There had been debates among historians on whether real female Viking warriors who fought, raided, and ransacked just as fiercely as men did really exist or not. It was not until 2017 when Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, an archaeologist from Uppsala University, published her study about a Viking grave discovered in Birka, Sweden, in the 1800s. She and her team revisited the grave and uncovered that the warrior in the grave was a woman, as confirmed by DNA tests. This proved that female Viking warriors were a thing during the Viking era, around 790 to 1100 AD. Although, other experts still challenged her findings.

Freydis Eiríksdóttir

Freydis Eiríksdóttir (c. 970-c. 1004 CE) (Original image by Luc Van Braekel on Flickr/Uploaded by , CC BY 4.0, worldhistory.org)

Freydís Eiríksdóttir was Erik the Red’s daughter. Erik was a Viking explorer who was exiled after killing his neighbors who murdered his slaves. So, it was not much of a surprise when his daughter turned out to be a fierce warrior, too, who decided to join an expedition after seeing her brother Leif Eiriksson gain infamy for discovering Vinland. Depending on which story you read, Freydis was either an awesome warrior or an evil one.

In Erik the Red’s Saga, she was left alone when a group of natives attacked their party on their way to Vinland. She called their attackers out by saying,

“Why run you away from such worthless creatures, stout men that ye are, when, as seems to me likely, you might slaughter them like so many cattle? Let me but have a weapon, I think I could fight better than any of you.”

She then grabbed a sword, tore open her shirt, beat her breasts with the blade, and defied the enemies.

Meanwhile, in The Saga of the Greenlanders, she disliked her brothers and felt that they were too presumptuous, so she told her husband that they were abusing and beating her and that he should avenge her or she would divorce him. Her husband and his men went and killed his brothers’ party while Freydis killed all the women that her husband’s party refused to hurt. However, this second story was written later than the first one and was said to have been made to discredit her strong female figure.

Sigrid the Proud

Sigrid the Haughty and Olaf Tryggvason
Sigrid the Haughty and Olaf Tryggvason. (Erik Werenskiold, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Also known as Sigrid the Haughty, and rightfully so, she was a Swedish queen who did not want to abide by people’s rules. She preferred to reign by herself after the King of Sweden, Erik the Victorious, died. This choice of hers did not discourage her suitors from trying to woo her into marriage. Harald Grenske of Norway and Vissavald of the Kievan Rus both tried to court her. Sigrid, realizing that they were only interested in her wealth and nothing more, decided to make them an instrument to discourage future suitors.

Sigrid invited the two to a party. When they and their men fell asleep after drinking too much, she locked the doors of the hall and burned them alive.

However, the infamous Olaf Tryggvason still sought her hand but demanded that she convert to Christianity first. When Sigrid refused, Olaf slapped her in public, humiliating her in front of everyone. The queen kept her composure and vowed revenge. She did so when she married Sweyn Forkbeard for his influence and power. Forkbeard was behind the Battle of Svolder, where Olaf was killed.

Lagertha

Lagertha was no doubt one of the most famous female Viking warriors of Norse sagas after Katheryn Winnick played her role in Vikings.

According to the Danish historian Saxo, her story began when the Swedish King Fro invaded Norway. After killing the king of Norway, Fro sent all the women in the family of the slain king to work at a brothel. Ragnar, the king’s grandson, was furious after hearing what Fro did. He sent an army to avenge his grandfather’s death, and one of the warriors he sent was Lagertha. Dressed as a man, she fought fiercely in the battle that everyone who watched here was amazed. Her skills and bravery were key in the defeat of Fro. Ragnar soon found himself wanting to make Lagertha his wife. She, however, was not interested in getting married. Ragnar’s persistence which involved getting attacked by a bear and a hound that Lagertha placed to protect her home, soon won her hand. After having a son and two daughters, Ragnar divorced Lagertha, saying that he was still upset about the two beasts that she set and he had to fight prior. They both remarried.

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