The History Of The Vikings: Were Shield Maidens Like Lagertha Even Real?

The Viking shield maiden, Lagertha

Lagertha the shield maiden [Image via Morris Meredith Williams (1881-1973) | Public domain | Wikimedia Commons]

Lagertha, is known as one of the mightiest of all Viking shield maidens. She managed to not only lead a band of successful maidens into battle, but she does it at a time in history when women were usually oppressed under the rule of the patriarchy.

However, how accurate is this part of Viking history? For those who have learned everything about Lagertha and her shield maidens from History Channel’s Vikings, just how true is that world?

Are shield maidens even real? What about Lagertha?

Let’s have a look into whether, historically, shield maidens like Lagertha even existed.

LAGERTHA: MYTH OR REAL?

Before we get to the question of whether shield maidens existed during the Viking era, let’s have a look at their supposed leader: Lagertha.

When delving into the world of the Vikings, many eventually land on the romance between Lagertha and Ragnar. They also get caught up in the fact that Lagertha is a very strong and independent woman for her time.

The Shield maiden, Lagertha, and the Viking, Ragnar, as seen in History Channel's 'Vikings'

The shield maiden, Lagertha, and her love affair with Ragnar has captured the imagination of this generation thanks to History Channel’s ‘Vikings’ [Image via History Channel]

However, Lagertha’s story is short, and fractured, only being found in one small section of a book written about the Vikings back in the 11-12 century. When Saxo Grammaticus set out to write the Gesta Danorum (also known as The History of the Danes, or, The Deeds of the Danes), he did so under instruction from Absalon, the Archbishop of Lund. Saxo was Danish, so regardless of the fact he was also Christian, what he was trying to do was write down the history of his country, Denmark.

Lagertha’s story starts and ends in the ninth book of the Gesta Danorum. It deals directly with her involvement with Ragnar after he rescues her from a life of prostitution and ends when she kills her third husband and rules in his stead.

Most of her story deals with her relationship with Ragnar, but, a large part of it also deals with the fact she is a shield maiden. When she is first introduced, Saxo refers to her as a “skilled amazon.”

“Among them was Ladgerda [Lagertha], a skilled amazon, who, though a maiden, had the courage of a man, and fought in front among the bravest with her hair loose over her shoulders. All-marvelled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back betrayed that she was a woman.”

Was Lagertha really a valkyrie, not a shield maiden?

The shield maiden, Lagertha, has been suggested as being based on the valkyrie, Thorgerd [Image via Jenny Nyström | Public domain | Wikimedia Commons]

After this event, Ragnar asks around about Lagertha and establishes, that, although she had been placed into a life of prostitution, she was actually of noble standing. He also declares that their victory hinged entirely on Lagertha’s battle skills.

However, many scholars are not even sure Lagertha really existed. The problem with the stories of the Vikings is that they were an oral traditional. not only were they not recorded by the written word until decades — or centuries — later, oral traditions tend to be malleable, changing over time.

Some scholars suggest Lagertha’s story in the Gesta Danorum was based on a story Saxo had heard about the fabled Greek Amazons.

Alternatively, it is also possible Lagertha was a retelling of a story about the Viking valkyries. The valkyries appeared in battle, picking those who were the strongest and most fearless to join Odin in Valhalla. There are some sections of the Gesta Danorum involving Lagertha that lend itself to the valkyries myth. Many times Lagertha is seen deciding the fate of a battle, indicating she could be held responsible for who lived and died, much in the way the valkyries were.

So, Lagertha could have been a mythical being, not a real human at all. Perhaps, Saxo mixed her story up with that of Ragnar’s. Because, even the validity of Ragnar as a man has been brought into question by scholars.

At this point in time, considering Lagertha only exists in one version of the Vikings sagas, it is likely she never existed at all. Or, if she did, it is possible she existed as only a very localised story that Saxo had heard, but few others had. Alternatively, he may have amalgamated stories, or used mythology from differing cultures to create Lagertha’s story.

