Feb 04

Viking Sheildmaidens – Truth or Fantasy? by Andrea Cooper


Bio PicIt’s a pleasure to once again welcome Andrea Cooper . Today she travels back in time to share the tale of female Viking warriors.

Good to be back, Anna.

I’ve always thought that myths and legends have a degree of truth to them. The Viking sagas are no exception. Women are mentioned in the sagas with a few of them being warriors. Viking women had more rights and freedoms than their European counterparts, why do some believe is it so farfetched that some of them might have become warriors?

Hervara saga and Gesta Danorum mention sheildmaidens. These women fighters may have influenced the Valkyrie beliefs.

Some ancient historians recorded battles in which women were warriors. In 750, sheildmaidens fought with the Danes at the Battle of Bravalla as recorded by Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus. Later, in 971 Sviatoslav I of Kiev against the Byzantines in Bulgaria. After the battle, the winning Byzantines discovered armed women among the Vikings. In the Greenland saga, Leif Ericson’s half-sister, Freydis while in North America, takes her sword and scares away the attacking Native Americans.

Rusla, called ‘red maiden’ by the Irish, was another women warrior of myth. However, she is not only mentioned in Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus but also in Irish annals. “According to Irish Cogad Gaedel re Gallaib her nickname comes from the Irish Gaelic“Ingean Ruagh”, she had a reputation as bloodthirsty and custom of taking no prisoners. The Irish annals also cite their participation in the battle of Clontarf (1014) as part of the body of mercenaries hired by the Vikings who fought against Brian Boru, there she lost her sons in the battlefield. Rusla went down in history as the most cruel of all warrior Norse women.

Researchers at the University of Western Australia decided to revamp the way they studied Viking remains. Previously, researchers had misidentified skeletons as male simply because they were buried with their swords and shields. (Female remains were identified by their oval brooches, and not much else.)

There are still debates among historians, archeologist, and scholars about why Viking women were buried with weapons. My opinion is that since not all Viking women were buried with weapons—and some were—that the Viking warrior woman or shieldmaiden existed.


Velasco, Manuel (2012) Breve Historia de los Vikingos (versión extendida), Ed. Nowtilus, ISBN 9-788499-673455 p. 351 (Spanish)
Barbara Sjoholm, Barbara (2004) The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O’Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea, Seal Press, ISBN 9781580051095 p. 306 – 307
bThe article Sköldmö in Nordisk familjebok (1917).
Enoksen, Lars Magnar, 2004, Vikingarnas stridskonst s 20, s286, s 295f och s 314 ISBN 91-85057-32-0
Harrison, D. & Svensson, K. (2007). Vikingaliv. Fälth & Hässler, Värnamo. ISBN 978-91-27-35725-9. p. 71
Thorsson, Ö. (Ed.) The Sagas of the Icelanders. Penguin Books, 1997.
Saxo Grammaticus, “The Danish History Volume 8”
Tolkien”The Saga of King Heidrik the Wise
Byock, Jesse L. (Trans.) Saga of the Volsungs.University of California Press, 1990.

VFViking Flame  Prequel to Viking Fire: Historical Romance with a touch of magic

Forthcoming – February 2015 

Blurb: Bram has agreed to marry an Irish nobleman’s daughter in exchange for land and his services fighting with the Laird Liannon’s clan against rival Irishmen. However, Bram’s intended does not stir his heart. Not like the Laird’s daughter, Kaireen. Somehow, he must not only convince the Laird to amend his marriage contract, but win the heart of the stubborn feisty Kaireen.


Near the beach, the man quit rowing and yanked out a knife.

Bram didn’t move, judging he’d not need a lot of pressure to invoke pain against the man. “You go against your Captain’s orders t—”

“You made it to shore. That’s all we’s promised.” He spat at Bram’s boots. “No one said anything about you living afterwards.” When he dove forward, Bram ducked to the side and snatched his arm, pinning it to his side.

“Cease, or I will break your arm.” If it wasn’t for his pledge to Morga, he’d have snapped the man’s arm already. Once his contract was signed with the Laird, then he’d be free to fight in Ireland—or at least against other Vikings and rival Irishmen. When the man struggled, he continued, “Or perhaps a leg as well? What will your Captain say if you return without your weapon and injured? Will he be merciful and allow you to recover or throw you to the sharks?”

“You’re heathen scum!” He twisted.

As he did, Bram snapped the man’s wrist backward and he let out a howl before the blade came closer. “Now, hand me the knife.” When the man glared at him, he increased pressure on the bent wrist. “Or this heathen might do worse to you until not even the sharks would want you.”

