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Fjord Tours Articles / 9 Dec 2019

The Most Legendary Female Viking Warriors That Ever Lived

When you think of Vikings, what comes to mind—their legendary ferocity, dedication to honor, their massive ships, and desire to invade and claim new lands? One thing that’s almost certainly left out is the fact that several of the most legendary vikings were in fact female.

Since the majority of the most famous Vikings brought up in Norse mythology are males, the majority of people are not even aware female Vikings existed. However, female Vikings fighting on the battlefield during the Viking age is a very good historical possibility.

In fact, some research shows that a few of the most impressive Vikings of all time were females, and likewise, struck fear into the hearts of anyone who saw them, men and women alike. Here are a few of the most legendary female Viking warriors that ever lived.

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Photo: Hurtigruten AS

Lagertha

Thanks to Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum, we know of a legendary female Viking known as either Lagertha or Ladgerda. This incredible woman was part of a larger group of female warriors who volunteered to help renowned hero Ragnar Lothbrok avenge his grandfather's death. She rushed into battle and slaughtered countless enemies, resulting in victory.

Because of her incredible skills and surmountable bravery, Lothbrok became infatuated with her and decided to try and make her his new wife. Being the strong warrior that she was, Lagertha refused this offer and instead attempted to keep Lothbrok at bay by putting both a bear and a dog in front of her home. Unfortunately, this defense did not work because is was married to Lothbrok in the end.

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Photo: Hurtigruten AS

Shieldmaiden

Unlike the other two entries on this list, the shieldmaidens are not one single person, but rather a group of many women. These legendary figures were a band of females that marched onto the battlefield alongside their male counterparts to participate in some of the biggest battles in Viking history.

For example, shieldmaidens are thought to have participated in both the Battle of Bråvalla as well as the Siege of Dorostolon. Although the latter of these battles resulted in the shieldmaidens losing, their bravery remains legendary.

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Freydis Eiríksdóttir

We have arguably saved the best for last, considering the fact that Freydis Eiríksdóttir has been included in numerous historical accounts, and is therefore considered the most famous female Viking warrior.

Unlike shieldmaidens and Lagertha, Eiríksdóttir took up the role of a female Viking warrior even without the help of her male counterparts. In fact, the original plan was for Eiríksdóttir to fight alongside other male Viking warriors, but once the Viking party landed on the shores of Vinland (now known as the Eastern coast of North America), they quickly retreated from the group of angry natives.

This option did not ring true to Eiríksdóttir. Instead, legends tell us that she grabbed a weapon from one of her fallen comrades, ripped open her top, and challenged the angry natives to a battle. Completely shocked and possibly even scared by this bold strategy, the natives quickly retreated and Eiríksdóttir was declared victorious.

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Photo: Thomas Haltner

What makes this already incredible story even more impressive is the fact that some renditions include the fact that Eiríksdóttir may have even been pregnant at the time and was suffering some health effects as a result.

There you have it; the next time you picture Vikings, you’ll imagine women warriors that were every bit as tough as their male counterparts.

Of course, there are many other examples of great female Viking warriors that once ruled over Norway. If you want to learn more about some of the bravest and most fearsome Viking women and what it was really like to be a Viking you can visit the Viking Village in Gudvangen.

Norway in winter is for vikings, of heritage or in heart. The vikings «stood out from the crowd», and Norway in winter offers you the same. It is an adventure both visual and visceral, and bound to leave you with lasting impressions of snow capped mountains and icy fjords, check our winter tours and activities here.

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Photo: Sverre Hjørnevik/Flåm AS