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Viking shield-maidens

05 Dec 2015 17:54 #45525 by shadar
Viking shield-maidens was created by shadar
I find it interesting that very recent advances in the scientific analysis of ancient human remains has revealed that some of the Viking graves in England, warriors buried in full honor with their weapons, were women. Women who traveled with men on raids and fought beside them.

This should not be a total surprise. The Norse have always been a large people, tall and strong as compared to the average European of the time. The pagan Norse held their women in high regard, allowing them to own property and granting civil and social rights that it took Christian Europe another millennium to achieve. There have always been stories of shield-maidens, and their pagan goddesses were mighty. They also conceived of the Valkyrie, young women in armor who flew down to the battlefield and sent the most heroic warriors to Valhalla. If any European culture of the time would put women on the battlefield, it would be the Norse.

Also, at that time, the defending armies in England and the continent were mostly formed by serf soldiers. Stunted men who had never received sufficient quantities of quality protein while growing up. Scratching in the dirt instead of training with weapons, they would be conscripted into armies at time of war and given rudimentary weapons and training.

In contrast, a higher-born Norse shield-maiden, fed well from birth and encouraged to train with weapons from the earliest age, would likely stand a foot taller than the ordinary soldiers she faced in battle in the south. With her longer reach and the strength from a robust upbringing and years of training, she’d cut her way through such armies. She might not stand against the greatest warriors, but her male counterparts would relish such contests to prove themselves, leaving the shield-maidens to handle the ordinary soldiers of the day.

Valkyries were the superwomen of the day, in myth at least, with shield-maidens being very real and formidable warriors.

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05 Dec 2015 17:59 - 05 Dec 2015 18:01 #45526 by shadar
Replied by shadar on topic Viking shield-maidens
What made me think of this was the US Secretary of Defense decision this week to allow women to compete for positions in every combat role, including the Marines. Women in the military is nothing new (the Russians had legendary female snipers for one), but have other militaries opened every position to women? Including the most physically demanding roles.

In any case, this will be controversial and have its challenges, but there will be some exception women who will be successful in some of these roles. Likely they will share some traits, mental and physical, with those ancient Viking shield-maidens.
Last edit: 05 Dec 2015 18:01 by shadar.

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06 Dec 2015 20:57 #45539 by Woodclaw
Replied by Woodclaw on topic Viking shield-maidens
While I find this concept very fascinating and I'm not surprised about this discovery, in many pre-christian cultures women were regularly trained for war as a homeland defence unit to stand against eventual invasion forces while the men were away at war, plus there's no shortage of tales of warrior women in both nyths and history -- for example Cu Chulainn, the Hound of Ulster, was trained by the warrior woman Scatach. Even during the early Medieval times the training of female levies wasn't completely unheard of, albeit becoming rarer and rarer. During Reinassance there were very cases, although quite memorable, like Caterina Sforza -- also known as the "Amazon of Forlì" -- who personally led the defense of her domains several times.

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06 Dec 2015 22:40 #45543 by shadar
Replied by shadar on topic Viking shield-maidens

Woodclaw wrote: While I find this concept very fascinating and I'm not surprised about this discovery, in many pre-christian cultures women were regularly trained for war as a homeland defence unit to stand against eventual invasion forces while the men were away at war, plus there's no shortage of tales of warrior women in both nyths and history -- for example Cu Chulainn, the Hound of Ulster, was trained by the warrior woman Scatach. Even during the early Medieval times the training of female levies wasn't completely unheard of, albeit becoming rarer and rarer. During Reinassance there were very cases, although quite memorable, like Caterina Sforza -- also known as the "Amazon of Forlì" -- who personally led the defense of her domains several times.


But after Christianity, no more. I suspect that's due to a fundamental difference between pagan cultures of the day, who elevated women, and the Christian church of the time, which was very paternal. A different expectation of women.

Which takes me back to the US opening up all combat roles to women. Are we eventually going to see women commonly praised as heroes and warriors in battle, ala many science fiction films? Katniss most recently.

Don't want to overthink it, but it kind of feels like another cultural shift under way. Always a subject of interest to those of us who write fantasy about strong female characters.

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06 Dec 2015 23:14 #45549 by Woodclaw
Replied by Woodclaw on topic Viking shield-maidens

shadar wrote:

Woodclaw wrote: While I find this concept very fascinating and I'm not surprised about this discovery, in many pre-christian cultures women were regularly trained for war as a homeland defence unit to stand against eventual invasion forces while the men were away at war, plus there's no shortage of tales of warrior women in both nyths and history -- for example Cu Chulainn, the Hound of Ulster, was trained by the warrior woman Scatach. Even during the early Medieval times the training of female levies wasn't completely unheard of, albeit becoming rarer and rarer. During Reinassance there were very cases, although quite memorable, like Caterina Sforza -- also known as the "Amazon of Forlì" -- who personally led the defense of her domains several times.


