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In Irish folklore Norsemen or Vikings are generally called "Danes". They are described as fierce warriors, ravaging the countryside, destroying churches and seizing boys and girls as slaves. It is claimed that the Danes imposed a tax of "an ounce of silver per nose" per year. Those who refused to pay the tax had their noses cut off. The raths or earthen forts which dot the Irish landscape are sometimes regarded as having been built by the Danes.

Late mediaeval Irish stories have native Irish warriors, The Fianna under their leader Fionn, engaging in battle with invading armies from Norway who often use magical powers but are always defeated in the end. These stories include
Fionn Goes To Norway, The Hostel of the Elder Trees and The King of Norway.

One legend tells how after the battle of Clontarf only two Danes, a father and son, were left in Ireland. They were the only two people who knew the secret method which the Vikings had of making beer from heather. The old man was threatened with torture to make him reveal the secret. He agreed but asked that his son be first put to death so that he would not see his father submit. This was done but the father then refused and died under torture rather than reveal the precious secret.

Several animals were associated with the Danes. Weasels were supposed to be their cats, foxes their dogs and they were reputed to have introduced hens to Ireland.

Updated December 1997 by the Viking Network

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