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Why it is so difficult to evaluate the influence of women on Viking society - Essay Example

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Why it is so difficult to evaluate the influence of women on Viking society

The saga writers of the 13th century belonged to an oral tradition, which embraced written culture like the Holy Bible. It is characteristic of Scandinavian or Norse societies, that they had never had any hierarchical form of governing. But Viking societies now had a king, who served as a ruler, and men were the dominant group in the society and the family. All these social aspects were then highlighted in epics and romance. As a result, saga writing became a political act in gender relations under this situation. The ideological view of the binary opposition formed a kind of "stereoscopic" view on women as depicted in the sagas, paying special attention to gender roles and the contexts of these
performances. First, when one looks at women's representation in one of the oldest forms of Icelandic literature, the 'Gylfaginning' saga, most of the gods are represented as warriors, and are thus heroic images. This depicts the social role of males as being the 'external' heroes and proves their dominance both in the society and in their own family. Goddesses such as Frigg and Freyji usually represented marriage, motherhood, fertility, love, household management and domestic art2. Frigg and Freyji are the highest goddesses from the sir and Vanir races. In addition to their divine images, they are always seen as role models for the moral code for Viking women. Oral literature or written sagas were the major entertainment for Vikings, so the sagas worked as 'social education', developing the stereotype and the binary ideology in the Viking society. With this change and suppression of the past, there still were "strong women" in oral sagas in the Viking age. But nevertheless women were constrained from playing the role of remembering and preserving the connection with the past, and evoking it in a way that minimizes its potential disruption of, or threat to, the present symbolic order3. Additionally, because of changes in political, social and religious culture, Viking women have lost their power in the public sphere.
That's why women in sagas have always been the subordinate group under the authority of the male in the family. As in the Laxdoela Saga, the father was the one who decided about Gudrd's first marriage to Thorvald, a man she did not love4. This fact shows that women were under male's authority and seldom appeared in public. They were powerful in their limited private surrounding, taking care of their household and family, but still faced

the binary opposition that influenced their society and the role and power of Viking women. Ultimately, it has blurred or flattened the influence of female Vikings on Viking society.
To understand the social and historical function of sagas in Old Norse society, it is necessary to see, how women were represented in early legislation, together with their life's depictions in archaeological documents. In the medieval Scandinavian culture and from my study of the sagas, Viking women were always signified and related to the household and to nurturing their family and children. We can see this from one of the oldest sagas in Northman Literature, the Saga ...Show more


In the following essay I will discuss the difficulty of evaluating the influence of women on Viking society. My work will examine the social role of women in the Viking Age, discuss their representations in a series of old Norse literature, and use some historical support from archaeological findings and from the laws of early Iceland - Grgs to determine the reasons of such situation behind Viking society during the period of 800-1400 A.D.
Author : orin54
Why it is so difficult to evaluate the influence of women on Viking society essay example
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