Shield Maiden


A shieldmaiden (Icelandic skjaldmær, Swedish sköldmö, Danish skjoldmø) is the name given in Norse mythology to a woman who has chosen a life as a warrior.

Shield maidens in Norse lore

Warrior women called shieldmaidens are frequently mentioned in the Old Norse sagas, for example in the Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks konungs and in the Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus.

According to the Nordisk familjebok, there are reports of fighting women both from the Viking Age and among the Germanic peoples of the Goths, Cimbri and Marcomanni. They are said to have contributed to the idea of the Valkyries.

In Scandinavian sagas, the armed, fighting women mentioned include Brynhild in the Völsunga saga, Hervör in the Hervarar saga, Brunhild in the Bósa saga ok Herrauðs and the Swedish king's daughter Thornbjörg in the Hrólfs saga Gautrekssonar, as well as in the Gesta Danorum Weghbiorg (also Wegthbiorg), Rusla and Lagertha, the first wife of Ragnar Lothbrok.

According to Saxo Grammaticus, under the leadership of the three "battle maidens" Webiorga (also Webiorg or Veborg),Wisna (also Visna) and Hertha (also Hetha or Hed) three army clusters from the lands outside Denmark proper fought on the Danish side in the Battle of Bråvalla. Saxo, in his seventh book, describes how women took to the life of warriors to avoid marriage.

In the Ragnars saga loðbrókar, it is Aslaug who accompanies her sons on war campaigns several times and therefore receives the new epithet Randalín ("shield maiden").

Shield Maidens in Popular Culture

J. R. R. Tolkien was inspired by the Norse sagas. In his novel The Lord of the Rings, Éowyn is described as a shieldmaiden.

In the Canadian-Irish television series Vikings, the term is used for warrior women, and in the 2019 Norwegian television series Beforeigners, the transtemporal main character Alfhildr Enginnsdóttir, among others, also refers to herself as a shieldmaiden.

Shield Maidens in Literature

  • Edmund Mudrak (ed.): Nordic sagas of gods and heroes. Ensslin & Laiblin Verlag, Reutlingen 1961, p. 291. Schildmaid, Schildjungfrau. Like a man equipped fighter [...].
  • Matthias Egeler: Valkyries, Bodbs, Sirens. Thoughts on the religious-historical connection of northwestern Europe to the Mediterranean region. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2011. on Brynhild, Schildmaiden: P. 53 ff; Valkyries, shieldmaidens, and sexuality: P. 84 ff. (preview of the book at Google Books).
  • Sköldmö. In: Theodor Westrin, Ruben Gustafsson Berg, Eugen Fahlstedt (eds.): Nordisk familjebok konversationslexikon och realencyklopedi. 2nd ed. Volume 25: Sekt-Slöjskifling. Nordisk familjeboks förlag, Stockholm 1917, sp. 1372 (Swedish,