RUSSIAN STATE UNIVERSITY FOR THE HUMANITIES
RUSSIAN STATE UNIVERSITY FOR THE HUMANITIES
Maiden rulers and maiden warriors
23.04.2020

Maiden rulers and maiden warriors

“If in other literary traditions there are images of obstinate princesses tamed by their suitors, in Iceland they made stories about the sovereign maiden rulers who did not want to hear about marriage, because the marriage would threaten them with a weakening of power and a loss of social status,” Dr. Inna Matyushina noted.

Such, for example, are the fifteen-year-old Ingigerd, the heroine of the Saga of Sigrgard, Princess Serena in the Saga of Clarus, the ruler Florentia in the Saga of Gibbon, Filotemia in the Saga of Dinus the Arrogant, Fulgida in the Saga of Viktor and Blavus", Cedentiana in the Saga of Sigurd the Silent, Nitida in the Saga of Nitid.

In Icelandic sagas, the heroines who not only refuse to bow to their suitors, but also subject them to verbal and physical humiliation, are called meykongr, “virgin ruler”. They call themselves “king” (kongr), not “queen” "(dróttning). The relationship between the aforementioned words is not limited to gender differences. Although the queen's title, dróttning, can mean both the unmarried ruler and the king’s wife, sagas usually refer here to the limited power derived from the power of the husband-ruler (kongr, konungr).

In Icelandic sagas, the heroines who not only refuse to bow to their suitors, but also subject them to verbal and physical humiliation, are called meykongr, “virgin ruler”. They call themselves “king” (kongr), not “queen” "(dróttning). The relationship between the aforementioned words is not limited to gender differences. Although the queen's title, dróttning, can mean both the unmarried ruler and the king’s wife, sagas usually refer here to the limited power derived from the power of the husband-ruler (kongr, konungr).

It is not known whether the Classical culture, in particular the Greek Amazons theme, influenced the Scandinavian tradition. It is also unknown what reality lay behind the images of warrior virgins: according to the archaeological data, weapons have not yet been found in female burials sites. Although an influence of Arabian fairy tales on the Icelandic knights' sagas has been supposed, the similarities are not so great as to exclude the possibility of polygenesis, since the idea of the obstinate bride is found not only in Oriental, but also in German folklore, as clearly seen when comparing fairy tales like “King Thrushbeard" and "Haakon the Bearded".

The presenter came to the conclusion that the images of the characters, similar to the virgins-rulers from the knight-errant sagas, are found in the original mythological and literary tradition. They are warrior virgins like Brunhilde, and the Valkyries from the "Elder Edda", shield maidens from sagas about ancient times, and the Scandinavian queens described by Saxo Grammaticus.

The presentation aroused great interest of the audience and was accompanied by a lively discussion.