This article accompanies the fable
Nowadays the pagan goddesses have made a comeback in latter-day pagan, heathen and feminist movements where Freyja is the star, and in the films of Ingmar Bergman in particular, but if the northern goddess was as important as Hilda Ellis Davidson says she was, what happened to her in between?
Below is From Hardanger (1847) by Norwegian Romantic painter Hans Gude. He lived most of his life outside Norway, but he successfully evokes the old pagan magic in this landscape. The ship, for example, was sometimes a symbol of death associated with Freyja. For the Romantics this goddess evoked a lost era, invisible now but a felt presence nonetheless.
There is no inherent reason why women should be identified more closely with fertility, nature and the creation of life (or death) than men. It takes two to tango. In Norse mythology this was recognized in the duality of Freyja and Freyr, sister and brother. It would appear that the qualities they represented were displaced into other subjects, like the Virgin Mary.
Perhaps this is why childhood as a metaphor became popular, such as what you find in the many works of the under-rated 19th century Swedish painter August Malmström. The one below translates as Children Playing in the Garden:
Or this Malmström painting The Tell-Tale (1892), where there is a sense of a strong feminine principle.