The Women of the Viking World

Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir

252 Blz., ISBN 978 1 7883 1477 0     
Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020     

Valkyries: the female supernatural beings that choose who dies and who lives on the battlefield. They protect some, but guide spears, arrows and sword blades into the bodies of others. Viking myths about Valkyries attempt to elevate the banality of war - to make the pain and suffering, the lost limbs and deformities, the piles of lifeless bodies of young men, glorious and worthwhile. Rather than their death being futile, it is their destiny and good fortune, determined by divine beings.

The fateful agency of woman is widespread in Norse sources. Norse sagas and Viking myths tell stories of war and strife, loyalty and betrayal, murder and revenge, privation and success. The women in these stories take full part in the power struggles and upheavals in their communities and families, for better or worse. But in some spheres, women are systematically oppressed or excluded because of their gender, and the sagas communicate heartbreaking stories of girls´ and women´s traumatic experiences that resonate strongly today.

In Valkyrie, Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir introduces readers to the dramatic and fascinating texts recorded in medieval Iceland. It was a culture able to imagine women in all kinds of powerful roles, pulling the strings not just in this world but in the other-world too. Drawing on the latest historical and archaeological evidence, this book uncovers the reality behind the myths and legends to reveal the dynamic, diverse lives of Viking women.

Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir has taught at Yale University, USA, and held research posts in Reykjavik and at Harvard. She currently works at the National Library of Norway in Oslo. Her research focuses on Vikings, Old Norse-Icelandic sagas, mythology and poetry, medieval manuscripts and gender.

"Authorative and provocative, bang up-to-date, yet steeped in historical knowledge, JKF´s Valkyrie is indispensable for all Viking enthusiasts. Her lively style, profound knowledge and brilliant insights signal a stunning new voice in the debate about the Vikings."
- Carolyne Larrington, Professor of Medieval European Literature, University of Oxford, UK

"This is the new standard work on women in the Viking Age - a lively, authoritative and staunchly feminist survey that combines both textual and material sources in a ground-breaking study of the female life-course. With this superb book, Jóhanna Katrín has put Viking scholars in her debt."
- Neil Price, Professor of Archaeology, Uppsala University, Sweden

"Through an excellent insight into both the written, as well as archaeological sources, the author weaves a clear picture of women´s lives from birth to death in the Viking Age. Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World is a significant book."
- Jón Viðar Sigurðsson, Professor of History, University of Olso, Norway

"What a wonderful book. For the first time readers can understand the importance of the Valkyries in the Viking Age and see the impact these mythical women had more broadly on culture and society in the early medieval world. The scholarship is excellent, interpretation thorough, yet the writing style is accessible. It´s a pleasure to read and be plunged into a world of sagas, runes, myth and magic."
-Dr Janina Ramirez, University of Oxford, UK

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