H˙sfreyjar in “Warrior woman to nun- looking back at Viking women”

In the society portrayed by sagas such as Njßls saga, women such as Hallger­r and Berg■ˇra were h˙sfreyjar, not just 'housewives', but the mistresses of large farms. Such women had sole responsibility for the provision of food to large numbers of people. With the men often away, the housewife also had considerable power over the day-to-day running of the farm. But it is clear that their power depended on the standing of their husband, and on how much responsibility he was willing to give his wife. A man looking for work asks Berg■ˇra, 'Do you have any say here?' She can reply, 'I am Njßll's wife ... and I have no less say in the household than he does.'

Source: Judith Jesch, "[h˙sfreyjar] Warrior women to nun- looking back at viking women" in Women in the Viking Age, (Woodbridge: Suffolk and Rochester New York: The Boydell Press , 1986), 187.

Return to parent page