The Viking Age. Volume 2 (of 2): The Early History, Manners, and Customs of the Ancestors of the English-Speaking Nations.  Paul du Chaillu

The Viking Age. Volume 2 (of 2): The Early History, Manners, and Customs of the Ancestors of the English-Speaking Nations

By Paul du Chaillu

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Synopsis

The Viking Age. Volume 2 (of 2): The Early History, Manners, and Customs of the Ancestors of the English-Speaking Nations It is particularly striking, in reading the Sagas and the ancient laws which corroborate them, to see the high position women occupied in earlier and later pagan times. If we are to judge of the civilisation of a people in their daily life by the position women held with regard to men, we must conclude that in this respect the earlier Norse tribes could compare favourably with the most ancient civilised nations whose history has come down to us. A maiden was highly respected, and on becoming a wife she was greatly honoured, and her counsels had great weight; by marrying she became the companion and not the inferior of her husband. She held property in her own right, whatever she received by inheritance and by marriage being her own; though there were restrictions put upon her, as well as upon her husband, in regard to the use of her property. In a word, a retrograde movement in regard to the rights and standing of women took place after the extinction of the Asa creed. The high position they had occupied before was lost, and it is only latterly that they have striven, and in some countries with success, to regain the authority that once belonged to them in regard to property and other matters. 2From the earliest time we see the chivalrous regard that men had for women, and the punishment that any breach of its laws involved. Young men went into warlike expeditions to attain great fame, so that their acts of bravery could be known or extolled, and that they might become worthy of the maiden they wished to woo. The same spirit afterwards spread from the North to other countries in Europe, where, however, the opinion only of women of higher rank was valued. Among the earlier tribes of the North all were respected. Marriage was not a religious contract or ceremony. It was simply regarded as a civil compact, owing to the relations which man and wife held towards each other in regard to property. It was the means of joining families together, which was called tengja saman,[1] and therefore the relation was called tengdir. Consequently marriage itself was a bargain and on that account was called brud-kaup (bride-buying). When a man had selected for himself, or by the advice of his parents, a woman or maiden whom he wanted to marry, he, accompanied by his father, or nearest relatives or best friends, and by a retinue, according to his rank, went to get the consent of the father, or of those who were the guardians of the woman. It was the exception for the suitor himself not to go on this journey, which was called bonordsf & ouml;r (suit journey).

Paul du Chaillu