Tarpley April marks the th anniversary of the U.
Unless one day we recover and revive some hapless Viking who has been preserved frozen in glacial ice, and are able to extract from him a detailed account of his life and culture, it is unlikely that modern historians will ever be able to present an absolutely accurate and authoritative description of the life of the Viking Age.
The Saga Time has passed away, and like the Golden Age of Homer, may only be recovered in bits and potsherds, in romanticized remembrances and distant echoes. In order to re-create the society of the Vikings within recreationist organizations such as the S.
With this in mind, we can let the information contained in these pages teach us what the Viking marriage was, or at least, might have been. The Function of Marriage in Viking Scandinavia The starting point for any discussion of marriage in a culture should be the reasons and function of marriage in that society.
In general, marriage serves two primary functions: In Scandinavia, the boundaries of proper sexual conduct were very wide, although as is usual in many societies a double standard prevailed.
The ideal woman was expected to be chaste before marriage and faithful within it.
This bias may be seen in examining the types of insults against women that existed in such materials as the Poetic Edda, which vilify their subjects with accusations of promiscuity and incestuous or otherwise illicit liaisons Lee M. Austin, University of Texas Press, There was good reason for this insistence on female chastity: A more important reason for limiting women's sexual activity was the lack of effective birth control, because the risk of producing illegitimate children could mean financial hardship for a woman's family.
An illegitimate child who had been recognized by its father would receive only two-thirds of its support from its father and the father's kin, while unacknowledged bastards were entirely supported by the mother and her family Grethe Jacobsen, "Sexual Irregularities in Medieval Scandinavia," Sexual Practices and the Medieval Church.
Bullough and James Brundage.
The legal codes reflect the enormous concern of the Vikings over this issue. This is not to say that women did not engage in extramarital sex. Women who avoided pregnancy suffered no penalty under the law, but it was not considered proper for her to accept an inheritance if she were promiscuous Ibid.
In cases where a woman was seduced or raped, no stigma attached to her at all, thus protecting her from sexual exploitation Ibid.
The only restriction that seems to have existed on a man's sexual activity was to penalize a man for fornication, making him pay a small fine for sleeping with a woman not his wife. Sturlunga saga indicates that "almost universally, men indulged in extramarital affairs with numbers of women before, during, and after marriage" Jenny M.
Female slaves were fair game, and a man could purchase a slave woman valued up to twelve ore the value of yards of homespun cloth to have as a bed-slave Grethe Jacobsen, "The Position of Women in Scandinavia During the Viking Period," thesis, University of Wisconsin,p. Concubines were customary, as Adam of Bremen scornfully reports: Only in their sexual relations with women do they know no limits.
According to his means a man has two or three or more wives at the same time Jacobsen, "Sexual Irregularities," p.
Concubines were always women of the lowest social class, and entering into concubinage with a man of higher social status seems to have been quite advantageous for these women.
The concubine was never eligible to become her lover's wife due to this difference in social class, and thus was tolerated by the man's wife, since a concubine could be no threat to the wife's position Ruth M.
See also Eric Oxenstierna. New York Graphic Society,p. Since sexuality was thoroughly regulated by the laws, which made numerous provisions for extramarital activity and illegitimate children, it is logical that the Vikings saw marriage not so much as a means of limiting sexual activity, but rather as a means for forging alliances with other families.
A marriage "meant a chance for the bride's family to make an alliance with one of the most important families Another very important function of marriages was not just the promise of economic gain or political advantage: Anglo-Saxon literature in particular records this Germanic theme, identifying wives and queens as "peace-weavers," who through childbearing wove together the blood of warring tribes, acted as a hostage for her family within the enemy camp, and sought to cool hatreds within her new family Jane Chance, Woman as Hero in Old English Literature.
Syracuse University Press, The sagas record instances when the peace-making wife would gather the women on a steading in order to stop a fight between feuding parties by throwing clothing on and between the combatants, hindering their swords and "turning the fight into something so ridiculous it couldn't be fought" Oxenstierna, p.
Love, Courtship and Poetry Since marriages were arranged by the families of the bride and groom during the Viking Age, love between the two prospective partners was an insignificant consideration when compared to bride-price, dowry, political maneuverings and the like. The sagas support this view, for they "are not particularly interested in good marriages: Such tags also indicate that the newlyweds were expected to forge a workable relationship after their wedding, as is the case in many arranged marriages.Gwendolen's aristocratic attitude is "In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing." pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time." each symbol, and every stage direction in The Importance of Being Earnest is bent on supporting Wilde's contention that social change happens as .
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