If you are a fan of the show Vikings on the History channel, than you already know who Lagertha is.
If you know who Lagertha is, then you likewise are aware of what Shield maidens are.
If neither of these things ring a bell, or if you would simply like to learn a bit more about Shield maidens and their role in Viking society, then do read on.
As the name may suggest, a shieldmaiden is a woman who chose to dedicate her life to the ways of a warrior. She would have indeed wielded a shield, along with a number of other deadly weapons. She would have been a fierce foe, a proper rival for any man on the battle field. Once upon a time in our nation's history it may have been unthinkable for women to be fighting alongside their men, but this was not so for the Nordic, Norwegian, Swedish, German, or Danish tribes.
Concordant to the tale as set forth by the scribe Saxo Grammaticus, Lagertha was a Norwegian shieldmaiden. At one time, she was the wife of the famous Ragnar Lodbrok. Her foray into the life of a shieldmaiden began while fighting at Ragnar's side, clothed as a man. They opposed the Swedish King Freyr, who had invaded Norway and slain Ragnar's grandfather, King Siward.
The famous Viking, impressed by Lagertha's skill, fell in love with her.
She set upon him a bear and a large dog, both of which he had to defeat in order to win her hand in marriage. He defeated both animals and they were wed, though Ragnar never quite forgave her for loosing the fearsome beasts upon him.
Shield maidens are amazing. They were feminists before the word “feminist” was coined.
Brave, beautiful, fearless warriors who would fight and proudly die for what they believed in.
There has been (and still remains) debate as to whether or not the Shield maidens were based in fact or merely legends to promote the fierceness of the Viking women.
In all honesty, it does not matter one way or the other to me if they were real or myth. I love the stories. I deeply respect the storytellers who propagated the idea that women could and would face down their enemies.
Personally, I would be honored to wear a shieldmaiden shirt.
You will feel proud to wear yours as well, of this I am certain.