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Rezensionen 109

8–10 mm betragen (statt cm); Seite 48 muß udith Jesch. Women in the Viking
es Gleichgratköper (statt -körper) heißen, Age. Woodbridge: The Boydell
richtig Seite 53 und 54; in Kapitel 8 wird Press, 1991. 239 pages.
Odins Speer falsch als “Gugnir” (statt
Gungnir) angeführt, sein Ring heißt Draupnir,
nicht “Draupni”, und der Titel der eddi- Given the upsurge of interest in the
schen Spruchsammlung “Hávamál” (87) soll- study of women as literary types and histori-
te deutsch besser als “Die Sprüche (oder: Re- cal figures, and in feminist theory and ar-
den) des Hohen” (d.h. Odins) wiedergegeben chaeology, it seems almost inconceivable that
werden. Die von der Verfasserin — offen- no general work on women in the Viking
sichtlich aus Felix Genzmers Eddaüberset- Age, nor in medieval Scandinavia, has been
zung — übernommene Bezeichnung “Das alte written in English in recent years. Judith
Sittengedicht” ist eine moderne Titelgebung, Jesch is to be congratulated, not only for per-
die sich überdies nur auf die ersten ca. 70– ceiving this lack, but also for producing a
80 Strophen — je nach Abgrenzung durch die book which goes such a long way towards
Übersetzer — der insgesamt 164 Strophen satisfying the many differing requirements
umfassenden Sammlung bezieht. which her readers will be seeking to fulfill.
Das Einleitungskapitel enthält erfreu- Delimiting the Viking Age strictly to the
licherweise auch einen kurzen Abriß der period between 800 and 1100 concentrates
Forschungsgeschichte (17–20). Hier werden the mind wonderfully on that evidence which
zwar unter anderem die verschiedenen Geld- does exist from the period, and distinguishes
geber und fördernden Institutionen genannt, very clearly between contemporary and later
von der “Norddeutschen Rundfunk A.G.” sources. The evidence for women’s activities
1930 bis zur “Krupp v. Bohlen und Hal- and roles: archaeological finds, runic inscrip-
bach Stiftung” 1979 und der Trägerschaft tions, foreign chronicle accounts, representa-
der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft; die tions in sculpture, myth, in eddic and skaldic
Übernahme der “Schirmherrschaft” über die poetry, and in Snorri, is reviewed chapter by
Grabung durch den “Reichsführer SS” und chapter. The final chapter is a retrospective
das Engagement des “SS-Ahnenerbes” in den look at Viking women as depicted in the
Jahren nach 1934 bleiben jedoch bedauerli- family sagas. This may sound as if the
cherweise unerwähnt (vgl. Herbert Jankuhn, modus operandi is movement from the trust-
Die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu 1937–1939 worthy to the less reliable, but Judith Jesch
[Berlin: Ahnenerbe-Stiftung Verlag, 1943], heads off any such supposition early in the
10). Ein deutlicher Hinweis auf Schwierig- introduction: “This arrangement may seem to
keiten, die nicht nur im Umgang mitfrüher, imply a hierarchy of sources, from the ‘reli-
sondern auch mit jüngerer Vergangenheit auf- able’ and concrete evidence of archaeology
treten können. to the ‘unreliable’ romantic mythologizing of
Ein entscheidender Einwand gegen the Icelandic sagas. There is certainly a con-
Hildegard Elsners Leistung ist das nun frei- tinuum and the different sources give different
lich nicht; ihr Buch bietet für die ange- types of information about the Viking Age,
sprochene Zielgruppe gründliche und sach- but I do not necessarily subscribe to the view
kundige Informationen über den Gegen- that ‘only archaeology can reveal the truth’”
standsbereich, und es kann darüber hinaus (4–5).
auch gut in weiter gefaßten Zusammen- The book’s great strengths lie, first, in
hängen — etwa im Schul- oder Hochschul- exactly this interdisciplinary approach to Vi-
unterricht — als erste Einführung in die zen- king studies, and, secondly, in the up-to-
tralen Fragestellungen der Haithabuforschung date summaries of archaeological and epi-
sowie in deren bisherige Ergebnisse verwen- graphic evidence. These, and the extensive
det werden. bibliographical references, will make the
book indispensible, especially to those who
Hartmut Röhn mainly work only in one area of the disci-
pline. The chapter on foreign sources reveals

alvíssmál 1 (1992 [1993]): 109–10

110 Rezensionen

a considerable breadth of reading and judi- constitution of these women can possibly be
cious historical probing of the value of such gleaned, as Judith Jesch is understandably
sources. There is a welcome use of Arab and wary of falling into the essentialist trap of
Russian chronicle material, in addition to the assuming that Viking women were in most
familiar accounts of Viking atrocities from senses “like us.”
outraged churchmen. The well-known, lurid The book is amply illustrated with beau-
account of Ibn Fadlan is thus set off against tifully reproduced and apposite pictures;
the adventures of the flirtatious Al-Ghazal thus it seems ungenerous to regret the ab-
and the redoubtable Olga of Kiev, told with sence of maps, bar one Europe-wide map
copious quotation from original material. showing Viking trade routes (110), but
Judith Jesch states at the outset that given the broad appeal of the book, I sus-
she is omitting consideration of evidence pect not every reader will instantly know
about women’s lives from the laws and the where Kaupang is, nor indeed be sure how
konungasögur. She is no doubt wise to to find out.
leave out legal evidence, given its lateness Judith Jesch strikes a difficult balance
and Christian content. The loss of the between writing for the informed general
konungasögur is regrettable however; there reader and the knowledgeable scholar with
may not be an enormous number of notable remarkable success. There is an absence of
women in Heimskringla, but the consider- footnotes and impedimenta which encour-
ation of figures like Sigríðr in stórráða, to ages accessibility, but brief end-notes refer
name but one, might have been more ger- the reader to other works, and there is an
mane to forming a historically accurate view extensive bibliography, making no conces-
of Viking women than the discussion of sions to the reader who reads only English.
Saxo’s legendary warrior women. I should
also have welcomed some investigation of Carolyne Larrington
wisdom poetry, a genre with a peculiar rela-
tionship to the actual. Hávamál is cited as
evidence for the importance of memorial
stones (48), but discussion of the positive
evaluations both the “gnomic poem” and
Loddfáfnismál make of women’s intellec-
tual capacities might have counterbalanced
the emphasis which the book—inevitably—
places on the physical and material.
An absence of new and startling con-
clusions and totally incontrovertible facts
may be sensed as the reader progresses
through Women in the Viking Age. This
is not to fault the book, but results inevi-
tably from the paucity of evidence. The con-
clusions which are reached: that Viking
women did travel with their men, that they
took part in trade, that they could commis-
sion rune-stones, that they may temporarily
have experienced some degree of new free-
dom with Christianity emerge as persuasively
argued and soundly based. It remains diffi-
cult to form a clear picture of a typical, in-
dividual woman’s life — there is no verbal
equivalent to the kind of reconstruction in
the Viking museum in Jorvik. It is only from
the sagas that any sense of the psychological

alvíssmál 1 (1992 [1993]): 109–10

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