Icelandic Literature
Icelandic Religion

Iceland's Nature

Viking Encounter

Icelandic History: Role of the Viking Woman
Teacher Page

A WebQuest for 9th or 10th graders World History

Designed by

Diana T. Mackiewicz
Faculty member of

Eagle Hill School
Hardwick, MA

Woman carrying spear - from a reconstruction of textiles
from the Oseberg Ship.

Introduction | Learners| Standards | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits


This lesson was developed after a recent trip to Iceland, which not only was educational but extremely fun. Male persons dominate Viking history and this lesson was designed to encourage research about the women who helped shape Viking history and also provide a gender balance to recent research on Vikings.


Students in grades nine or ten will appreciate the search for recent information regarding Icelandic Viking women and their role in society. American studies can also utilize the search information since recent studies in archaeology and history have begun to document Viking establishments in the Americas.

It is recommended that the learner have a rudimentary background in the geography of Western Europe, Iceland and North America. Furthermore, the learner will utilize their own knowledge about Vikings and concepts of women in society. Skill with Internet search techniques will be utilized and also learned if not already known.

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Curriculum Standards

The student will learn:

1. How Pagan and Christian cultures existed in early Iceland.

2. The role of women in the early Viking society

3. Societal roles of women

4. Business/agricultural/exploration roles of women

5. The expression of women through Icelandic literature

6. Developmental knowledge of Viking Sagas

7. Developmental knowledge of Viking proverbs

8. A fundamental value of archaeological artifacts.

Standards covered with this webquest:

Growth of agricultural and commercial civilizations (c. 500 A.D. to 1500)

Components of early European civilization: Roman, Christian, and invaders

Conditions following the collapse of Roman authority in Europe
Invading German peoples: Huns, Franks, Anglos, Saxons
Early medieval church; allegiance to Rome; monasteries
Charlemagne; Carolingian Empire
Viking invasions; Norman Conquest (1066)

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The lesson plans are designed to cover five classes.

The first class will introduce the rich and diverse lifestyle and origins of the Vikings.

A key factor in the first class will be to establish the human origin of the Vikings and how this played an important part in the establishment of their culture. Students will be introduced to their first Viking women of importance, the Valkyries.

The second class will hone in on the founding of Iceland: who, why, when and for what reasons it was established and then colonized. This class will also introduce the role of women in the colonization/exploration/settlement process.

The third class will reveal the differences that existed among the pagan and Christian faiths that existed among the Vikings. Women were among the gods worshiped by Vikings and women were also important in the promotion of spiritual values in early Iceland. The Norse goddess, Freya will headline the introduction to Norse mythology and paganism.

The fourth class highlights the role of women in society as evidenced in the Sagas and book of proverbs, The Havamal. Specific sagas will be read and also applied to the recently acquired knowledge. The main character, Gudrun Osvifsdottir, a clever woman from the Icelandic saga, Laxdaela or also referred to as The Saga of the People of Laxardal, will be introduced. The proverbs speak of the women’s role as maintainer of the household in the Icelandic Viking community. (This class may be split since there is much to cover.)

The fifth class defines the Viking women’s contributions to history. Students will review gravesite artifacts and textiles on the Internet and then compile conclusions based on their observations and previous information learned. An overview of the Oseberg Ship will bring together the many ideas and concepts represented in this whole webquest.

A major outcome from the five days of research will be an accumulation of information that exceeds the usual outcome from basic research. Furthermore, students will address critical thinking skills when trying to sort through the information and glean out the highlights for themselves. However, other students will appreciate the quantity of information taken from so many websites that will further enlarge their personal knowledge base on Vikings and women from this culture.

A major area of concern will be the language barrier. Words and names in Icelandic are very long and students may see this as a frustrating experience.

In conclusion, this will be a "quest" since so many websites will be reviewed. Students will keep a daily log of their visits in a journal and this will help them keep track of their research.

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Resources Needed

Full Internet access is necessary for this project.

The following lists of websites contain information to help visualize and understand the role of the Viking woman in the Icelandic community. Several of the websites are in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. Some of these websites are translatable into English on the Internet, but not all. Those websites that are **, suggest that many ideas and materials may be accessed at that one site.

The Viking Network Web: Get to Know the Vikings **

Women as Warriors in Saxon and Viking Times **

Quick and Dirty Viking Women’s Clothing

Notable Women Circa the Year 1000 A.D.

The Viking Answer Lady **

The Oseberg Ship **

Viking Voyage 1000-Viking Lore

The Official Website of the Icelandic Tourist Board

The World of the Vikings: a definitive guide to Viking resources on the Internet **

Birka Vikingastaden: Birka the Viking Town **

Mythologies and sagas in Western Iceland (English translation and overview created by high school students.) Laxdaela, the saga of a shrewd Icelandic woman. **

The Laxdaela Saga

Index of Medieval Literature

Iceland Saga and Viking Literature Links**

South Iceland – The Icelandic Sagas**

Living and Reliving the Icelandic Sagas **

Living and Reliving the Sagas

Havamal (translation) **

The Sagas

Asatru page (Norse paganism) **

Oswego High School Online Writing Guide: Works Cited

Landmarks-Citation Machine


There are four options available to the student for evaluation.

1. Student will write an account of a Viking woman in Iceland while her husband is away on a Viking raid. Attention to details about her daily duties as a farm wife, parent, and her socioeconomic standing will be needed for a successful account. Historical accounts in the Sagas may be integrated into the body of the account. An addition of proverbs from the Havamal would further explain the woman’s role in the Viking society.

2. Student will compose their own set of twenty proverbs based on readings of The Havamal, keeping in mind the focus of their research on women. Attention to interaction with society, religion, the supernatural and the mundane living conditions of Iceland 1000 years ago may also be related to modern day occurrences. Are we so different?

3. Student will design and present color pictures of Viking jewelry, brooches, hair combs, pins, etc. and write about the symbolic meaning of their artwork. An explanation of socioeconomic groups that invested in jewelry will be needed in their account. A present day report of the finds of jewelry at archaeological sites will also be necessary.

4. Student will write a myth about women incorporating Norse gods and goddesses. The myth may explain any of the supernatural occurrences that Icelanders are known to believe in and how women have been associated with the promotion of these beliefs.

All projects will require citation of sources in an annotated bibliography. Refer to MLA standards as noted in Resources when citing sources.


In the final analysis, the student will learn that Viking women were highly involved in the infrastructure of their society and in the early colonization of Iceland. Furthermore, women were the keepers of the hearth. Their contributions are seen throughout all of Viking history and the history of Iceland, both of which are intertwined. A record of their achievements can be found in the Sagas and also reflected in The Havamal.

Certain conclusions about Viking women in the Icelandic society will be established and the following questions answered:

What political and legal rights did a woman hold in Iceland?

Do women still have these rights?

How did women contribute to the exploration process that was originating in Iceland?

How did women help promote the Christian faith?

How did women also maintain the pagan faiths present in Iceland?

Were women ever typecast as witches, soothsayers or shamans in historical Iceland?

How are women usually presented in the literature of Iceland?

Were women ever warriors, and if so, explain their lifestyle as Viking warriors?

Explain and cite examples of women contributed to their family, faith and community.

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Swaney, Deanna. Lonely Planet: Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. 1997.

Osborne, Mary Pope. Favorite Norse Myths. Scholastic, 1996.

All other materials were found on the Internet.
Basic knowledge for this webquest was also taken from a personal trip taken to Iceland in 2000.

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Created and maintained by Diana T. Mackiewicz, Ma.Ed December 2000, last updated 2013.