A thrall ("Þræll"; "Þír", f.) was a variety of slave in Scandinavian culture during the Viking Age. Unlike many of the forms of slavery throughout human history, the state of being a thrall could be entered into voluntarily, as well as involuntarily. Slavery was one of the primary sources of income for the Vikings. Thralls were first described by the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote in AD 98 that the Swedes (Suiones) had no right to carry arms, but that the weapons were locked inside and protected by a slave only to be distributed when they were attacked by enemies.

The system of slavery was supported by Norse mythology, which claimed that the thralls had a separate ancestry through Ríg.

A person could become a thrall by giving himself up because of starvation, being captured and sold, or being born into a thrall family. The first was considered to be the most shameful way of entering slavery and was the first method of acquiring slaves to be forbidden. The most common way of acquiring thralls remained the capture of prisoners in foreign countries or the buying of such captured foreigners. As in the Roman practice of slavery, Nordic thralls could be of any ethnic origin. Furthermore, a thrall had social status but to a lesser degree than other castes in the society, regarded more like a domestic worker.

The thralls were kept as livestock and their master had the power of their life and death. A thrall might be a human sacrifice in the funeral of a Viking chief. A child born by a thrall woman (a thir) was a thrall by birth, whereas a child born by a free woman was a free person even if the father was a thrall

When Christianity arrived in Northern Europe, there was increasing demand for non-Christian slaves, and the Scandinavians had a de facto monopoly on trading them because of geographic access to large non-Christian populations.

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  • Thrall — (altnordisch þræll; þír, männl., Bedeutung: ein unfreier Knecht ) wurden Sklaven von den Wikingern genannt. Diese waren im damaligen Kastensystem die niedrigstehendsten Personen und verrichteten üblicherweise Tätigkeiten zu denen keine besondere… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Thrall — (nórdico antiguo þræll) era el calificativo para un esclavo en la cultura escandinava durante la Era vikinga. Los Thralls pertenecían a la casta más baja de la sociedad nórdica y normalmente sin aptitudes ni capacidades laborales concretas.… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Thrall — Thrall, a. Of or pertaining to a thrall; in the condition of a thrall; bond; enslaved. [Obs.] Spenser. [1913 Webster] The fiend that would make you thrall and bond. Chaucer. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • thrall — [θro:l US θro:l] n [Date: 900 1000; : Old Norse; Origin: thrAll] in sb s/sth s thrall also in thrall to sb/sth literary controlled or strongly influenced by someone or something ▪ We have a congress that is in thrall to special interest groups …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Thrall — Thrall, n. [OE. thral, [thorn]ral, Icel. [thorn]r[ae]ll, perhaps through AS. [thorn]r[=ae]l; akin to Sw. tr[ a]l, Dan. tr[ae]l, and probably to AS. [thorn]r[ae]gian to run, Goth. [thorn]ragjan, Gr. tre chein; cf. OHG. dregil, drigil, a servant.]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • thrall — [ θrɔl ] noun LITERARY in thrall to completely controlled or influenced by someone or something have/hold someone in thrall to control someone completely or have all of their attention …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Thrall — Thrall, TX U.S. city in Texas Population (2000): 710 Housing Units (2000): 264 Land area (2000): 0.406467 sq. miles (1.052744 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.406467 sq. miles (1.052744 sq. km)… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Thrall, TX — U.S. city in Texas Population (2000): 710 Housing Units (2000): 264 Land area (2000): 0.406467 sq. miles (1.052744 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.406467 sq. miles (1.052744 sq. km) FIPS code:… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • thrall — [thrôl] n. [ME thral < OE thræl < ON thræll < Gmc * thranhilaz, lit., the constrained one < IE base * trenk , to shove, press hard > THRONG] 1. [Now Chiefly Literary] a slave or bondman 2. a person under the moral or psychological… …   English World dictionary

  • Thrall — Thrall, v. t. To enslave. [Obs. or Poetic] Spenser. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • thrall — ► NOUN ▪ the state of being in another s power: she was in thrall to her husband. DERIVATIVES thraldom (also thralldom) noun. ORIGIN Old Norse, «slave» …   English terms dictionary

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