Warning: Shocking News Ahead

iStock_000014169810SmallIf you’re a woman…

People tend to have preconceived notions of a woman’s place in history. Some true, many not. I challenge you to peel back the layers of time. Take another look at people and places worthy of deeper consideration. I write Viking and Georgian romance. Yet, every time I open a non-fiction book on these eras, I discover fascinating nuggets of history.

Here are three to consider:

 

  1. Thralls (slaves)

Beautiful womanThrow out everything you think you know about slaves in history. Time to take an altogether new viewpoint when it comes to Vikings and their thralls. Yes, some slave women were poorly used. But, if you read the sagas, you’ll find a lot of lusty women…female thralls count high in that number. In fact, many thralls gained their freedom and stayed in the northlands.

Ever heard of Melkorka of Iceland? She was a thrall who eventually gained her freedom, became very wealthy, and has a place named after her in Iceland.

Melkorka’s tale is worth her own blog post. Stay tuned for a future write up on that head strong woman.

 

  1. Divorce

divorce460The rest of Europe forbade divorce for centuries, or made you pay half a kingdom to obtain a decree. Not so with the Norse. A woman need only gather a certain number of witnesses at her lintel (doorway) and proclaim three times that she was no longer married to (insert husband’s name here) and then repeat the proclamation to those witnesses by the marriage bed.  This made the divorce final.

Interestingly, Viking records show divorce was most often initiated by women. Custom held that women left with whatever she came to the marriage with and any young children. Boys would return to their father’s keeping when they reached a “certain age.”

Are you scratching your head and asking, “This is the Dark Ages we’re talking about, right?” Yes! Don’t mess with a Viking woman if she’s done with her man.

 

  1. Land Owners

Iceland and Reykjavik mapVikings settled Iceland between AD 870 – 930. A detailed account of the endeavor is recorded in Landnamabok – The Book of Settlements. What most people don’t realize is that Europe’s island of fire and ice welcomed male land ownership as well as female claims.

This wasn’t exclusive to Iceland either. Property ownership and inheritance was common to women throughout the Viking culture. Contrast that with other European cultures of the Dark Ages and beyond, and you’re hard pressed to find many women owning and inheriting land.

Most romance readers are familiar with the laws of primogeniture which place the eldest male as inheritor. If he passes on before producing a male heir, the property must go to the next male in the line. Not so with Vikings.

And I haven’t even touched on the brave shield maidens. We’ll save those ladies for another post.

You find all kinds of surprises in history, shocking good and shocking bad, but surprises Norse_Jewel-300 px wide jpegworthy of a story nonetheless. For your enjoyment, I’ve included an excerpt of Norse Jewel, where the hero Hakan is an alpha male to the core…until he meets a woman who upends his orderly Viking world. Enjoy!

♥♥♥

“And what of you, my lord?”

“Frey failed me.” His voice was iron hard. “I have no wife.”

Helena itched to know more, but conversing with a man’s back was a futile effort. Nels and Emund engaged Sestra in a lively description of mid-summer celebrations. Helena touched the pouch dangling from her neck inside her tunic, recalling her life before the Danes had stormed her village.

“I was to be married, but the Danes raided, burning and stealing.” Her hand gripped the pouch under her bodice. The stone bride’s gift was still hers.

Ahead, the earthen ribbon tapered off into trees and open fields. Lord Hakan angled his black steed around to walk slowly beside her. Her shoulders tensed. The chieftain had never bothered to ask the contents of her pouch, which pressed against her bodice. Would he demand to know now?

The Norseman tilted his head toward her and gentled his voice.

“The man you were to marry…he died?”

Her lips parted. She had to look into the distance as much from the shock of a gentle Norseman as the raw picture his question brought to mind.

“Last I saw, Guerin had run to the safety of his family’s tower. ‘Tis made of stone. The Danes couldn’t burn it.” Her throat went thick as she admitted, “I’m sure he’s still alive.”

Awaiting my return.

“He hid like a coward while men carried away his betrothed?” Ice-blue eyes widened within iron rings.

“He’s not a coward.” She shot the words at the chieftain, forgetting her place. “The village…everyone ran from the Danes. Guerin’s gentle and learned, not a brute like…”

She faced the road and clamped her mouth shut.

“Like me,” he finished.

Her whole body vibrated with a jumble of emotions as fractured pieces of that day splashed through her mind. Thundering hooves. Iron rings clanking. Screams of terror. Wild-eyed men brandishing heavy iron hammers flashed in fragments, then blessed blackness. Her free hand rubbed her throat, and the road before her turned into a haze. She walked but knew not where she moved. Her breath was thick in her chest. Beside her the chieftain’s deep voice poured a soothing balm on her soul.

“Helena.”

Drawn to his voice, she raised her head and faced him as they walked. Late-day sunlight skimmed his shoulders. The air was calm and clear, as if they were the only two.

