Shield-maidens: Top Five Female Warriors in Viking History
Mainstream history is full of praises of great Viking warriors and the battles they fought. For most people, the word Viking means a ferocious warrior with horns on his battle helmet and a gigantic battle axe. At the same time, that same mainstream history speaks little to nothing for the evenly brave shield-maidens, the female Viking warriors whose skills often outmatched man’s battle skills. There are entire Norse sagas that are little known, as well as historical evidence that speaks of the battle deeds of great female warriors. Here we look at the top five Viking warriors that helped shape the history of the Vikings.
1. Freydís Eiríksdóttir
It is said that she came to this world in 970 as the daughter to no other but the famous Erik the Red. From the scarce sources, she is portrayed as masculine and fearless. According to the available sources she was often seen fighting against men twice her size, always managing to outsmart them and be victorious.
Her greatest bravery was recorded in a place that was known only to Viking sailors at that time. Together with her step-brother, Leif Erikson, she was part of an expedition to a place they called Vinland. That was the name they gave to the coastline of what we now know as part of the North American continent. There they came across hostile natives that launched a night attack against the Viking invaders. The Vikings were completely surprised by their presence.
Some of the confused Vikings decided to retreat to their ships. But, that wasn’t the case to be with Freydís. Even she was eight months pregnant, she picked up a sword and fought her way out instead of running as some of her fellow Vikings did.
2. Brynhildr Buðladóttir
She is a famous shield-maiden that is known for her bravery and honesty. It is said that she was deceived into marrying Gunnar, and not Sigurðr whom she loved and wanted to marry instead. That deceit leads to a bloody conclusion that was described in the Vǫlsunga saga. In it, she was portrayed as a fearsome shield-maiden that cared about honor and courage. Something that would not allow no man or woman stay between what she taught was righteous and fair.
The name Lagertha is first found in Saxo Grammaticus. There she is mentioned as a member of the royal house of Norway and a shield-maiden. However, after the defeat of the king of Norway by the king of Sweden, she was captured and kept as a slave.
Soon after, Ragnar came to Norway to bring justice to his king and release the enslaved kinswomen. She subsequently went to fight alongside his men. Lagertha also decided to fight along Ragnar. Her bravery and remarkable skills did not go unnoticed by Ragnar himself. He even declared that “he gained the victory by the might of one woman”.
Ragnar was so impressed that he asked Lagertha to be his wife. After some time of playing hard to get, she accepted the offer and became his queen. Their marriage was short-lived and didn’t last much. However, their alliance remained strong. Years later, she led an army of 120 ships to help Ragnar in a battle against his enemies. In a bloody battle against other Vikings, she and her warriors were victorious. Once again, her valor and skills saved the day and Ragnar himself.
Nowadays, she is brought back to life through the TV Shows Vikings, portrayed by Katheryn Winnick
Born as the daughter of a great Viking warrior she was destined to become a shield-maiden. Even her grandfather, from her mother’s side, was an insane berserker. She turned out what everyone expected – a shield-maiden with unprecedented skills and valor.
Even in her first battles she stood out from everyone else and proved to be a great warrior. As a result, soon she was chosen to be the leader of her village’s raiding party. That made her even more ferocious and determined in her raiding expeditions. She fought for many years before settling. She married and had sons that were also considered great warriors. Even her granddaughter that inherited her name fought as a shield-maiden and as such died in a battle.
She was also known as Webiorg. Her bravery knew this famous shield-maiden of Danish origin in the legendary battle of Bråvalla. The battle was between King Harald of Denmark and Sweden, and a viceroy king appointed by him. At that time Sweden was made of several smaller kingdoms. The Viceroy King Sigurd wanted to unite the smaller ones into one, while king Harald liked things the way they were.
Veborg led an army of three hundred shield-maidens that fought on the side of King Harald. Her shield-maidens stood their ground against hordes of Vikings and mercenaries that came from afar. She fought and wounded Starke, the most famous warrior that fought for the opposing army. She cut off his jaw, but he somehow managed to escape before she had the chance to finish him. Later, after a long and exhausting fight, she was killed by Thorkell the stubborn.