Amleth the Berserker

After Amleth watches his father die, he flees to the land of the Rus, a place in Eastern Europe where Scandinavian and Slavic peoples regularly intermingled. Amleth grows up to become a berserker - a Viking Age warrior who would usually fight naked in a violent rage (”Berserkers” 2016).

Amleth is not completely naked, so his costume provides something to analyze. In the berserker sequence, Amleth wears silver arm bands - something Ibn Rusta detailed in his account of of the Rus during the 10th century (Ewing 2006, 125).

We see Amleth wearing a wolfskin during his dance ritual and battle. This is because he is most likely a subtype of berserker called an ulfhedinn or, literally, wolf-coat. The animal skin represented the warrior’s inner ferocity and served to instill fear in enemies (”Berserkers”, 2016).

The skirt, leggings, and leg bindings Amleth wears are all completely Viking appropriate and are most likely made of wool (Ewing 2006, 95). Underneath the leggings, Amleth probably wore linen underwear, which would have typically covered the entire lower body, including the feet. Fun fact: the underwear (or “hose”) could be died certain colors for luck if the wearer was high-status (Ewing 2006, 94).

Amleth also wears a headband during the raid. It’s made with string in a process called tablet weaving. Director Robert Eggers explains in an interview “I asked Nille [Nille Glaesel is a viking clothing consultant on the film] ‘Could any of these berserkers have leather headbands?’ And she was like ‘Yeah if it was f*cking woodstock’” (Eggers 2022, 9:01).

Headgear from Birka graves (Ewing, 2006. 121).


"Berserkers." 2016. In Encyclopedia of Warrior Peoples & Fighting Groups, edited by Paul K. Davis, and Allen Lee Hamilton. 3rd ed. Grey House Publishing.

Eggers, Robert. 2022. “Alexander Skarsgård & 'The Northman' Director Break Down Amleth's Return as a Viking | Vanity Fair” Vanity Fair.

Ewing, Thor. 2006. Viking Clothing. Stroud: Tempus.