Were shield maidens even real?

[Image via Saxo Gramaticus; tr. (Danish) Frederik Winkel Horn; illus. Louis Moe, (1898) | Public domain | Wikimedia Commons]

SO, DOES THAT MEAN THAT SHIELD MAIDENS AREN’T REAL?

Actually, considering Saxo may have gotten his story about Lagertha mixed up, the fact that he mentions female warriors, or shield maidens, could be an indication they existed.

During the 11th and 12th centuries, Christian women were repressed compared to today’s society. Women had their jobs and they were expected to stay at home and tend to the family.

However, Saxo mentions that Lagertha is a warrior. he also mentions that she is involved in many battles between warring factions. Even if he took Lagertha’s story from the Greek Amazons or that of the Viking valkyries, the fact still exists that he mentions that Lagertha is a shield maiden.

Saxo also does this without very little personal opinion on her skills. While he may mention that she might be just a maiden, he does not criticise her abilities within the story. So, it is possible that he is writing this down with the assumption that the Danish Vikings were okay with their women joining the battlefront.

Along with Saxo, many of the other sagas make mention of female Viking warriors and of shield maidens. So, while Saxo may be the only one who mentions Lagertha specifically, it seems likely that Viking women were able to fight among the men during battles.

One way to find out if Saxo was telling the truth about shield maidens or not, is to have a look at the archaeology.

Most of you have probably come across an article or two claiming new archaeological evidence now proves that shield maidens actually exist. However, these articles, while mostly true, also hold some untruths as well.

Were shield maidens even real?

[Image via Andreas Bloch | Public domain | Wikimedia Commons]

LET’S HAVE A LOOK AT WHERE THESE NEWS ARTICLE ORIGINATED FROM

A study conducted by Shane McLeod of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Western Australia and featured in the Early Medieval Europe Journal (you can read his work here) suggests that there were more women migrating with the first Viking invasions than first suggested. Many media outlets reported this as meaning that there were more female Viking warriors than previously thought. However, this may not, necessarily, be the case.

The study merely suggests that more women arrived with the earlier influx of Viking raiders than first suspected. It could then be suggested that females who arrived with the first incursion of men were more likely to be there to fight alongside their men rather than to arrive later when it was safe to settle with the men.

“Women may have accompanied male Vikings in those early invasions of England, in much greater numbers than scholars earlier supposed. Rather than the ravaging rovers of legend, the Vikings arrived as marriage-minded colonists.”

This indicates, potentially, that Viking men held their women on an equal standing and were prepared to allow them to settle with them as well as fight alongside them. However, another way of looking at this could be that the Vikings did not see England as a threat, or perhaps they thought the new country much smaller or sparsely populated than it really was.

Another thing to consider as to why Viking women travelled with their men in early attacks on England is that the men held little regard for their women, or thought they could simply “rape and pillage” when they arrived on the shores of England, but would need some female comfort during the long sea voyage there.

Further archaeological evidence also suggests that maybe there were not as many women migrating as first suspected.

“There is some archaeological evidence for early Norse female settlement, most obviously oval brooches, but this evidence is minimal. The more difficult to date evidence of place names, personal names, and DNA samples derived from the modern population suggests that Norse women did migrate to England at some stage, but probably in far fewer numbers than Norse men.”

However, this recent study on Nordic burials in England suggests that prior sexing of bones believed to be Viking in graves was based more on grave goods and not on osteological sexing which is more reliable and involves measuring bones and the distance between them to determine sex.

“Many of the identified Norse burials were discovered at a time when osteological sexing was not undertaken and burials were often sexed according to grave-goods, a practice which is highly problematic.”

After an analysis on a small number of bodies at a gravesite in Repton, England. Fourteen individuals were reassessed, six of these were female, seven were male and one was unknown.

