Women in the Viking Age. Judith Jesch, 1996.

- 107 -

The abduction of Irish women to be sold as slaves is confirmed by a contemporary source of a somewhat different type. This is the Life of St Findan, a Leinster monk who, like so many other Irishmen, spent most of his adult life on the continent, at the monastery of Rheinau (in present-day Switzerland), where he died in about 878. His biography was written soon after. It concentrates on his youth and the dramatic events that led to his life of religious exile on the continent. This involved capture by Norsemen but, before Findan himself is captured, his sister suffers the same fate:

Foreigners called Norsemen had captured Findan's sister, along with other women during raids on that Scottish island called Ireland. His father then gave his son Findan some money and ordered him to buy his sister back and return her to her father.

Findan is not successful, as he is very soon captured by 'pagans' himself

- 108 -

and from then on the narrative follows his trials and tribulations. We have to assume that he never found his sister. But her fate may have been very similar to that which befell Findan later on:

Then, according to custom, his Norse master, not wishing to return to his homeland, sold him to another, who sold him to a third, who in turn sold him to a fourth. This last master, longing to see his native land again, gathered his companions together and took Findan and others with him into captivity.

From the account of Findan's sister and some others (such as the ransoming of two Moroccan girls referred to above), we might conclude that vikings practised kidnapping rather than slave trading. A captive ransomed could be as lucrative as and much less trouble than one that had to be fed and clothed.

Source: Judith Jesch, Women in the Viking Age (New York: The Boydell Press, 1996), 107-108.

Return to parent page