The Role And Status Of Women In Viking Age

1839 words - 7 pages

Scandinavian R5BThe role and status of women in Viking AgeWith the general growth of feminist work in many academic fields, it is hardly surprising that the research on the role and status of women in Viking age has attracted considerable attention in recent years. There is a substantial amount of research on this and the expanding corpus of research addresses itself to all of the major dimensions of Viking women's lives. While some research has focused on evidence from literature, such as sagas, other work has sought to use evidence from archaeology, such as burials. This source difference results in a broad range of differing interpretation regarding the status and position of women in Viking Age.Much of the earlier interpretation of women's status and position in Viking Age emphasizes knowledge gained from diverse texts including sagas of the Icelanders, skaldic poetry, romances, legal texts, and historical documents. The Icelandic sagas portray a number of independent-minded females. Many of us have interpreted this to show that Viking women were independent and fully equal to men. But if we read deeply the lines, it is clearly that the real situation differed. The marriage fate of two sisters in Honsa-thoris Saga indicates that marriage was most often a business transaction, including detailed consideration of wealth and property, between father and suitor, and women had no say in who they marry, as well as their authority in a marriage (Jochens 1995). This literary example also reports that even if a girl was told about the engagement, there was nothing she can do to cancel it (Jochens 1995). Viking women seem to have very limited freedom of choice.By studying the laws of early Iceland, scholars argue that Viking Age women did not enjoy the same legal status as men. "A mother takes one-third of killing compensation after her legitimate children, sharing with the dead man's brothers born of the same father; and in the same way she takes one-third of the compensation paid on account of her daughters, sharing with their brothers born of the same father" (Dennis, Foote, and Perkins 1980, 51). This suggests that woman did not inherit as much as men. There is other evidence that women were not considered as valuable as men. Infanticide, the killing of newborns, was practiced almost exclusively on females. "The most explicit Scandinavian accounts of female infanticide, usually in the form of exposure, occur in Icelandic family sagas, most of which were composed in the thirteenth century…Thorsteinn remarks to Jófríor: 'You are soon going to have a baby. Now if you have a girl, it must be left out to die, but if it is a boy, it will be brought up.'" (Wicker 2012, 254-255). The sagas portray males as of greater value for increasing land holdings, riches, and honor, while females had to be married off and provided with dowries.Gender roles were clearly defined by the runic texts. The examination of texts on a Swedish stone...

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