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						222                                             Margaret Cormack
women's wiles is found in Yngvars saga víðförla.4 When approached by
heathen women, Yngvar warns his men to have nothing to do with them,
and when their leader makes preparations to sleep with him, he stabs her in
the genitals. While some of his men follow his orders, if not his example,
others "didn't withstand their blandishments on account of devilish sorcery
and lay with them" ("þó váru nokkurir þeir, at ei stóðust þeira blíðlæti af
djöfulligri fjölkynngi ok lágu hjá þeim.")5 The result is a plague that
demolishes Yngvar's army and results in his death.6
"Devilish sorcery" is the key element in this story. For medieval
Christians, paganism and sorcery were two sides of the same coin; in the
saints' lives discussed below, it is striking that it is only "otherworldly"
women who pose a sexual threat. This is reflected in the verse of Hávamál
which gave this paper its title: it is with a sorceress - a "fjplkunnig kona" -
that one is warned against sleeping. This contrasts with the common view
that in the Middle Ages concerns about chastity resulted in misogyny -
women were the objects of sexual desire, and thus to blame for it.
Even outside Iceland, we should beware of applying this generalization
across the board without consideration of time or place. When St. Benedict
and St. Cuthbert were tormented by desires of the flesh, neither women nor
devils were present - the problem was one of physiology or imagination. As
Jenny Jochens has recently pointed out,7 in Iceland it was male, rather than
female, sexuality which had to be controlled. This is clearly indicated by an
While Yngvar was not himself a saint, it has been argued that his saga, which
originated in the monastic environment of Þingeyrar, was a sort of apology for a saint
whose cult never got off the ground - Ólaf Tryggvason, described by the monk Oddr
as the apostle of the Norwegians. ("postoli Norðmanna," Saga Óláfs Tryggvasonar af
Oddr Snorrason munk, ed. Finnur Jónsson, Kobenhavn, 1932, p. 261.) For the
hagiographic ideology of Yngvars saga, see Dietrich Hofmann, "Die Yngvars saga
víbforla und Oddr munkr inn fróði," Speculum Norrœnum. Norse Studies in Memory
ofGabriel Turville-Petre, Odense, 1981, pp. 188-222, esp. pp. 216 ff., rpt. in Dietrich
Hofmann, Studien zur Nordischen und Germanischen Philologie, ed. Gert Kreutzer,
Alastair Walker and Ommo Wilts, Hamburg, 1988, pp. 365-399, esp. pp. 393 ff.
5   Yngvars saga víðfórla, Fornaldar sögur Norðurlanda II, ed. Guðni Jónsson,
Reykjavík, 1950, pp. 445^6.
6  The account has doubtless been influenced by the tradition preserved in texts of
Adam of Bremen that a Swedish prince died in the land of women; the saga itself
notes the similarity - "It is said that Emund, king of the Swedes, sent his son Onund
through the Baltic sea, who later came to the Amazons, and was killed by them."
("Fertur, quod Emundus, rex Sveonum, misit filium suum, Onundum, per Mare
balzonum, qui, postremo ad amazones veniens, ab eis interfectus est." Yngvars saga p.
459, cf. Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum, Rudolf
Buchner, ed. Quellen des 9. und 11. Jahrhunderts zur Geschichte der Hamburgischen
Kirche und des Reiches, Darmstadt, 1973, Book II ch. 16 and Book IV scholion 123.)
The Amazons themselves undoubtedly reflect Kvenland, mis-interpreted as a land of
women.
7  Jenny Jochens, "The Illicit Love Visit: An Archaeology of Old Norse Sexuality,"
Journal ofthe History ofSexuality 1991, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 357-392.
					
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