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Lagertha the Shieldmaiden, Ragnar Lothbrok’s Wife


Lagertha the Shieldmaiden was a Norwegian historical figure and one of Ragnar Lothbrok’s wives as depicted in History Channel’s TV series, Vikings. She was born in A.C. 795 and although there is no certain information regarding her exact time of death, it is assumed to be around the mid-9th century.

The Origin and Meaning of The Name “Lagertha”

The name Lagertha is the latinized version of the Nordic name  Hlaðgerðr (Hladgerd) which is the combination of two words Hlað, meaning “lacework” or “headdress” and gerðr, meaning  “protection” or “enclosure”. The other versions of the name include “Ladgerda”, “Ladgertha” and  “Lathgertha”.

lagertha

In another source, it is told that the name Hlaðgerðr might have been derived from the word “Hlaðir” (present-day Lade in the City of Trondheim, Norway, a place where Haakon Sigurdsson, one of the Norwegian rulers of the time lived).

In some accounts, Lagertha was identified with Thorgerd, a goddess with magical powers and an ability to fly. Some of the sagas regarding the age mention Haakon Sigurdsson worshipped (or married) Lagertha.

About the Name: “Lagertha Lothbrok” or Not?

The epithet/nickname “Lodbrok/Lothbrok” was given to Ragnar Lodbrok/Lothbrok because of his hairy breeches (or dirty breeches according to some versions of the story). So, it would not be that accurate to call the famous shieldmaiden “Lagertha Lothbrok” as it was not actually a surname for Ragnar.

Lagertha’s Life and Meeting with Ragnar Lothbrok

According to Gesta Danorum (“Deeds of the Danes”) by Saxo Grammaticus, one of the few sources containing information regarding Lagertha’s life and deeds, Lagertha’s meeting with Ragnar happened while Ragnar was on a journey of revenge.

Lagertha was a member of Norwegian King Siward’s court/household. After Frø, Sweden’s king of the time, attacked and invaded Norway, he killed Siward and put the royal women in his family in a brothel to humiliate them. Upon getting the news about his grandfather’s demise and what Frø did to his family, Ragnar Lothbrok came to avenge Siward and rescue the women.

Read the detailed post about Ragnar Lothbrok here: Ragnar Lothbrok/Lodbrok (Vikings),The Real Story: His Life, Death, Wives and Children

Saxo’s account tells of the bravery of these women in the brothel fighting Frø and helping Ragnar. Lagertha was described in Gesta Danorum as “a woman with the courage of a man who fought fearlessly”.

Impressed by her bravery and will, Ragnar took interest in and wanted to marry Lagertha. According to some accounts of the age, he had to slay a bear and kill the hound guarding Lagertha’s house to convince her to marry him.

Lagertha and Ragnar Lothbrok’s Children

This part of the article might be a bit surprising for the fans of the TV series since the historical accounts are in contradiction with the family tree of Ragnar Lothbrok depicted in History Channel’s Vikings.

According to Gesta Danorum and The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok translated by Ben Waggoner, Ragnar and Lagertha did actually get married and had a son named Fridleif, not Bjorn (Bjorn Ironside as he would be named later).

They also had two daughters whose names were not mentioned in the historical works. On a side note, click here to read more about Bjorn Ironside and his family.

Ragnar Lothbrok had to return to Denmark to deal with the civil war in the country and later divorced Lagertha  in order to marry King Herrauðr’s (Herraud) daughter, Thora Borgarhjört (Thora Town-Hart).

After returning from his journey to win Thora’s hand in marriage, Ragnar had to fight a civil war for another time in Denmark. He asked for Norway’s help and Lagertha, who was still in love with Ragnar Lothbrok, came to his help with 120 ships.

It is told in the accounts that Lagertha saved Ragnar Lothbrok’s son Siward by turning the tide of the battle.

According to some stories, after Lagertha helped Ragnar and returned to Norway, she killed her husband with the head of a spear she hid in her gown and took control of his estate and lands carrying on his family name. (SPOILERS about the TV show) That is, to an extent, very similar to what happened in History Channel’s Vikings (she became Earl Ingstadt in the TV series).

Lagertha and Rollo

Rollo is depicted as Ragnar Lothbrok’s brother who is kind of in love with Lagertha in the TV series. That is inaccurate in so many ways. Firstly, the real-life Rollo was not Ragnar Lothbrok’s brother. Also, he was born around the year 860, approximately 20 years after Ragnar Lothbrok’s assumed death. By that time Lagertha would also be  65 years old.

Read our detailed post on Rollo: Rollo the Viking Duke of Normandy 

On a side note, Lagertha also probably never met Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson, the real-life historical figure on which the character named Floki is based on. Here you can read more about Floki, the man who gave Iceland its name.

Read more about the real-life Floki: Real Floki, Raven/Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson

(The following two paragraphs include SPOILERS for the fans who have not watched season 4, skip below the image if you are one of them)

Did Lagertha Kill Aslaug ?

As it has been told several times by the creators of History Channel’s Vikings, historical accuracy is not the main focus of the TV show. In addition to that, there is very little information regarding the lives of both Lagertha and Aslaug.

Lagertha killing Aslaug in season 4 is something that the writers of the show added to the story. There is absolutely no proof about what happened between Lagertha and Aslaug, that is, if anything happened at all.