The man gulped, but let go of the knife.

Bram snatched the blade out of the air before it hit the water. “Tell your Captain, I will not forget his hospitality nor will any of my eight brothers.”

The man paled. “What brings you to our island? To rape our women and pillage our churches?”

“No.” Bram rose and tucked the small blade into his boot. “To find my bride.”

Signup for Andrea’s newsletter for details on Viking Flame and get advanced notice on sales, new releases, contests, and more.

51HmpixkJFL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Viking Fire Blurb: In 856 CE, Ireland is a land of myth, magic, and blood. Viking raiders have fought the Irish for over half a century. Rival Irish clans promise only betrayal and carnage.

Kaireen, daughter of Laird Liannon, is suddenly forced into an arranged marriage with her sworn enemy, a Viking. She refuses to submit. With no mention of love, only land and the protection of her clan, she endeavors to get her betrothed banished from her country. Will love find its way around her stubborn heart?

Bram, the Viking, finds himself without future or inheritance as a younger son in his family. A marriage to the Laird’s daughter would grant him land if he swears fidelity and if his men will fight along with the Liannons against any foe—Irish or Viking. However, the Laird’s feisty daughter only holds animosity for him and his kind. Is marriage worth the battle scars of such a relentless opponent?

With the blame for a rival laird’s death treacherously set against the Liannons, Kaireen and Bram must find a way to lay aside their differences as an unforeseen darkness sends death snapping at their heels.


Andrea’s Bio: Growing up in Houston, Texas, Andrea has always created characters and stories. But it wasn’t until she was in her late twenties that she started writing novels.

What happened that ignited the writing flame in her fingers? Divorced, and disillusioned by love songs and stories. They exaggerate. She thought. Love and Romance are not like that in the real world. Then she met her husband and realized, yes love and romance are exactly like the songs and stories say. She is now a happy wife, and a mom to three kids (two boys and a girl).

Andrea writes paranormal and historical romance. When not writing or reading, one may find Andrea dancing in Zumba.

She believes in the power of change and counting each moment as a blessing. But most importantly, she believes in love.

Viking Fire Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/m1bPZ3nUyzs

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AndreaRCooper.author

Twitter: @AndreaRCooper

Author Website: www.AndreaRCooper.com

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  1. Andrea


    Thank you for having me on your wonderful blog today.

  2. Jacqueline Seewald


    A very interesting blog. I didn’t realize before that there were “Sheildmaidens,” female Viking warriors. Congrats on your novels and the quality of your research.

    1. Andrea


      Thank you. I’ve even argued with a historian years ago about Viking women warriors – now it seems some are catching up to my beliefs 🙂

  3. Jill Hughey

    Andrea, this is a somewhat unrelated question, but is it true that during their time, viking was only a verb, and not a noun referring to a particular group of Norse people? I ask because I’m writing a novella set in 860s France when the “Vikings” were raiding up the Seine, and I think it more likely the Franks would have referred to the invaders as Norse or Danes or something like that, but your level of research shows you know much, much more about it than I do.

    I would be a terrible warrior, but I agree, there were probably some impressive shield maidens in those days, but necessity if nothing else. Very nice post!

    1. Andrea


      Yes, that is true. Neither the ‘Vikings’ or the people of their time used the word. Vikings would go a-Viking. In my novel, I use the word Viking a few times because readers associate that word with them, then I weave in the Gaelic words for Viking which were Gaill (“Gentiles” or foreigners), Lochlann (“lakemen”), Normanni (“north-men”) The Irish word gaill did originally mean “a Gaul”, i.e. an inhabitant of Gaul (France), but its meaning was later widened to “foreigner”, to describe the Vikings, and later still the Normans.

      The English called the Vikings Norse or Danes – so that would probably work for your novel.

      An excellent source online (and you can email her) is The Viking Answer Lady.

      Good luck with your novel.

  4. Melissa Keir

    Very informative post! I would have been one of those fighting women. Try to harm a child and I’m a mama bear!

    1. Andrea


      Exactly. LOL. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Sylvie Grayson

    It doesn’t seem thtat far fetched that some of the Viking women fought with their men. But the idea is a great one to play with in terms of fantasy world, isn’t it? There are probably other cultures where the women fought as well, besides the mystical Amazons!
    Thanks for the post, Sylvie

    1. Andrea


      You are absolutely right! There are numerous accounts throughout history of women warriors – even if they weren’t part of a society that accepted women fighters.

      An excellent novel that discusses the various women fighters is:
      WOMEN WARRIORS: A History (Warriors (Potomac Books))
      by David E Jones

      Thanks you for stopping by.

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