The story of Lagertha begins when she met Ragnar Sigurdsson.
Lagertha met Ragnar, who was in a battle while avenging his grandfather’s death, King Siward.
King Frø of Sweden invaded Norway and killed the Norwegian King Siward.
To add insult to injury for public humiliation, King Frø ordered that the surviving women of King Siward’s family be put into a brothel. When Ragnar Sigurdsson (Lodbrok) heard about King Frø’s invasion of Norway, he came with an army to avenge the death of his grandfather.
When Ragnar arrived, some of the women King Frø ordered into the brothel had dressed in men’s clothing and helped fight on Ragnar’s side.
Among these women dressed as men and fighting in front among the bravest was the skilled shield-maiden Lagertha.
Lagertha fought as ferociously as a man and only the loose locks of her hair flowing over her shoulders revealed her as being a women.
Saxo Grammaticus recounts in the Gesta Danorum:
“Ladgerda (Lagertha), 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.” (9.4.1–9.4.11)
This impressed Ragnar greatly and lead him to court her. Lagertha pretended to be interested in his proposals and Ragnar came to seek her hand in marriage.
However when he arrived, Lagertha had a bear and a great hound which were guarding her home, attack Ragnar when he arrived. He killed the bear with his spear and choked the hound to death. By doing this, he won Lagertha’s hand in marriage.
Ragnar had three children with her, a son named Fridleif and two daughters (whose names are lost to history).
Unfortunately, Ragnar continued to hold a grudge against Lagertha for having her two beasts attack him when he originally sought out her hand in marriage and divorced her and returned to Denmark.
When he returned to Denmark, Ragnar was faced with a civil war and sent word to Norway for support.
Lagertha, whom still loved him, heeded his call and came to his aid in Denmark with 120 ships full of warriors. Lagertha arrived with her ships of warriors and saved the day for Ragnar with a counterattack by circling around and attacking the enemy from the rear. She took Ragnar’s enemies by surprise and turned the tide of the battle, causing their opponents to panic.
Upon returning to Norway, she quarreled with her new husband (name unknown) and slew him with a spearhead that she had concealed in her gown.
She then usurped the whole of his name and sovereignty, as she found it better to rule without her husband than to share the throne with him.
It is noted by some scholars that Saxo Grammaticus’ recording may be a reflection of tales about a Norse deity named Thorgerd (Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr). Lagertha’s name is recorded by Saxo as “Lathgertha”, which likely is a Latinisation of the Old Norse Hlaðgerðr (Hladgerd). Her name is most commonly rendered as: Lagertha, Ladgertha, or Ladgerda.
This is all that history speaks of Lagertha.
- The Gesta Danorum (Danish History), Books I-IX, by Saxo Grammaticus (“Saxo the Learned”)
- Kane, Njord. “The Viking Age.” The Vikings : The Story of a People. 2nd ed. Yukon: Spangenhelm, 2015. Print. 978-194306601
- Tale of Ragnar Lodbrok’s sons,
- Ragnar Lodbrok’s saga,
- Bósa saga ok Herrauds,
by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing
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