Dis married Jokul Ironback, a blue berserk.

From "The Saga of Thorstein Viking's Son" by R.B.Anderson.

It's a norse saga that I'm reading. What's the meaning of "a blue berserk", I know the word "berserk" is a Norse warrior, but "blue", I really don't know.


  • 1
    I'm guessing that the berserk in question painted himself with woad. – Jason M Jul 29 '14 at 3:50
  • Maybe he's sad, because he's not single anymore. ;-) – Jim Jul 29 '14 at 4:05

The notion of a blue berserk mixes together two mostly-unrelated cases: that of Berserkers, or berserks, “Norse warriors who are primarily reported in the Old Norse literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury” [1] and Celtic warriors, which “Julius Caesar in his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars” described as dyeing their skins blue [2].

Note that while woad [3] (or, Isatis tinctoria [4]) produces a nice blue dye, it is not at all clear that woad actually was used by Celtic warriors for skin dyeing. Source [2] says: “experimentation suggests that woad is not very well suited as a skin dye nor as tattoo ink”, and source [4] suggests that the vitrum coloring agent mentioned by Julius Caesar may instead have been “some form of copper- or iron-based pigment”.

[1] Wikipedia, Berserker
[2] Wikipedia, Celtic warfare
[3] Wiktionary, woad
[4] Wikipedia, Isatis tinctoria

  • 1
    A perfectly correct answer -- this must not be the internet :) – Fattie Jul 29 '14 at 10:19

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