The goddess Skadi has one main myth, but it is a well-developed story, spanning three generations, and involving the feud between the gods and giants. The actual story is scattered around through a variety of sources, but its outline is clear.
(This post was inspired by one written by Nancy Marie Brown at God of Wednesday: A Viking Fairy Tale. She in turn was inspired by a question from a reader, and a paper by Takahiro Narikawa. And on it goes.)
Long before I began this blog, just plain long ago in fact, I did a degree in Medieval Studies, with a specialty in English. This taught me how to dig into a text for its meaning, but we rarely considered the political or historical aspects of the texts. In some cases it would have been difficult to do so.
Who wrote Beowulf? We can guess at his (probably his) politics, and what was happening around him while he was writing, but we know very little about him. Even much later texts have similar problems, such as Gawain and the Green Knight. The poet Simon Armitage hypothesized that the author was from northern England, based on some of the words used, but we don’t know for sure.
Women in power in the Middle Ages had a problem. Women weren’t supposed to rule (remember Eve? and St. Paul?). If they did take the throne, they were expected to marry, and their husband would then exercise power. So the choice was simple: marry and lose power, or stay single and keep it, but rule alone and die childless.
The meykongr, or maiden king, romance was born out of this dilemma.
When you think of gender-bending in Norse myth, the trickster-god Loki springs to mind. Would you be surprised to know that Odin and Thor have also dragged up, albeit not very successfully in Thor’s case? (One of the areas they did not compete in during the flyting in Hárbarðsljóð; imagine how that would have gone.)
I realize that Loki’s mother Laufey and the goddess Iðunn are not obviously connected, but there are parallels between them. These reveal the power and gender politics of Norse myth. In some ways Laufey is an inversion of Iðunn.