Ok, there is one situation in Paris that we have not talked about yet? I think we should look at it before we see Ragnar’s upcoming wrath… because if you’ve viewed the previous promo clip from my last post, you will be well aware that a portion of his anger is directed at Lagertha for some reason. Perhaps he’s annoyed with her recent alliance with Kalf? Yes, as much as she professes to hate Kalf, she has proven that while she may hate him, she is not immune to his better qualities!
Now, I know that we make much of the Viking men around us and often end up leaving the women out… I am going to remedy that a bit today with a little tribute to our own Viking Goddess, Lagertha! It seems the only one not enamored of her lately is her ex-husband, Ragnar! Ragnar is often downright rude to her and seems to constantly find ways to cut at her with his remarks and his disregard for her feelings. If he has some inner desire to get her back, I believe he is going about it in the wrong way! Well, fortunately for Lagertha, as I said, other men seem to appreciate her assets. Rollo knows things are long over between him and this feisty shield maiden but he continues to hold a spot for her in his heart. Ecbert of Wessex was extremely fond of her, comparing her to one of those ancient Roman Goddesses. And, Kalf has made it abundantly clear that no matter what their other issues are, he desires her more than anything, he stated in the past that he thinks their fates are twined together… And, quite recently he set out to prove just that!
I am not going to go over her entire life history here, we all know of it already. She is a strong independent and stubborn woman, a shield maiden, a Mother, a wife spurned for a younger woman by one husband and abused by another husband. She handled both of those situations and is even stronger from those experiences. She makes her share of mistakes, sometimes she is far too trusting, other times she is far too stubborn and refuses to give up even when she might not be right. She is also now a Grandmother who is far from ready to sit at home and knit… if she even knows how to knit?
Here is a little of Lagertha’s story in real history:
Lagertha’s tale is recorded in passages in the ninth book of the Gesta Danorum, a 12th-century work of Danish history by Saxo Grammaticus. According to the Gesta (¶ 9.4.1–9.4.11), Lagertha’s career as a warrior began when Frø, king of Sweden, invaded Norway and killed the Norwegian king Siward. Frø put the women of the dead king’s family into a brothel for public humiliation. Hearing of this, Ragnar Lodbrok came with an army to avenge his grandfather Siward. Many of the women Frø had ordered abused dressed themselves in men’s clothing and fought on Ragnar’s side. Chief among them, and key to Ragnar’s victory, was Lagertha. Saxo recounts:
Ladgerda, a skilled Amazon, who, though a maiden, had the courage of a man, and fought in front among the bravest with her hair loose over her shoulders. All-marvelled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back betrayed that she was a woman.
Impressed with her courage, Ragnar courted her from afar. Lagertha feigned interest and Ragnar arrived to seek her hand, bidding his companions wait in the Gaular valley. He was set upon by a bear and a great hound which Lagertha had guarding her home, but killed the bear with his spear and choked the hound to death. Thus he won the hand of Lagertha in marriage. According to Saxo, Ragnar had a son with her, Fridleif, as well as two daughters, whose names are not recorded.
After returning to Denmark to fight a civil war, Ragnar (who, according to Saxo, was still annoyed that Lagertha had set beasts against him) divorced Lagertha in order to marry Þóra Borgarhjǫrtr, daughter of King Herrauðr of Sweden.He won the hand of his new love after numerous adventures, but upon returning to Denmark was again faced with a civil war. Ragnar sent to Norway for support, and Lagertha, who still loved him, came to his aid with 120 ships, according to Saxo. When at the height of the battle, Ragnar’s son Siward was wounded, Lagertha saved the day for Ragnar with a counterattack:
Ladgerda, who had a matchless spirit though a delicate frame, covered by her splendid bravery the inclination of the soldiers to waver. For she made a sally about, and flew round to the rear of the enemy, taking them unawares, and thus turned the panic of her friends into the camp of the enemy.
Upon returning to Norway, she quarreled with her husband, and slew him with a spearhead she concealed in her gown. Saxo concludes that she then “usurped the whole of his name and sovereignty; for this most presumptuous dame thought it pleasanter to rule without her husband than to share the throne with him”.
According to Judith Jesch, the rich variety of tales in the first nine books of Saxo’s Gesta, which include the tale of Lagertha, are “generally considered to be largely fictional”.In portraying the several warrior women in these tales, Saxo drew on the legend of the Amazons from classical antiquity, but also on a variety of Old Norse (particularly Icelandic) sources, which have not been clearly identified. Saxo’s depiction of women warriors is also colored by misogyny: Like most churchmen of the time, Saxo thought of women only as sexual beings. To him, the Viking shieldmaidens who refused this role were an example of the disorder in old heathen Denmark that was later cured by the Church and a stable monarchy.
A woman called Hlaðgerðr, who rules the Hlaðeyjar, also appears in the sagas of the 6th century Scylding king Halfdan. She gives him twenty ships to help defeat his enemies.Hilda Ellis Davidson, in her commentary on the Gesta, also notes suggestions in the literature that the name was used by the Franks, for instance by Luitgarde of Vermandois (c. 914–978), and that the tale of Lagertha could have originated in Frankish tradition.
