17 brave Viking re-enactors spent one week in the wilderness. King of The Hill has come to an end and we now look back on our adventure. 

Taking Hands on History´s philosophy behind “The Viking Way” and “Go Viking Hiking” one step further, we aimed to give the participants an unforgettable, epic experience. “King of the Hill” was a survival and exploration living history game. The participants were not playing characters but were given the opportunity to hands – and head on explore the world, the way and the mindset of the Vikings. Our participants were from England, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, Norway and Germany. 

We have walked many miles in rough terrain, through bear and moose country, climbed mountains, crossed rivers and conquered the soggy marsh. We have rationed our food but yet never been hungry, gathered the firewood and cooked our meals on open fires. We have built shelters to protect from wind and rain, dried our wet shoes and socks in desperation and huddled up under our blankets. 

Thank you to all the skillful, brave and playful participants. Here follows a brief summary of our travel. 

Our journey started at the longhouse on the island of Jøa where we got to know each other, feasted, planned our packing and tested some of our gear.

Very little information about the game was given. The participants knew nothing of where we were going and what to expect. All they knew was that they had to gather 20 tokens in order to win the game. They did not know how or where to find them.

The morning after we made our way to a remote and hidden location in Nærøy. To reach it we had to change boats three times – the last boat being a private fishing vessel where the organizers had been wise enough to bribe the captain.

Once we reached the head of the fjord and the river outlet our game began.

The participants were fleeing from their Jarl. A few days ago one of them got greedy and stole the Jarl’s gold.

Sailing out into the night they’d hit a cliff and their boat had sunk –  leaving them with nothing more than the clothes on their back and whatever else they managed to scavenge. The gold now lay at the bottom of the deep fjord.

The Jarl was coming. He had assembled his men and was sailing towards them. In one direction was the open sea, in the other a stream, the mountains and the forest. They quickly decided to follow the creek upstream, hoping that the Jarl would not be able to track or follow them.

As they made their way up the river, every waterfall they passed seemed like a sorely needed fortification.

They spotted a white flag billowing from the top of a ridge. The first token – a token gained for exploration – was gained. As they slowly but steadily made their way up the river they encountered a local fisherman. He was pleased with today’s catch but unhappy about his broken fishing spear. He offered to share his fish with the travelers if they could make him a new spear. They completed the task, felt momentarily safe and decided to make camp.

Shelters were built and the coldest participants made a heated bed from warm rocks covered with moss.

The morning after the local fisherman shared news of the Jarl’s approach. He told the participants to make haste and to follow the river uphill and find the lakes.

By the lakes a Sami chieftain awaited them. He was resting by a Sami seide – his sacred place. He told the participants they were now in his territory and that they would be safe from the Jarl. The Jarl would not dare to enter this land.

However, the Sami chief demanded that the travelers leave an offering to the Gods. Luckily the participants had carried with them a fish head. This was offered and the Sami chief was pleased. He told them he had a nice place near the river where they could camp and that his daughter would bring them food.

After a good night’s sleep and a meal the travelers decided to reach the mountains and the view of the fjord.

The Sami chief was willing to let them stay in his area for two more nights if they agreed to do him a favor: some scouts be sent north to the highest peaks to search for the chief’s reindeers. The group split in two- five were chosen to complete the task, whilst the others pushed east towards the fjord and the hills. On their way there they went by a Sami sleeping shelter – a huge “heller” hidden between two bogs.

Reaching the hills and the river, half of the group made camp. A few hours later the scouts returned.

With one more day to go the group had now managed to gather 8 tokens: for exploring, scouting, crafting and for making the sacrifice by the Sami seide.

After finding a dry spot sheltered from the wind, gathering firewood and making the sleeping shelters, the evenings were spent around the camp fire in good spirits. They rationed their food and shared what they had: Dried meat, spruce shoots, mushrooms and berries were on the menu. There was even frog meat acquired though this ingredient was much harder to catch than the others.

The final day in the wilderness, the participants still had several tokens yet to earn. A few scouts went out to further explore the area and came back with three flags and an equal amount of tokens.

Some participants started constructing a primitive sauna, whilst others began carving a totem figure, initially to a nameless God.  The idea was to pay homage to any of the beliefs that the group members honoured. However, the fjords being the ancestral home of the Vikings, the likeness of Odin became apparent in the wood, even down to a natural scarring on the left eye. It was meant to be.

For the evening ceremony, a ritual fire was kindled using a fire by friction set made entirely from resources gathered from the land; the natural cord snapped just as an ember was produced, and the broken string was thus tied to the totem in thanks.

After a cleansing sauna the participants gathered for a final feast. Tomorrow they would make an attempt to signal their friends at the other side of the fjord. The last food was rationed out, and afterwards they all gathered around the totem and shared words of gratitude.

During their last day the participants managed to gather 19 tokens.

The last and final token was to be gained by lighting a signal fire using two torches on two two hill tops. Two champions were chosen. One torch had to be lit, and the other champion had to run to the opposite hill and ignite the other torch before the first burned out.

They managed and got their 20th token and thereby won the game – they were the Kings and Queens of the Hill.