Viking Shieldmaiden: Bold, Brave, and Boisterous

Viking shieldmaiden was among the most inspiring things in the Viking age

When we think about the Vikings, we think about the male warriors full of beard hand wielding axe beheading the enemies. If we have to describe them in one word, we will choose “savage”. One cool topic to discuss about the Vikings is the historical existence of the Viking shieldmaiden. The Viking shieldmaidens were the female warriors whose strength could rival that of male. In many depictions, the Viking shieldmaiden appears to be the bold, brave, and boisterous warriors.

What make the Viking shieldmaidens interesting are not only their great stories of fighting but also their historical existence. People always doubt whether the Viking shieldmaiden historically existed or not. Though both archaeological and literal evidence points to the existence of the shieldmaiden, some scholars still disagree with the real existence of Viking female warriors.

Viking shieldmaiden Lagertha Vikikng femalr warrior
Viking shieldmaiden Lagertha in TV series “Vikings”

Archaeological evidence

The most famous archaeological evidence for the existence of the Viking female warrior is the BJ581 in Birka. People know about this by the name Birka female Viking warrior. In the site, archaeologists found out the remains of an individual dating back to the Viking age.

When the excavation was carries out, they didn’t pay much attention to the skeletons. Rather, the archaeologists studied the weapons and items buried inside BJ581.

BJ581 excited the archaeologists many years after the excavation. After studying carefully the skeletons, the archaeologists found out that it was a woman who was buried inside the BJ581. This new result has been a big question to the archaeologists. They start wondering the historical existence of the shieldmaiden related to the woman inside BJ581.

Viking burial site of a Viking shieldmaiden BJ581 Birka
Many years after the excavation, the archaeologists started to examine the skeleton remains. They found that the skeletons inside the BJ581 full of weapons belonged to a woman

In the Viking tradition, when one person was dead, the living would bury them with the personal daily item. The things that that dead person once used would be buried with them. So finding the skeleton of a Viking woman with the weapons around her definitely opens a big question.

Literal evidence

One famous Viking shieldmaiden was Freydis Eriksdottir. Freydis was the daughter of Erik the Red and she was the half-sister of Leif Eriksson the first Viking sailor discovering Vinland (North America). Freydis was an ambitious woman with her burning desire to step out of the shadow of her half-brother.

On one occasion, Freydis travelled to Vinland with her family’s crew. It was during the midnight when everyone was sleeping that the local in Vinland attacked the crew. Everyone was so scared that they ran away. Freydis was the only one that stayed. She chose to stay to fight back and the blood of the shieldmaiden didn’t allow her to give in. At that moment, she was pregnant.

Another famous Viking shieldmaiden was Hervor. She was the daughter of a famous Viking warrior and the granddaughter of a bersereker (Viking elite warrior). When Hervor was born, she was abandoned in the forest for the neighbors were afraid that she would grow up to be as fierce as her father.

Hervor Viking shieldmaiden
Hervor grew up to be a fearless warrior. She could summon the dead from the grave as well

But the fate smiled on her allowing her to live and carry on her family’s legacy. Hervor grew up to be the person that the neighbors were afraid. With the talent and the daring mind, Hervor quickly became the war-band leader. She was also the heir of the Tyrfing sword. The Tyrfing sword had to kill someone once the wielder drew it out of the scabbard.

In Norse mythology, Odin had for himself the female helping spirits – Valkyries. Those were not the angels or elves playing the harps in the middle of the castle. Rather, they were the female warriors who wore the armour and wielded the weapons. Many people believed that the Valkyries were the source of inspiration for the Viking shieldmaiden.


  1. Pingback: Viking Birka: Important Viking Trading Center Fell - History of Vikings

Leave a Reply