“These results, six female Norse migrants and seven male, should caution against assuming that the great majority of Norse migrants were male, despite the other forms of evidence suggesting the contrary. This result of almost a fifty-fifty ratio of Norse female migrants to Norse males is particularly significant when some of the problems with osteological sexing of skeletons are taken into account.”

 

While you could assume female Vikings fought alongside their male counterparts thanks to this new study, it has to be noted that this is the first study of known Norse burials that include this ratio of males and females. Mostly, in the past, there have been the assumption, based on grave goods, that a much larger proportion of men buried than women, indicating there were very few Viking women present at that time. However, until more gravesites confirm their sexing of human remains using the osteological sexing method, it is unclear if this ratio is an anomaly or not.

So, therefore, whether Lagertha was truly a shield maiden or not, is still open to interpretation. Personally, considering Saxo described her as fighting in battles alongside men, I see it as an indication that, historically, people did observe this as occurring during battles. Saxo describes her as a shield maiden, and, to me, that means it was likely a term in common used, especially to describe Vikings. I like to think shield maidens existed, however, until more studies are done concerning the re-sexing skeletons found in Viking gravesites, I am currently being optimistic in this assumption.

If you want to read more about Lagertha and whether or not she was a shield maiden, you can do so in my new book, Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar. All the details are below.

Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha and Ragnar by Rachel Tsoumbakos Cover art

© Nejron | Dreamstime.com (Cover design by Rachel Tsoumbakos)

VIKINGS: THE TRUTH ABOUT LAGERTHA AND RAGNAR
(A historical retelling of the ninth book of the Gesta Danorum)
Book #1 in The Truth About series

Release date: Sunday, October 15, 2017
Genre/s: Historical fiction, romance, Vikings, fictions, nonfiction
Available: Amazon/Amazon Unlimited
Kindle Price: $3.99
Print Price: TBA

BLURB

Lagertha was known to be one of the wives of the famous Viking, Ragnar Lodbrok. But did you know they first met each other at a brothel? And just how long did their marriage last? Was Lagertha really the revered shield maiden we see her as today? ‘Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar’ aims to unravel all these secrets.

Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar is so much more than a history book though.

In Part One their story is brought to life with a historically accurate retelling. Part Two then explores the historical facts surrounding this story.

Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar aims to discover just how much of what we know of the shield maiden, Lagertha, and the famous Ragnar Lodbrok in popular culture today is actually true.

The Truth About series explores the historical fact from present day fiction in regards to the Vikings and other key historical figures that existed in the Viking era.

PRE-ORDER NOW ON AMAZON!

'Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar' Footer

Posted in Books, History Channel, Myrddin Publishing Group, New Novel, New Release, Rachel Tsoumbakos, The Truth About Lagertha and Ragnar, Vikings, Vikings | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

#Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar: Now Available For Pre-Order!

Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha and Ragnar by Rachel Tsoumbakos Cover art

© Nejron | Dreamstime.com (Cover design by Rachel Tsoumbakos)

Well, the day has finally arrived!

Ever since I conceived of the Truth About series, and, in particular, the first novel in the series, Vikings: The Truth about Lagertha and Ragnar, my life has been consumed by all things relating to the Vikings sagas. Even prior to writing the initial manuscript during Nation Novel Writing Month, last November, I have been reading everything I could get my hands on pertaining to the Viking story involving Lagertha and Ragnar. In my spare time, I would watch documentaries on the Vikings or write articles about them for The Inquisitr.

As you can see, this is a living, breathing passion of mine.

But, as comes with all things, now is time to cast their story out into the world for everyone else to read.

All the details are below.

VIKINGS: THE TRUTH ABOUT LAGERTHA AND RAGNAR
(A historical retelling of the ninth book of the Gesta Danorum)
Book #1 in The Truth About series

Release date: Sunday, October 15, 2017
Genre/s: Historical fiction, romance, Vikings, fictions, nonfiction
Available: Amazon/Amazon Unlimited
Kindle Price: $3.99
Print Price: TBA

BLURB

Lagertha was known to be one of the wives of the famous Viking, Ragnar Lodbrok. But did you know they first met each other at a brothel? And just how long did their marriage last? Was Lagertha really the revered shield maiden we see her as today? ‘Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar’ aims to unravel all these secrets.

Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar is so much more than a history book though.

In Part One their story is brought to life with a historically accurate retelling. Part Two then explores the historical facts surrounding this story.

Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar aims to discover just how much of what we know of the shield maiden, Lagertha, and the famous Ragnar Lodbrok in popular culture today is actually true.

The Truth About series explores the historical fact from present day fiction in regards to the Vikings and other key historical figures that existed in the Viking era.

PRE-ORDER NOW ON AMAZON!

'Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar' Footer

Posted in Books, Myrddin Publishing Group, New Novel, New Release, News, The Truth About Lagertha and Ragnar, Vikings, Vikings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As Ragnar Gets A Viking Funeral At #SDCC17, ‘Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar’ Gets Closer To A Publication Date

History's 'Vikings,' Season 4, Part 2, finale, Episode 20, The Reckoning, The Great Heathen Army, resize

[Image via Jonathan Hession/History Channel]

It’s San Diego Comic-Con weekend! Who’s excited? I know I am. Even though it usually my busiest time of year in regard to work. Tomorrow morning I will be up at 5 a.m. (Australian time) in order to get the scoop on when Season 5 of Vikings starts. I also hope to see History Channel recreate a Viking funeral procession and burial in honour of all those characters we lost in Season 4 of Vikings although this may be hard considering I won’t physically be at Comic-Con.

However, if you are at San Diego Comic-Con tomorrow, all the deets for the Vikings events are below.

HISTORY’s “VIKINGS” PANEL – Friday, July 21 from 5:45 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. Room 6BCF (2,000 capacity)
Katheryn Winnick (“Lagertha”), Gustaf Skarsgard (“Floki”), Alexander Ludwig (“Bjorn”), Alex Høgh Andersen (“Ivar the Boneless”) and Michael Hirst (creator/writer) will reveal an exclusive sneak peek of season five. Don’t miss out – come join them and find out what the gods have in store! Cast subject to change.

VIKINGS FUNERAL – Friday, July 21 from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m., Embarcadero Marina Park South
A one-day event to honor Ragnar Lothbrok and other beloved characters who have recently risen to Valhalla. The Vikings funeral will begin with a procession throughout the Gaslamp Quarter in the early afternoon from noon – 5:45 p.m. The funeral will conclude with a waterfront ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. featuring a floating 45-foot replica Viking long-ship with pyrotechnic display. Cast will be in attendance. Ceremony will be held behind the Convention Center at Embarcadero Marina Park South (200 Marina Park Way).

VIKINGS HORNS
The popular “Vikings” drinking horn program returns, giving thousands of horn-shaped beer vessels to eager and thirsty fans. Select bars will offer special drink discounts for horn holders. Please follow @HistoryVikings for a complete list of participating locations. The horns will be made available to fans who attend the Vikings funeral event on Friday, July 21 at 7 p.m.

VIKINGS “WARRIOR’S ALLEGIANCE” CONVENTION CENTER BOOTH – July 19-23 – Booth #4215
A new generation of warriors is rising in the Vikings world and fans have the opportunity to be immersed in it by showing off their swordplay in a video booth. Fans will get into character by selecting their weapon of choice and garbing themselves in Viking gear. A time-slice camera array will capture footage of each fan demonstrating their best battle moves with Ragnar’s sons – Bjorn, Ivar the Boneless, Ubbe and Hvitserk. Video will be available to share on social platforms.

Also available to fans while supplies last is a custom “Vikings” limited edition comic book from a story created by Michael Hirst, exclusively for SDCC.

