Portable Magic – A Book Review Blog

Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World – Johanna Katrin Fridriksdottir

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Synopsis:

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 women in these stories take full part in the power struggles and upheavals in their communities, for better or worse.

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

Review:

Of all of the books I read for #Norsevember, this may be my favorite. While delving into the fictional worlds of the Viking Age was fun, this book gave insights into the daily lives of women in this time in a way that was truly captivating.

Johanna talks about the myths and the legends vs reality. What was it like for female infants, teenagers and those who were given the opportunity to mature into adulthood? Many myths and legends paint women in a poor light, as cruel or borderline evil. What was the reasoning for this? And why do we have the Valkyries when women were treated as property a majority of the time?

I was completely wrapped up in learning all there was about these women. I do believe I will search out many of the stories referenced in this novel. All of them sound incredibly intriguing. Johanna even talks about why women such as Freya are left out of many of the stories, while Thor and Loki tend to take center stage. Why the Valkyrie, known warriors of legend, were often painted in a bad light.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Viking Age. While this is a look at how women lived, there is much to be gleaned from its pages.

Recommendations:

The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings by Lars Brownworth

The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth

The Vikings by Else Roesdahl

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