Lagertha’s Death – Did Ivar Kill Lagertha ? 

As another spicy element added to the story by the writers of the TV series, Aslaug’s sons (especially Ivar the Boneless),  want to avenge their mother and kill Lagertha. This is also another part of the story with no historical basis.

Ivar the Boneless Ragnar Lothbrok's Son Kills Lagertha or Not Vikings

Let alone the fact that there is no accurate information about how and when shieldmaiden Lagertha died, Lagertha was not mentioned at all in accounts telling us of Ivar the Boneless and his deeds.

Read about Ivar the Boneless here: Ivar the Boneless, Ragnar Lothbrok’s Son – The Real Story.

lagertha and ragnar lothbrok

Lagertha in Popular Culture

As a fan favorite character, the furious shieldmaiden Lagertha is played by Canadian actress Katheryn Winnick, who is of Ukrainian descent (born Katerena Anna Vinitska), in History Channel’s TV series, Vikings.


12 Comments

  1. Jeff Coffman April 17, 2016 at 1:53 am - Reply

    Beautiful and a warrior that any man would be proud of. Love the series and history.

    • Metin April 21, 2016 at 12:47 am - Reply

      True that Jeff 😉

  2. Cliff May 10, 2016 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    Interesting she’s Ukrainian. If I’m not mistaken I read some Vikings made it all the way down to Ukraine and took jobs as bodyguards or security men. That may account for some of the beautiful Ukrainian women there today.

    • Metin May 15, 2016 at 1:50 am - Reply

      Hi Cliff. Interesting fact here: I, as an expat, actually live in Ukraine. Have not heard of Vikings moving here to these parts from the locals, however, it is a good bet to say that it must have happened considering the history of the civilization (therefore, trade) in the lands Ukraine is established on goes way back in history. Vikings must have stumbled upon, if not intentionally made their way here, the Black Sea Region. I can attest to the beauty of Ukranian women, don’t have an idea about Vikings’ affect on that, although if that happened, I’m glad it did 🙂 Thanks for dropping a few lines.

  3. Kseniia September 12, 2017 at 5:03 am - Reply

    Now that explains why is she so gorgeous ;), my fellow Ukrainian. Really love her character and they way she is portraiting her in this series!
    In regards of Vikings raiding Ukraine, to this day I’ve never heard of it or have we ever seen it in our history books, but they did definitely raid Russia, so you never know..

    • Metin September 13, 2017 at 3:08 am - Reply

      Hey Kseniia. Yes, she is of Ukrainian origin and I also was not surprised when I learned it as she kinda looks like Ukrainian women. She also shares/tweets good stuff on special holidays of Ukraine actually.
      I’ve been living in Odessa for a long time now, never heard about Viking raids in the history Ukraine from anyone here either.

  4. Wayne November 30, 2017 at 3:37 am - Reply

    hello Metin… the Swedish Vikings traded with early Russia and also Constantinople. to get to Constantinople they would have most likely passed through or pretty close to the Ukraine area. it is worth noting, these people were not as warlike as the Danes or Norwegians with there main priority being trade through exploration. the BBC series (and book) Vikings gives a good overview of the Vikings from the different regions and I recommend it. … as a footnote, it appears I am a descendant of the 1st King of Dublin… not proven, but sure sounds good. cheers

    • Metin November 30, 2017 at 4:07 am - Reply

      Hello there Wayne. Yeah, I did read a bit about that actually. Apparently, even one of Ragnar Lothbrok’s sons has gone exploring Russia, Gardariki as it was called back then. Would not be logical for a people wandering and sailing around to world as far as America to not to have travelled to the lands right next to them.

      Vikings have a great history and I am surely happy about researching and writing on it. Though I wish we had some (more reliable) sources other than sagas regarding Ragnar and his sons. I will watch that one, BBC’s Vikings, thanks for the recommendation. And that is cool, the possibility of being a descendant of royalty 😉 If you have not watched it, the Last Kingdom is also another TV series depicting Vikings’ invasion of England. It is a historical fiction work but worth a watch. Thanks for dropping a few lines mate, cheers

      • Wayne November 30, 2017 at 8:57 am - Reply

        hey, anytime. it’s great to find one site that more or less gathers the known facts on these characters and puts it all down in a logical format, so well done on your time and effort! managed to watch both of the seasons of Last Kingdom earlier in the year. will be interesting to see how Season 3 pans out. all the best. cheers

        • Metin December 15, 2017 at 3:03 am - Reply

          Hey Wayne, sorry it took me this long to reply. Yeah I get what you mean. “More or less” is what I could do as there are not many trustworthy resources regarding these times. The Last Kingdom is an interesting one. History Channel released another historical series, The Knightfall but oh, it is kinda awful, for now at least. Next on my list is Barbarians by History Channel and Tudors maybe (have not seen it yet). Cheers mate

  5. Akshay December 5, 2017 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    Vikings way living is much similar to hindhus…like praying goes,making sacrifies, even in the history it is written that aryans(hindhus) migrated to India from the Northern European region …which sounds quite interesting.

    • Metin December 15, 2017 at 3:05 am - Reply

      Hey Akshay, yeah, I’ve read about Aryan people and the migration, wish we had more written resources regarding the times. Thx for dropping a few lines.

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