Female Viking warriors: truth or fiction?

Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
5,081
Canary Islands-Spain
Mar 2019
23
Amsterdam
Well that is the thing contradictions. Too many thoughts and opinions about it based on too little information. Have there been women warriors during the Viking age? Probably yes. How many no one knows. Currently, the best suggestion is to check primary sources if possible to make your decision and not the google search. Tho historians like Neil Price argue that they existed while others, like scholar Judith Jesch disagree, citing a lack of hard evidence. And this with many historical events some are for and others against.Simply because that period did not have the tools like Wikipedia, Historia, Everopidia and others that could preserve the story and because victors tend to write the history.
 

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,916
Yotebory Sveriya
Generally in the uncivilized cultures women were permitted to be a part of warrior groups; “men only armies” are generally a feature of a more developed military tradition than the barbaric warrior traditions of Celts, Germanics, Plains peoples, and also the native Americans (amazon rainforest named after them). Speaking of plains people, the most skilled warrior known in Temujin’s family was female, she went by the name Khutulun.

There are writings about female warriors in Norse culture; shield maidens. There are also examples of women in warrior graves, confirmed by DNA tests. To suggest these are purely ceremonial would first require an example of what kind of ceremony you mean where women are buried in warrior graves with battle gear? I am unaware of examples of such a thing, but we do have the Norse written evidence of shield maidens.

To address the argument that it’s a fiction. As mentioned, it’s not a unique feature of the Norse - especially not among related cultures. There’s no strong arguments to suggest there weren’t women warriors among the Norse, they are based on bias and conjecture; the archaeological and historical evidence is against such arguments as well.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,738
Australia
There is a huge difference between following the men to battle and fending off a raid on the camp and lining up beside men in formation and fighting in the ranks.
 
Feb 2019
823
Pennsylvania, US

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,999
Italy, Lago Maggiore
We can also add a comment about a certain historiography: it's out of doubt that the figure of a female warrior is not only fascinating, but also inspiring and motivating for patriots and troops. Remember the case of Joan of Arc. She was well more important as a symbol than as a military commander or a warrior.

This said, going back to the OP, probably the tomb Bj 581 is known as an example of female Viking warrior [as Niobe as already mentioned].

This is the introduction of the scientific work

AbstractObjectives:The objective of this study has been to confirm the sex and the affinity of an individ-ual buried in a well-furnished warrior grave (Bj 581) in the Viking Age town of Birka, Sweden.Previously, based on the material and historical records, the male sex has been associated with thegender of the warrior and such was the case with Bj 581. An earlier osteological classification ofthe individual as female was considered controversial in a historical and archaeological context. Agenomic confirmation of the biological sex of the individual was considered necessary to solve theissue.
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/ajpa.23308

A comment from the final discussion

Do weapons necessarily determine a warrior? The interpretationof grave goods is not straight forward, but it must be stressed that theinterpretation should be made in a similar manner regardless of the bio-logical sex of the interred individual. Furthermore, the exclusive gravegoods and two horses are worthy of an individual with responsibilitiesconcerning strategy and battle tactics.
 

rvsakhadeo

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
9,212
India
Regarding comments about women in combat generally, it's well known that Soviet women were in combat roles in WWII, primarily as snipers. They also flew combat missions as pilots.

Women With Guns: The Red Army Female Snipers of World War II | Defense Media Network
I might inform you that there was a teenage princess, named Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi ( meaning Laxmibai, the Queen of Jhansi ), a widow who fought very bravely against the English Army under Sir Hugh Rose in 1857 1st war of Indian Independence. She was killed when riding a horse with her adopted son of a few years of age tied to her sari. She was surrounded by a few English cavalrymen and was killed sometime in 1858. See here.
Rani of Jhansi - Wikipedia
 
  • Like
Reactions: Niobe
Nov 2008
1,400
England
I might inform you that there was a teenage princess, named Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi ( meaning Laxmibai, the Queen of Jhansi ), a widow who fought very bravely against the English Army under Sir Hugh Rose in 1857 1st war of Indian Independence. She was killed when riding a horse with her adopted son of a few years of age tied to her sari. She was surrounded by a few English cavalrymen and was killed sometime in 1858. See here.
Rani of Jhansi - Wikipedia
She was born in 1828 so her age at death would have been 30 or 31. There are no contemporary accounts of the Rani having her adopted son tied to her clothing on the battlefield, and this idea can be dismissed as romantic legend.

As to Viking or Dark Age female warriors, we can not be sure until some female skeleton in unearthed bearing unmistakeable signs of weapon trauma. As far as I am aware, no such evidence has been found.
 
Aug 2011
1,620
Sweden
She was born in 1828 so her age at death would have been 30 or 31. There are no contemporary accounts of the Rani having her adopted son tied to her clothing on the battlefield, and this idea can be dismissed as romantic legend.

As to Viking or Dark Age female warriors, we can not be sure until some female skeleton in unearthed bearing unmistakeable signs of weapon trauma. As far as I am aware, no such evidence has been found.
Do weapon trauma really indicate that you have been fighting yourself?

Personally I think it would not take many female warriors in a few battles to result is this kind of legend.