The Women of the North
Walter Woodruff1305-04Bracy V. Hill4/25/14Essay 2The Women of the North        In “The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki” we see elements that are obviously important to the understanding of history and as well as in a perfect example of what Professor Hill lectures on in History 1305. The idea that history is in no way linear, but rather a screw fits perfectly with this text and the way it is written. We see in the text many different stories that take place simultaneously and although completely removed from one another effect the other until they all come together at “the tip of the screw” at the end of the saga. The mixing of stories as well as sub-plots can at times be difficult to follow though in the end make for a more thorough story. Throughout the saga we see how although separated by great distance and time that humans still have similarities in the stories they tell. People of supernatural strength, as well as non-human characters are evident throughout the stories and legends of ancient peoples; we see that women though at times very minor are extremely important to the outcome as well as the process of the story. The women of “The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki” are very diverse as well as important to the story that they are well worth examining.        From James E. Montgomery’s “Ibn Fadlan and the Rusiyyah” we get an inside look at how the Norse people treat their women. Through the eyes of a Muslim, who has been exposed to the Abrahamic religions and traditions, the interactions between these Nordic people who have not yet been exposed to such traditions. In the account that Ibn Fadlan gives we see that the men of the society are basically brutes who only use the women for sexual purposes, “One man will have intercourse with his slave-girl while his companion looks on” (Montgomery 9). The story of King Helgi and his raping Queen Olof at first glance seems to strengthen the argument that women were seen only as objects of sex, but it actually does the opposite. In this story we see that Queen Olof has power over her kingdom alone with no man that is above her. She also is very cunning and although she is overpowered by King Helgi she was the one to first trick and shame the king and after her rape she allows King Helgi to take Yrsa because she knows it will bring dishonor to him when she reveals the parentage of Yrsa later. The spectrum of different positions of power that the women hold goes from common sex slave all the way to independent Queen.        The most interesting characteristic given to women characters in the saga is that the ones who are the most powerful and wealthy are overwhelmingly the antagonists and are the ones that seem to cause much of the problem. The pattern of powerful women being the antagonists starts from the very beginning of the story with Sigrid whose husband King Halfdan was killed by his brother Frodi who she then marries. When her sons return to avenge their father she does not side with her sons, “Sigrid, the mother of the brothers Helgi and Hroar, also burned to death inside the hall, because she chose not to leave”(10) this showing the allegiance she showed to the evil King Frodi. In the next story of the saga we see Olof Queen of Saxland who is by far the most powerful woman in the story because she rules a kingdom alone is also presented as “cruel and arrogant in temperament”(11) she is the one to antagonize the obvious protagonist of the story King Helgi. In his attempt to marry Queen Olof  he is deceived and she sends him back after he passes out from drunkenness and continues on to disgrace him, “She shaved off all his hair and smeared him with tar”(11).  We see in Yrsa the Daughter of Olof and Helgi that once she learns of her parentage she joins the evil King Adils and although she helps King Hrolf in the end she is still not a truly “good” character. In the story of the elfin woman King Helgi is once again tormented by a woman because his daughter Skuld will later marry Hjorvard and attacks her half-brother Hrolf son of Helgi, in another example of how women are the antagonists of this story. Finally, the last piece of the pattern showing that women are portrayed mainly as evil is the sexual advance of Queen Hvit on her step-son Bjorn who denies her and then is cursed to be a bear that she later has killed.

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Saga Of King Hrolf Kraki And Story Of King Helgi. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from