Female Viking Warriors in History: Legendary Valkyries Shield Maidens

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Kelly Macquire
published on 21 November 2021

From the sagas, the most famous type of female Viking warrior was the shield maiden who took up arms and fought side by side in battle with the men. Mirroring them in the spiritual world is the Valkyries (whose name literally means choosers of the slain). The Valkyries were supernatural warrior women that chose half the dead from battlefields and took them to Odin’s afterlife realm of Valhalla, with the goddess Freyja, who presided over another afterlife realm known as Fólkvangr, taking the other half to her great hall.

Although the common belief is that there were no female Viking warriors, there are many other burials of women from the Viking Age who were accompanied in the afterlife with weapons and other characteristically Viking warrior burial goods. One of the most famous warrior women is the Valkyrie Brynhild who supported the wrong hero in a contest overseen by Odin, and so was made mortal and imprisoned in a castle surrounded by a ring of fire. The most famous shield maiden, not a goddess or Valkyrie, is Lagertha, and not because of her importance in the sagas (she only features in one chapter from Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum or History of the Danes), but from the modern TV series Vikings in which she is portrayed by Kathryn Winnick.



0:00​ Introduction
0:54 Women in the Viking Age
4:24 Goddesses and Valkyries: Supernatural Women
8:48 Shield Maidens and Historical Women
11:40 Outro

Women in the Viking Age https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1251/women-in-the-viking-age/
Ten Legendary Female Viking Warriors https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1300/ten-legendary-female-viking-warriors/
Lagertha https://www.worldhistory.org/Lagertha/
Valkyrie https://www.worldhistory.org/Valkyrie/
Norse Mythology https://www.worldhistory.org/Norse_Mythology/
Interview: The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women by Nancy Marie Brown https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1829/interview-the-real-valkyrie-the-hidden-history-of/

History of the Vikings: Norse Culture, Religion, Seafaring and Famous Warriors https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er3psA0QzDA
Women and Valkyrie in the Viking Age, Interview with Nancy Marie Brown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtyJppF-P5w
Norse Mythology: an Introduction to the Norse Gods, Goddesses, Myths and Legends https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj6t5AO_650
Bjorn Ironside: the Legendary Viking Warrior From the Historical Sagas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tX3cjgyc_BE

You can find all attribution and credits for images, animations, graphics and music here - https://worldhistory.typehut.com/female-viking-warriors-in-history-legendary-valkyries-shield-maidens-images-and-attributions-6838

The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein-Stub (1783–1816)
Public Domain US / faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works of art are public domain

Oslo rådhus / Oslo City Hall
CC BY-NC 2.0 - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

World History Encyclopedia

#femalevikings #valkyries #shieldmaiden

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2021, November 21). Female Viking Warriors in History: Legendary Valkyries Shield Maidens. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/video/2683/female-viking-warriors-in-history-legendary-valkyr/

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Female Viking Warriors in History: Legendary Valkyries Shield Maidens." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified November 21, 2021. https://www.worldhistory.org/video/2683/female-viking-warriors-in-history-legendary-valkyr/.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Female Viking Warriors in History: Legendary Valkyries Shield Maidens." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 21 Nov 2021. Web. 21 Jul 2024.