posts, and rafters.

     Surrounding the longhouse are between 7 and 35 other buildings. The include barns, workshops, graineries, fish-drying sheds, outhouses, and saunas. In very large steads these are more specialized. Some distance from the farm there may be another building in the high meadows, the seder. This is quarters for the shepards tending the herds when they are kept out during the summer.

Seasonal Life

     The spring is spent planting and mending. Rye, corn, and barley are planted. Animals are herded near the farm. Sheep are the most common, with cows and goats. Horses are rare and are for riding and as status symbols rather than farm labor.

     Summer is the season of travel. The herds wander out to higher pastures near the seders. On Thursday of the tenth week of summer (roughly the middle of June), the Althing is held at the south end of Manhattan island. (cf. Law) Trading missions are set out to various other points, particularly to the north for valuable furs. Occaisional viking raids are made to tribes south along the coast (Nanticoke, Powhatan, and others).

     Autumn is harvest time, although many summer expeditions continue for weeks into the autumn. Grains and grasses are harvested and dried. Smoked and dried foods are prepared for the winter.

     During the winter, there are regular hunting and fishing expeditions. The men pass the days fixing tools and ship fittings, making wood carvings, tanning hides, and playing games.

Food and Drink

     The staples of the Vinlander diet are meat, fish, dairy products, and bread. The meat is most commonly lamb, along with beef and whatever can be hunted down (venison and rabbit are common). Meats are commonly roasted on spits, but can also be boiled in cauldrons, surrounded by hot stones and covered in dirt, or dried and smoked. Fish is cooked in much the same way. These could be flavored by mustard, juniper, or cumin.

     Dairy products are quite common. Milk (both cow and goat) is a common drink. It is also churned into butter and pressed into cheese.

     Breads are flat, unleavened, and made of barley or rye. They would include a fair amount of grit from the grinding stone along with other impurities like pine bark or ashes. The poor will eat bread made from the husks. Barley, rye, and corn are also eaten as porridge. Beans and squash are also grown.

     Barley beer is an everyday staple, but the beer is at best mildly alcoholic. Only the best families have a skilled brewmaster, making beer that is both stronger and better tasting. Ale is the same as beer but is made without hops. There is also mead, which produces both a sweet, strong drink and a strong beerlike drink. Both are much harder to make than normal beer, and are correspondingly less common.


     Vinlander men will typically wear a long, high-necked woolen shirt and long wool trousers held up by a sash or a drawstring. Dyes other than red are uncommon. Over this may be worn a sleeved leather jerkin or a three-quarter coat with a belt. In battle, the rich will wear an iron helmet or chainmail hauberk over this -- but many will just have reinforced leather coats as their protection.

     Vinlander women wear long dresses of wool or linen, which may be plain or pleated, but always with a low neckline. High-necked shirts are considered cross-dressing for women, and vice-versa for men. Over the dress they wear a long woolen tunic, looking somewhat like an apron. It is held up by a pair of brooches, sometimes joined by a chain or string of beads. She may have a shawl or cloak over this.

     For both sexes, a wool cloak may be worn in cold weather, held in place by a brooch, along with a fur or woolen hat. On their feet they wears socks and soft leather shoes or long leather boots.


     Competitive sports are popular with the Vinlanders. Special fields at the grounds of the local thing are often set aside for sports. The contests are primarily feats of physical strength including wrestling, hurling wooden balls, and tug of war. Horse fighting is an old tradition, but it is frowned upon and rare at present.

     In the winter, there are contests for skiing and skating. Indoors there are strategy games: hnefatafl (swords and shields) and fox and geese. Casting lost, using bones or dice, is popular, as is the ancient string game commonly known as cat's cradle. Finally, storytelling, poetry, singing, and dancing are performed whenever people get together.

John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Thu Mar 28 00:10:26 2002