The Way Viking Marriage Oughta Be, or, When Fantasy Doesn't Mesh With Reality

The Way Viking Marriage Oughta Be, or, When Fantasy Doesn't Mesh With Reality But We Love It Anyway!

In the course of researching Odin’s End, I’ve had to review countless texts on Viking (read “pagan”) marriage.

Now, lots of romance novelists have dealt with this, in scenes of heaving bosoms and manly “battle” equipment. And I just LUV them all.

But, in Odin’s End, I can’t deal with Rorik and Adele this way – their circumstances require a heavier dose of reality. So while these reads are a tremendous source of entertainment for me (not to mention my healthy dose of Barbarian Hotness), I had to look elsewhere to help out Rorik and Adele – especially since each of them comes with a unique set of personal challenges. And since (not to give away the ending) they don’t end up exactly married….

So, the real skinny on Viking marriages? Here’s the low-down:


  • Marriage wasn’t necessarily monogamous (though I fail to see how this differs from the 21st century), and kings and other powerful men were allowed multiple wives (and this differs from the Playboy Mansion or Stringfellows how?)
  • The primary function of pagan marriage was to ensure the orderly passage of property from one generation to the next. (Barbarian Hotness notwithstanding, it seems.)
  • In the north, and especially in Iceland, property belonged to the individual only for the duration of his or her lifetime. After this, it reverted back to the clan. (Kind of like a leasehold?)
  • Marriage was prohibited for poor people, since their offspring would be a burden on the community. (Whew! I’m not touching this one!)
  • If a young girl with physical flaws became engaged, no decision was made until she turned 16, giving her a chance to outgrow the impediments (Today, women with “flaws” can use makeup; men with flaws can use Corvettes.)
  • There was no minimum age for either bride or groom (Kind of like the whack-jobs in the religious compounds of sleepy Texas towns.) and finally,
  • Permission was given to castrate beggars. People undertaking this task were not punished, even if they seriously wounded or even killed the victim in the process. (Now how would they handle this in all the courtroom reality shows???)

So yep, Rorik and Adele have some problems. He’s betrothed (though she doesn’t know it) and she’s assumed to have the gift of prophecy (though, in a mild misunderstanding, the Christians label her a witch and trick her to a pyre in front of Nidaros Cathedral).

But they’ve got the marriage thing sorted, at least – and on some days, I prefer the romance fantasy and versions containing Barbarian Hotness!