I'm watching the loosely accurate TV show Vikings. When Vikings pillage the Briton monastery of Lindisfarne, they also capture some monks as slaves. Later, one of the monks assimilates pretty well to the Norsemen society. He becomes one of the Vikings, and teaches them Anglo-Saxon language and Christian culture.

I know it's just a TV show and their main purpose is box-office. But could this story happen in real life? Did the Vikings, Huns or Teutons capture other kingdom's (preferably) priests or monks utilizing their unique knowledge and assimilate these people? Or the whole question is just too far-fetched?

If you know any sources, please share it.

  • This isn't entirely explained in universe, but we know that prior to his capture, Athelstan traveled extensively (he had been to Paris, for example). It's only natural that he picked a few linguistic skills during his travels, and he may even knew bits and pieces of Old Norse before he met Ragnar. It would be a lot easier for him to communicate with the Vikings, than it would be for a typical Anglo-Saxon monk of the era.
    – yannis
    May 16, 2016 at 14:43

2 Answers 2


The Mongols were a relatively backward people in the scholastic sense of the word, and hired conquered scholars to educate them.

The Mongols were also very tolerant of most religions in their vast empire, and had priests help "pacify" their various peoples.


It is certainly possible. Obviously such a thing would require the monk to learn the Norse language, which would mean it would be years before he would be teaching them anything that required language to convey.

Educated slaves rarely appear in the sagas and in fact slaves are rarely mentioned at all for that matter, unlike, for example, in Roman culture where Greek slaves played a prominent role. It is likely that most Norse slaves faced a pretty grim outlook.

  • There were a lot of communication between the british isles and the scandinavian peninsula even before the Viking Age. Therefore the monks might have learned the norse languages much easier than You guess. May 16, 2016 at 14:26
  • @UlfTennfors At the time the Lindisfarne raid occurred, the civilization in the British was barely aware that they even existed, much less knew their language. When the first ships of the "heathens" landed the local reve actually went out to greet them, not even knowing who they were or what they wanted. May 16, 2016 at 15:27
  • Educated slaves rarely appear in the sagas This is a nice reference, but couldn't it be due to Vikings not valorating/needing culture in their simpler societies as much as Romans and Greek did?
    – SJuan76
    May 16, 2016 at 16:16
  • @Tyler Durden At the time the Lindisfarne raid occurred, the Beowulf saga were already well known. If You know the Beowulf saga, You know it is quiet clear that they did have an idea about the societies in the scandinavian peninsula. Beowulf was described as a hero who came from a part in todays Sweden. He went to todays Denmark and killed Grendel. Of course, it is a saga, but it do have some references that other sources about prehistoric Sweden and Denmark mentions. You can also find archaeological evidence that shows they were aware of each other. May 16, 2016 at 18:35

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