History Channel's 'Vikings,' Season 4, Aslaug funeral, longship procession

[Image via History Channel]

For those of you who are wondering if the procession at Comic-Con tomorrow is a real representation of a traditional Viking funeral, I can safely say that, yes, Vikings were sometimes put in a longship, set fire to, and then cast out to sea. The event was very rare though, and was usually only reserved for those Vikings of considerable importance or notoriety.

If you want to find out more about how the Vikings were buried, you can check out this recent article I did for The Inquisitr.

Book News

Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha and Ragnar by Rachel Tsoumbakos Cover art

© Nejron | Dreamstime.com (Cover design by Rachel Tsoumbakos)

Now, for those of you who are wondering about how my upcoming book, Vikings: The Truth about Lagertha and Ragnar, is coming along, I have some exciting news for you!

The manuscript has been handed on over to my wonderful editor and I am tentatively waiting for what she has to say about it. Hopefully, it is all wonderful things. But, regardless, she is awesome at her job, so even if she is critical, it will only mean a better product for you all at the end.

So, what about a publication date for Vikings: The Truth about Lagertha and Ragnar? Potentially, that news could be announced as early as next week!

Make sure you sign up for my newsletter here so you don’ t miss the all-important pre-order announcement.

Along with all this exciting news, I can also officially announce that the next book in this series will be based on Aslaug, another one of Ragnar’s wives. With History Channel’s interpretation of Aslaug, many fans of Vikings found her unlikable. However, I can safely say, her sagas are awesome. For example, did you know she was hidden inside a harp and then raised by a horrible couple who wouldn’t let her wash just in case her beauty shone through. She also had a potentially questionable relationship with one of Ragnar’s son’s to another of his wives, Thora. As you can see, research has begun in earnest now that the first book is in the hands of my editor.

Finally, if you want some exclusive excerpts from Vikings: The Truth about Lagertha and Ragnar, make sure you check out my Twitter feed for the exclusive snippets, using the hashtag #LagsAndRags (SPOILER ALERT: The first excerpt is already live.)

'Vikings: The Truth about Lagertha and Ragnar,' Facebook header

 

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Twin Peaks: Season 3, Episode 9, Recap of the Most Boring Episode Yet

Showtime's 'Twin Peaks,' Season 3, Episode 9, I am not your foot

[Image via Showtime]

Episode 9 of Twin Peaks opens with Bad Coop walking up the same road from Episode 8 and I thought we were about to go down the rabbit hole all over again.

However, after Episode 8 being the most fucked up one for Season 3 of Twin Peaks, David Lynch decided to bore the shit out of us with Episode 9.

Honestly, nothing fucking happened.

Unless you count still looking for that annoying humming noise from Episode 7 of Twin Peaks. Or standing around watching Diane (Laura Dern) smoking. Oh, and that time at the end when we got to watch that girl scratch her fucking rash.

You can read my full recap on Showtime’s Twin Peaks via The Snarking Dead Recaps.

Source: Twin Peaks: Season 3, Episode 9, Recap of the Most Boring Episode Yet

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‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Premiere: Recap Of Episode 1, titled “Dragonstone”

HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Season 7, Episode 1, Dragonstone, the iron throne, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen

[Image via HBO]

Finally! After all the waiting, the Season 7 premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones has arrived. Rory McCann promisedSeason 7 would be more brutal than the previous seasons, however this episode was relatively tame — even if Arya did borrow an idea from Olenna Tyrell.

But what else happened in this episode? Well, my recap of Episode 1 (titled “Dragonstone”) of Game of Thrones Season 7 will reveal everything that went down.

Getting back to Arya-Fucking-Stark (Maisie Williams), after killing Walder Frey (David Bradley) in the Season 6 finale ofGame of Thrones, decides to host a feast for all of the remaining Freys in the Season 7 premiere.

While wearing Walder’s face.

You can read my full recap on Showtime’s Twin Peaks via The Snarking Dead Recaps.

Source: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Premiere: Recap Of Episode 1, titled “Dragonstone”

 

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