Fangirl Fridays – Lagertha the Shield Maiden
If you haven’t met Lagertha Lothbrok, let me take this opportunity to introduce her to you. She is the ultimate kickass woman. A Shield Maiden of The Far North. Tales of her bravery and passion have been told through the ages round the fires of plunder and immortalized in Nordic myth.
She can do it all: fight alongside the men, stay home and defend the farm, raise the kids, and still keep her love life smoking hot. You know, all the stuff modern women do—without the luxury of electricity, running water, or toilets—plus plunder and pillage!
Lagertha hasn’t got her own book series, but she does have a tv series, called Vikings, which is beginning its second season in the U.S. now. I know that a lot of Wenches aren’t able to watch Vikings, so I wanted to share a few words about this amazing character. Who would be equally at ease slinging swords alongside Fever’s Makayla Lane or Chicagoland Vampires’s Merit, or running the homestead and killing wolves with her bare hands alongside Outlander’s Claire Fraser.
So whether you’re a fan of the Vikings tv show or not, I hope you saucy fans of strong female characters will join me for a little fangirling about the legendary Lagertha’s story. (I will keep spoilers to a minimum for those who have not seen Vikings, and I admit that I’m trying not to spoil myself too badly by looking too deeply into what lies beyond season 1.)
Vikings puts the V in Urban Fantasy
Once again I’m fangirling about something that both entertains and educates me. (Or at least inspires me to search online for accurate historical information about what I just watched.) Vikings takes place in lands (and oceans) of sweeping vistas, where rugged men and women forge a living out of an unforgivingly harsh environment. Their homelands are so inhospitable that it is easier to cross dangerous seas and steal their livelihood from whomever they stumble across than wrest it out of the land and sea.
To survive, the characters must be tougher than the elements and their enemies. They are larger-than-life, holding their own against the cinematic splendor of mountains, fjords, seascapes, and grand battles.
The ads for the show focused on the cocky, charismatic Ragnar Lothbrok, fabled for his manly exploits. But by episode 3, for me this show was all about Lagertha, Ragnar’s wife. She was my new awesomely badass hero(ine)!! And I began to enjoy Vikings as more of an Urban Fantasy that happened to be set in a rural, medieval Scandinavia!
Looting, lusting, laughing, and loving life
|Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha Lothbrok|
Here are a few reasons why I think Lagertha would be be a great UF heroine.
She has high standards.
Legend has it that she met Ragnar Lothbrok by joining her warriors with his to avenge the death of the Norwegian king and the shameful mistreatment of the surviving women in the king’s family. Ragnar fell in love with her and won her by being the only man who could pass her entrance test. According to the Vikings wikia:
Ragnar went to Lagertha’s home to confess his love to her, but he was set upon by a bear and an enormous hound who guarded her home. Ragnar killed the bear with his spear and strangled the hound with his bare hands, thus gaining her hand in marriage.
She is fierce, devoted, and passionate.
She knows how to take care of...Herself.
She knows how to take care of...Her man.
She knows how to take care of...Her family.
She knows how to take care of...Her guests.
At one point, Ragnar is “given” a prisoner of war as his reward for discovering new lands to plunder. Though technically a slave, they treat their prize with a fair amount of dignity and respect. Ragnar and Lagertha even invite him into their bed one night, being the thoughtful hosts that they are. (He politely refuses, being the extremely befuddled Christian monk that he is.)
She jumps at the chance to fight for her farm, village, and fellow Vikings.
She’s a team player when she needs to be.
She can also go it alone.
So...Do not mess with her.
Do not pick on women and children.
Do not piss her off.
And be warned...she has good backup.
Legends say Lagertha might be related to the Valkyrie, the host of female figures from Norse mythology who transport fallen warriors to Valhalla. So you never know who might show up to help her out when she sounds the battle cry. You’d better think twice before taking her on.
Ragnar might think he’s the shit, but he is damn lucky to have such a magnificent wife. And he seems to know that. [Show/Hide spoiler...]
Lagertha’s story in Vikings
Vikings is based more or less on tales handed down verbally in Scandinavian lore and eventually written down in various books through the ages. (For example, Wikipedia credits various historical records and accounts for the plot, along with the 13th-century sagas Ragnars saga Loðbrókar and Ragnarssona þáttr, and Saxo Grammaticus’s 12th-century work Gesta Danorum.)
Ragnar distinguishes himself by discovering the “mythical” coast of England, with its dazzling new smorgasbord of riches to plunder, like churches. (I had a hard time believing they’d never run across England and lived to spread the word, but I was willing to suspend belief on that point.) He leaves Lagertha home to mind the farm, which peeves her to no end...though that turns out to be a surprisingly “alpha-male” assignment in itself.
Here’s where we see Lagertha’s softer side: nurturing her children, tending farm animals, dispensing charity and assistance to the villagers. And this just makes it all the sweeter when we later see her join the raiding parties and realize what a badass warrior she is.
While Ragnar builds his legacy in battles, Lagertha defends their home. Against thieves who would steal it, enemies who would harm their children, and suitors who hope to woo her away (by charm or by force) from Ragnar. This last problematic situation sent me scurrying to the interwebs to research the Viking definitions of marriage, family traditions, monogamy, divorce, incest...the usual stuff of romance.
The clash of cultures, religions, and personal ambitions makes for compelling story lines, and Lagertha always wants to be at the center of the action. As in any richly lived life, she knows great triumph and deep loss. Battles for loyalty, romance, riches, adventure, heartbreak, and treachery abound. I can’t wait to see how Lagertha fares.
How is she not distracted by all the eye candy?
It’s a bit of a detour, but then again we are the Wenches. If Lagertha’s extraordinary tale isn’t enough of an enticement, let me suggest another reason to watch Vikings. It is gorgeous to look at, and so are its leading men and women.
Rollo Lothbrok, Ragnar’s brother
Their back yard
|And their work commute...|
Despite a lifetime dedicated to serving her family, friends, and legions of mistreated women and children, Lagertha is ultimately remembered as a warrior. I have poked around at the legend online enough to see how her story ends. And I have to wonder whether the show will follow suit. Because it turns out Lagertha will forgive and forget for only so long. Let’s just say, in legends, she doesn’t do victim and would rather rule alone than share a throne with someone who can’t meet her standards—not unlike our Vikings Lagertha. So it should be interesting! *cackles gleefully*
The story of Vikings—Lagertha and Ragnar—has in turns evoked standing ovations, a lot of hiding my eyes from the carnage, intrigue, lust, and outrage from me...and has even inspired me to become a more kickass woman! Because after the end of season 1, I am totally ready to kick someone’s ass. I’m not going to say whose, in case you haven’t seen all the episodes yet…but the dangerous woman in me is ready to go Medieval on someone’s ass just as soon as season 2 hits the screens this week. If you’ve seen the show, you’re probably ready to kick some ass with me. And if you haven’t, aren’t you just itching to join in the
|Watch your back...|