Vikings – True to History?
by Andrea R. Cooper
The History Channel’s ‘Vikings’ has an estimated 3.6 million viewers and are well into Season Two. However, in watching the show, are they being true to history?
One element introduced in Season One and continues into the current season is Shield Maidens. The sagas, which were oral traditions until they were written down years later, might have been based on truth. However, embellishments of facts are the common theory.
In the 12th century, Saxo-Grammticus History of the Danes, mentions Lathgertha (the wife of Ragnar Lothborg and both are characters in the TV show), Sela who was a woman warrior and pirate, and Hetha, Vebiorg, and Hetha who fought at Bravellir.
Women in the Viking Age by Judith Jesch lists myths of Viking women warriors, but the author doesn’t believe they actually existed-or at least that was her viewpoint years ago when I asked her about Rusla, a Red Maiden, who terrorized the Irish for a Viking novel I was writing.
Some believe Shield Maidens were inspired by Valkyries who took the best slain warriors back to Valhalla and Odin.
There is burial evidence, interpreted by Shane McLeod in a 2011 journal article, that females might have at least equaled the males in Norse migration.
Another interpretation is from Anne Graslund says that women with warrior graves that they were equal to the men, only were the caretakers of the home. Of course, with the men away fighting and raiding, it would be beneficial for the women to not only own swords, but know how to use them.
I believe there could have been shield maidens, who were elaborated and became Valkyries in the sagas. Throughout history, there have been women warriors, so with the Viking women having better rights than other European women of the time, I think the History Channel could be closer to the truth than many originally thought.
Women in the Viking Age by Judith Jesch
McLeod, Shane 2011. Warriors and women: the sex ratio of Norse Migrants to eastern England up to 900 CE. In Early Medieval Europe 19(3).
Graslund, Anne Sofie 2001. The Position of Iron Age Scandinavian Women: Evidence from Graves and Rune Stones. In Gender and the Archaeology of Death (81-99)
WOMEN WARRIORS: A History (The Warriors) by David E. Jones
Andrea R. Cooper – is a freelance writer and published author. She writes fantasy, paranormal and historical romance. You may find more about her and her novels at www.andreaRcooper.com