Valkyrie by Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir

‘The Women of the Viking World’

This book examines the roles that women played in the Viking world.  Ms Friðriksdóttir writes about Valkyries: the female supernatural beings that have the power to choose who lives and dies on the battlefield.  Viking myths about Valkyries seek to make the pain and suffering of war worthwhile.  In these myths, death is not futile, it is divine destiny.

But who were the women of the Viking world?  What were their roles, and how can we learn more about them?

‘This book will introduce readers to the diverse and fascinating texts recorded in medieval Iceland.  A culture able to imagine women in all kinds of role carrying power, not just in this world, but as we have already seen, as pulling the strings in the otherworld as well.’

Ms Friðriksdóttir draws on historical and archaeological evidence to shed light on the different roles women might have played. There was more to the ‘Viking Age’ than battle and plunder.  I enjoyed reading about the different sagas and the different archaeological finds, about the diversity of life. Ms Friðriksdóttir writes a history of women, with chapters reflecting different stages of life.  There are six chapters (as well as an introduction and an epilogue):

1. Infancy and Childhood

2. Between Two Worlds: Teenage Girls

3. Adulthood

4. Pregnancy and Childbirth

5. Widows

6. Old Age and Death

And, for those who want more, there is an extensive bibliography and several illustrations.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in women’s history, as well as anyone with an interest in the ‘Viking Age’.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith