Book Reviews, The Briefest Reviews
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The Briefest Book Review (12)

Two books that contribute to our understanding of Viking Age women in significant ways.

(Source: The Viking Age Archive).

Judith Jesch, Women in the Viking Age. (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1991). ISBN: 9780851153605. Paperback.

This is the groundbreaking work on Viking Age women. It was the first to cover the subject in depth and breadth. From Greenland to Russia, from the runes to the sagas. The examples are many and the collection provides a very fine overview. This is the kind of book you will grab from the shelf, again and again, to check for a certain archaeological discovery, or an occurrence in skaldic poetry. Even now, after all these decades, and even though in some cases existing knowledge has been updated due to further discoveries or changing insights, the book is still a wonderful resource. My verdict: excellent reference guide.

(Source: The Viking Age Archive).

Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World. (London: Bloomsbury, 2020). ISBN: 9781350137103. E-book.

This book takes a different approach. Whilst the sagas are full of literary tropes and techniques, they can also reveal something of the medieval mindset. The author excels in the literary analysis. She combines it with archaeological insights and shows Viking Age women as more than literary archetypes or nasty harpies (as some sagas do). She paints a picture around the lifecycle of a woman and encourages the reader to think about the early medieval females on a very human level. And that really packs a punch. My verdict: really excellent. A must-read.

Judith Jesch’s book is the ultimate reference on the subject as it covers many known sources depicting or describing Viking Age, though due to its nature a bit of a dry read at times. Jóhanna Friðriksdóttir’s work is without question a captivating read and describes in detail the daily life of Viking Age women. Both are informative and definitely worth reading.

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