But after Christianity, no more. I suspect that's due to a fundamental difference between pagan cultures of the day, who elevated women, and the Christian church of the time, which was very paternal. A different expectation of women.

Which takes me back to the US opening up all combat roles to women. Are we eventually going to see women commonly praised as heroes and warriors in battle, ala many science fiction films? Katniss most recently.

Don't want to overthink it, but it kind of feels like another cultural shift under way. Always a subject of interest to those of us who write fantasy about strong female characters.


I would be more worried about how this kind of situation is going to be sorted in the legal field. I remember a couple of really good episodes of J.A.G. dealing with the problem of having a double standard in the military that is unbalanced both ways, so female pilots have an easier time to get in (they go more tries than males and/or lower standards) but having a harder time afterward, both because of the very chauvinist envoronment and because some of them really struggle to keep up because of said lower standards. This is a kind of weird situation that need to be sorted out somehow.
On the idea of praise warrior women today ... I'm kind of scared, because it's not the first time something like this happens. As you said above during WW2 the Russian fielded some female units (like the Night Witches), some of them were very effective units, but some other were just part of the propaganda machine. Case in point: Ludmilla Pavlichenko, quite possibly the most famous female sniper of the Red Army; while by all accounts she was a skilled, intelligent and determined woman, I often wonder how much of her reputation is because she was also quite photogenic. Pavlichenko was often paired to Vassily Zaitsev in the propaganda, while Zaitsev was an excellent shot he ranked way beyond many of his fellow snipers, but was created into the hero of the people, because he looked right. Many of those better snipers were of Yakut bloodline, which gave them traits too Asian to be good propaganda material.
This is what I fear, that these warrior women of our time would be know more for being a beauty in uniform than for their actual fighting prowness.

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06 Dec 2015 23:23 #45551 by alternate_histories
Replied by alternate_histories on topic Viking shield-maidens
(Gah! tried replying to this three times yesterday and each time managed to screw it up)
While I would love to imagine real life female warriors... I'm not sure how many of them there really were; Norse society might have been more liberal that other cultures at the time, but women were still second class citizens and restricted by law from certain activities, like wearing the clothes of men. Sadly, when they weren't a taxi service for the honoured dead, Valkyries were little more than glorified waitresses in the hall of the dead and 'viking' is an exclusively masculine term.
However, it is theoretical possible that a woman from Norse culture, tired of being treated badly, decided to go abroad and use her superior strength and skills to demand the respect she's deserved. Although in this scenario I think she'd be more Prime than Protector...

Tarot

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07 Dec 2015 00:02 #45552 by pansardum
Replied by pansardum on topic Viking shield-maidens

shadar wrote: Which takes me back to the US opening up all combat roles to women. Are we eventually going to see women commonly praised as heroes and warriors in battle, ala many science fiction films? Katniss most recently.

Don't want to overthink it, but it kind of feels like another cultural shift under way. Always a subject of interest to those of us who write fantasy about strong female characters.


You guys haven't heard of the all female fighters in the war against ISIS?
Angels of death

I'm all for opening up all corners of the military to women, I can't see a reason why not. But I do see problems with lowering standards to get women into the tougher branches. I have a hard time to defend gender quotation when peoples lives are on the line.

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07 Dec 2015 20:46 #45560 by shadar
Replied by shadar on topic Viking shield-maidens

pansardum wrote:

shadar wrote: Which takes me back to the US opening up all combat roles to women. Are we eventually going to see women commonly praised as heroes and warriors in battle, ala many science fiction films? Katniss most recently.

Don't want to overthink it, but it kind of feels like another cultural shift under way. Always a subject of interest to those of us who write fantasy about strong female characters.


You guys haven't heard of the all female fighters in the war against ISIS?
Angels of death

I'm all for opening up all corners of the military to women, I can't see a reason why not. But I do see problems with lowering standards to get women into the tougher branches. I have a hard time to defend gender quotation when peoples lives are on the line.


From what I heard, the women have to meet the same standards. Surely the Marines will ensure that.

Which means that the women who can make it will be extraordinarily strong and resilient. Unless they relax the standards, there won't be many at first. But the upper limit of female strength and fitness has been rising (in most developed countries) since the 1980's.

Elite women have a fairly large cross-over with average men when it comes to physical power.

Anyone doubt that Rhonda Roussey could kick their ass?

Shadar

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