This weekend was lost to back-to-back episodes of Vikings. It was one of those kind of things where one episode ends and you tell yourself, “OK, just one more” and next thing you know, you’ve finished all there is to watch. >insert great sadness here at that realization<
While I really enjoyed the writing and action and fascinating views of the culture, I LOVED the Shield Maidens. Those girls were badass and I have a total affinity for female badassery.
So, with all things that interest me, I just had to research to find out more.
As with many or history’s juiciest tidbits, scholars and historians are divided on the belief of whether or not the Shield Maiden actually existed or if they were borne of battlefield fables and mythology.
From what I could find (and there really is very little out there, unfortunately), the original purpose of a Shield Maiden was to crouch at the front line of battle with her shield braced against her shoulders to create a wall in front of the men who were fighting. As Shield Maidens fell in battle, they were replaced by another who stood by, ready to pluck up the dropped shield and take her fallen sister’s place.
The women on Vikings are so much more than just a shield wall though, they fight with their shields, wielding it like a warrior wields his axe. I would imagine this is an accurate portrayal of what women really did. Viking battles were messy and chaotic. The idea of a perfectly formed line of Shield Maidens is almost laughable. But set those ladies loose when all hell breaks and I can guarantee you, the only ones who might be laughing would be them.
It is said that when Shield Maidens die, they become Valkyries – flying female figures who tip the scales of life and death among fighting warriors. These women are beautiful and fierce, flying through the air either on wings or on massive horses, before they swoop in to make their selection for the Gods. When they are not picking through the wagers of war, it is said they take the form of swans and bide their time.
One of the most famous Shield Maidens turned Valkyrie was Brunhilde, the daughter of a legendary king. She displeased Odin and found herself a mortal trapped in a Sleeping Beauty-like scenario with a whole lot of violence that follows after.
Along with the bit of research I was able to collect and my own childish wish for all things awesome to truly exist, I side with the part of history that deems the Shield Maiden profession plausible. Per the Valkyrie transformation later, not so much. Even I can’t buy that part. But what I do know is that I love the Shield Maiden concept so much that I’m already trying to figure out how I can work one of these into my next manuscript.