Women and Ships in the Viking World
Northern Studies, Vol.36 (2001)
Perhaps the most splendid, and certainly one of the best-known, burials of the Viking Age is that of the two women who were put to rest in the Oseberg ship. And one of the most recent discoveries of a Viking Age boat-burial, found at Scar on Sanday, in Orkney, in 1991, was of a high-status, elderly woman buried along with a younger man and a child. This symbolic association, in death, of women and ships, though common enough in the Viking Age, deserves notice, for it is not easily paralleled in the evidence of poetry and sagas, in which ships are more commonly associated with the men who captained and crewed them in life. In this paper, I examine more closely some linguistic and literary evidence to see what, if any, associations there were between living women and ships in the Viking Age and after.