Lagertha….The Viking Shieldmaiden
Lagertha’s tale is recorded in passages in the ninth book of the Gesta Danorum, a twelfth-century work of Danish history by the Christian historian Saxo Grammaticus.
Lagertha’s career as a warrior began when Frø, king of Sweden, invaded Norway and killed the Norwegian king Siward…..the grandfather of Ragnar Lodbrok. Frø also put the women of the dead king’s family into a brothel for public humiliation. Upon hearing of these events, Ragnar Lodbrok was naturally furious, and quickly gathered his army to avenge his grandfather Siward.
Many of the women Frø had ordered abused in the brothel dressed themselves in men’s clothing, and were battle ready brandishing their swords and shields, and desperate to avenge themselves and their families from the abuses they had endured from Frø.
Ragnar Lodbrok, with his army, and with his warrior women alongside him, would soon see him get his vengeance for the death of his grandfather Siward. Lagertha played a huge part in this battle which lead them to its success…..becoming a hero in her own right.
Saxo recounts that Lagertha “though a maiden, had the courage of a man and fought in front among the bravest with her hair loose over her shoulders. All marvelled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back, betrayed that she was a woman.”
This eather small framed women took everyone by surprise through her courage, and Ragnar was instantly attracted to her. Lagartha though was not interested in Ragnar originally, and he courted her from afar, whilst Lagertha feigned interest. Ragnar arrived to seek her hand, bidding his companions wait in the Gaular valley. He was set upon by a bear and a great hound which Lagertha had guarding her home, but killed the bear with his spear and choked the hound to death. Lagertha was so impressed by his actions that she accepted Ragnar’s hand in marriage. They had three children, a son named Fridleif, and two unrecorded daughters.
Some years later however,Ragnar met the daughter of King Herrauðr of Sweden Thora Borgarhjört. Ragnar, still annoyed by Lagertha setting her beasts on him all those years ago, and despite having had 3 children together, he decided to divorce Lagertha and marry Thora Borgarhjört.
Lagertha went back home and remarried. When Ragnar eventually returned home to Denmark he was faced with another civil war. Lagertha, despite being discarded and divorced, still loved Tagnar deep down, and decided to aid Ragnar with 120 ships. She and her warriors would end up saving the day with a counterattack saving Ragnar and his wounded son Siward in the process.
After the battle, Lagertha returned home to her husband. Just like in the TV Show Vikings, she kills her husband with a hidden spearhead after a quarrel. Saxo states that she “Usurped the whole of his name and sovereignty; for this most presumptuous dame thought it pleasanter to rule without her husband than to share the throne with him”.
Lagertha is closely associated with Valkyries and has a Warrior Goddess status.
However, there are no accounts of how or when Lagertha actually died.