When Saxo describes Lagertha as “flying round” (circumvolare) to the rear of the enemy, he ascribes to her the power of flight, according to Jesch, indicating a kinship with the valkyries. The tale notably recalls that of Kára, the valkyrie lover of Helgi Haddingjaskati, who flies above Helgi in battle as a swan, casting spells in his support.
Thorgerd was worshipped by, and sometimes said to be wed to, the Norwegian ruler Haakon (c. 937–995), who lived at Hlaðir (Lade). This may be the origin of the name Hlaðgerðr Gaulardal, the Gaular valley – where Lagertha lived according to Saxo – lies nearby and was the center of Thorgerd’s cult. It was also, according to Snorri, the abode of Haakon’s wife Thora. Finally, the description of Lagertha coming to Ragnar’s aid with flying hair is similar to how the Flateyjarbók describes Thorgerd and her sister Irpa assisting Haakon.
So, Ecbert was not misguided in his assumption of Lagertha being a Goddess!
All of the men in her life, as well as the rest of us, have seen her at her very worst but are still fascinated and drawn to her. There is something about her inner spirit, and strength that draws people to her…. much like a Goddess to hold belief in.
The other thing that sets her apart from others is her sense of honor, her basic human goodness, which even in her mistakes, she never waivers from. She may be a shield maiden, a warrior killer when she needs to be, but she does not kill unjustly and she will fight for those being abused whether they are her people or not. For her, there is a difference between killing in battle for what you believe in or a battle against other warriors and killing for other less honorable reasons. Lagertha is a woman with a conscience, trying to keep her battle side and her personal side separate. Sometimes, she achieves that, other times not so much. She is also a woman trying to succeed and achieve her own reputation, which is so important to the Vikings, in a male dominated career field. She is not so much different than women today! She knows that she has to prove herself among the men in order to be taken seriously.
In this recent battle for the Gates of Paris, we saw her struggle with this physically and emotionally. We also saw her ongoing struggle for power with Kalf. Ever since Kalf usurped her title of Earl of Hedeby, the two have been in a personal battle of wills over this issue. I know that Kalf is not a favorite of many people who see him as the evil conniving wrong doer to Lagertha… well that and his sudden friendship with the sleazy Erlandeur to whom he has vowed to bring down the entire Lothbrok clan. That is a separate issue and even I can not take a venture as to what is really going on there? In the situation of who should be Earl, Ragnar did tell Kalf it was a personal matter for him and Lagertha to work out… Kalf was willing to work something out with her because as he stated, even through all of it, he desired her… and he did state that he believes the matter is far from over, that their lives are fated to be twined together. Well, let’s just say that he made a good start at that twining together in the aftermath of this battle!
The battle went badly, we all know it. It was really no one’s fault and none of these fine warrior should blame themselves for their loss. During the battle at the gates, Lagertha struggled to keep her leadership intact, but Kalf stepped in when he saw problems arise. He could not help it, he is a warrior as well and sometimes people need to admit when their plan is not working so well… Lagertha must work on this!
Once they did manage to get inside, it was Kalf who quickly realized it was a trap and their lives were in danger. Lagertha, being her stubborn self, did not want to listen to Kalf so he took matters into his own hands
Kalf saved her life during that battle. They both survived to deal with the aftermath of it. Once they returned to camp, Lagertha had to deal with the fact that her son, Bjorn was nearly killed. Needless to say, she was not having a good day!
Instead of easing her worries or offering any comfort, Ragnar chides her and Rollo for their worries over Bjorn.
Later that evening as she tries to recover and pull herself together, the one to seek her out and offer comfort is Kalf!
Of course, initially that just causes her more aggrevation and annoyance, but Kalf does not give in. He calmly lets her vent her frustration sets about comforting her anyway. Now, we begin to see how Lagertha truly feels about him… as much as she professes to hate him, she does not stop him or pull away as he continues.
Kalf is honest and open with her about their feelings. Lagertha could have slapped him, or done any other violence to him and kicked him out of her room. She did none of that, she let him go on and asked him why she should trust or believe him. His answer is simply, “I could have just let you die.” Lagertha goes on to put forth another question, “What if I accept what you have to say? What if I choose to be with you, go with you but…”
Lagertha’s words that while she might agree to be with him but one day she will kill him cause a moment of concern for Kalf. He must decide whether she is deadly serious, and whether time spent enjoying her company is worth that future possibility?
Lagertha has put her threat out there for him, warned him of her deepest feeling and waits for his response.
Kalf has decided that what ever time he can spend in Lagertha’s embrace are worth any threat to his life in the future. Now, that is the power of a Goddess!
So, Kalf and Lagertha have made their own rather unique alliance, are on their way to working out their personal differences in some way… Only the Seer knows how this will all turn out!
One last thought on Lagertha’s Warrior Goddess status… if she is truly an incarnation of a Goddess, the question begging to be answered is, What form would she take in today’s world? Because as we know, the Goddess is eternal. She never dies, she lives on in all women. She simply takes different form…
Ahhhhh yes, Katheryn Winnick, you do indeed embody the spirit of Lagertha the Goddess!