He spoke in a way that lulled her. “‘Tis a hardship, the way you’ve come to my keeping.” Then his voice turned harsh, cutting like a blade. “But your man was a coward. I defend my own.”

Norse_Jewel-300 px wide jpeg

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 If you’re playing Romantic Pursuit, here’s your question:

What is the name of the Icelandic thrall who has a place named after her?

Be sure to submit your answer at the top of the page!

If you’re interested in more of the Norse trilogy, click here to read an excerpt from Norse Fire, Book 2 in this Viking series.

Thanks for stopping by!

Cheers to you, Reader ~ Gina

 

 

 

 

 

Follow Gina Conkle:

A writer of Viking and Georgian romance with a softly sensual side, Gina loves history, books and romance…the perfect recipe for historical romance writer. Her passion for castles and old places (the older and moldier the better!) means interesting family vacations. When not visiting fascinating places, she can be found delving into the latest adventures in cooking, gardening, and chauffeuring her sons.

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15 Responses

  1. ki pha

    How amazing is this! I found it very similar to how my culture takes divorce, women can initiate it by leaving her husband’s home and returning to her parent’s and refusing to return to her husband, a lot of family and relative meetings happens and a decision would then be made. And for us too, the boys will have to return to their father after a certain age or would have stayed with the father from the beginning.

    • ginaconkle2013

      Interesting, isn’t it how some traditions have carried through the centuries? Maybe you have some Viking ancestry in your past! Thanks for stopping by the blog Ki Pha. Have a great day!
      Gina

  2. Teresa Williams

    Melkorka of Iceland was the thrall who had a place named after her in Iceland.

    >

    • ginaconkle2013

      Hi Teresa,

      I’m guessing you’re answering the Romantic Pursuit game? I’ll do my best to see your answer gets to right places. Thanks for stopping by the bog-
      Gina

  3. hawkwoman3

    Melkorka – This was very interesting to me. Years ago, some Native American tribes had the tradition, if a man did not provide for his family or did not treat his wife right, she could put his personal belonging out by the front door and they were divorced. The wife owned the house, children and was the boss. If she did not build his wife a house, he had to go live with his in-laws. The uncles and grandfather had the responsibility of training the male children. The whole tribe was responsible for watching and raising the children.The husband did not own anything except his clothes and weapons. Cherokee people did not live in teepees. They started living in waddle and mud houses, then started building log houses. They taught the Europeans how to build log houses when they got to America. The people in the west lived in teepees because they had to follow the herds for their food and they traveled to a sheltered place to stay out the winters. The woodland Indians did not have to do this because there was plenty of game to be had in the forest. I loved the history on Iceland. Thank You!! I am a history buff myself. I just ordered Norse Jewel. Can’t wait to start reading it. Hugs.

    • ginaconkle2013

      Hi,
      Sooo great to meet another history buff. I love digging into history…how people lived, their cultural norms, and it sounds like you do too. Really fascinating about the Cherokee people. I’d read that among some of the plains tribes a warrior was judged by how well his wife was cared for (and the men would comb their wives hair and do things like that). I think the hair combing is soooo sexy and sweet. I hope you enjoy Norse Jewel.
      Thanks for sharing your insight with me and for stopping by the blog today-
      Gina

      • hawkwoman3

        Thank You Gina! You are right on the women being taken care of. Even in the east. At pow wows the people looked at the women in the circle to see how well dressed they were. I have went to many schools and organizations and spoke on the Native Americans. I even went to our State Capital and spoke to the Social Workers at their convention there on Native Beliefs and traditions. It would take me forever to tell it all on here, but I love history. I love Viking, Scottish, civil war and all kinds of history. Keep up the good work! xoxoxo

    • ginaconkle2013

      Hi Michelle,
      Thanks! I almost became a history major but was swayed from that course. No wonder you love to write historical romance. And you must have the soul of a poet to write a book on writing poetry (more hidden passions?).

      Take care-
      Gina

  4. Collette Cameron

    Such interesting stuff. Vikings have always fascinated, likely because not only am a part Scandinavian, there’s long been a suspicion that the Scots blood is liberally dosed with Viking.

    • ginaconkle2013

      Hi Collette,
      If you’re Scottish, you likely have some Viking in you. The far north islands of Scotland have lots of Viking names and places. I also think the reason highlanders are known to be such large, braw men is from Viking “visits” from centuries ago. With your blonde hair and blue eyes you look Scandic. 🙂
      Gina

    • ginaconkle2013

      Hi Denise,
      Thanks for stopping by the blog for a read. I hope you have a great day-
      Gina

  5. Violetta Rand (@ViolettaRand)

    Hello Gina–you know I love me some Vikings! Great facts to share. Women needed to be strong and tough while the men were gone and didn’t put up with anything they didn’t like! Loved the excerpt.