Today I am so pleased to welcome Edale Lane to Joyfully Jay. Edale has come to talk to us about her latest release, Sigrid and Elyn. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!

Sigrid and Elyn Banner

 

Shieldmaidens: Fantasy or Reality?

Shieldmaidens are depicted in Scandinavian folklore and mythology, and women hold prominent positions among the Norse gods, from Freya to Hel to the Valkyries. But were there ever real warrior women taking part on the battlefield? Archeology suggests there were. 

While historians often put more store in written histories than spoken ones, many important civilizations of the past had no written languages and went to great lengths to preserve their sagas through oral traditions. Professionals whose job it was to preserve knowledge of significant people, places, and events, memorized and passed on the stories to their students, and yet we understand not they could keep every detail exact. However, the same can be said of recorded chronicles before the printing press, when those performing the handwritten copies could have made changes, either accidentally or by design, from the originals. 

Norse sagas include many strategic women, including a shieldmaiden called Hervor, who defies the expectations of her gender from an early age. Preferring archery and sword-fighting to sewing and homemaking, she grows up to sail the high seas, fight, and pillage alongside the men. Also, medieval scholar Saxo Grammaticus describes in his Danish History Viking women who “dressed themselves to look like men and devoted almost every instant of their lives to the pursuit of war.” Despite his account, historians of the 18th, 19th, and even 20th centuries took stories of valiant female warriors among the armies of the north with a grain of salt, often discounting them altogether.

Current archeological evidence, however, is changing many minds about the validity of the tales. A gravesite dating from the 10th century, first discovered in the late 1800s by Hjalmar Stolpe in the town of Birka, an important Viking trading center, gained renown as one of the most elaborate Vikings tombs ever unearthed. The dead hero had been interred with items showing he had achieved elite status, such as shields, an axe, armor-piercing arrows, and two horses. The grave also held a full game-board complete with pieces, suggesting the deceased was no mere soldier, but a leader familiar with military tactics and strategies. Then in 2017, modern forensic analysis, including DNA sampling, proved the bones belonged to a woman. This discovery has led to other findings of women’s bodies buried with swords, spears, or axes which had previously been explained away without regard to the oral histories of the people they applied to. But what does it tell us about women in Viking culture?

We know from Norse laws and practiced traditions encountered through interaction with the literate Christian monks and leaders that Viking women were afforded more rights and privileges than women in the kingdoms to the south. For example, they could own property, manage their own money, and get a divorce if unhappy with their husbands. And while it was still a “man’s world” in which physical strength ruled the day, a woman could rise to a prominent position of authority if she had what it took to do so. But how many women actually went off to war? 

Life could be precarious in a country where winters were harsh, long, and dark, and farmland was at a premium. In a quote from Sigrid and Elyn, I point out, “Hard times made for stalwart men and sturdy women.” When the men were away hunting, fishing, trading, or on raids, the women had to take care of everything back in their villages, including defending them from attacks. While it is unlikely more than a relatively few women engaged in warfare as a profession, it was indeed essential they knew how to handle weapons to defend themselves and their children. The society valued courage, skill, strength, and cunning, and would not deny a female who possessed these attributes. However, it is extremely likely the average Viking woman ran a household, wove cloth, cooked meals, and raised children as their primary role. Women were farmers, and could own land, operate a business, craft items to sell or trade, act as a spiritual leader or seer in the community, and could even be a jarl (or earl). While evidence supports the existence of real shieldmaidens, it also suggests they were the exception rather than the rule. 

Was the gravesite at Birka an outlier, an anomaly? Were weapons found women’s graves there for some other reason than to indicate their roles as warriors? While those are possibilities, an Old Norse word for a shieldmaiden, ‘skjaldmær’ does exist, and they do feature in Old Norse literature. Were the sagas and stories exaggerations or fabrications solely for entertainment value? Then there are statuary artifacts unearthed which feature women characters dressed in armor holding shields and weapons. Do these merely depict Valkyries of Mythology? And if there were no actual women warriors, where did people come up with the idea of supernatural women warriors who swooped down from Valhalla to collect the spirits of fallen soldiers? 

Modern humans view the past through the lens of the present, and maybe we all perceive exactly what we expect to. In a time when men made all the rules, they could claim shieldmaidens were fantasy, whereas in an era of more equal opportunity, we say they were fact. At times, history is as difficult to interpret as the future, and we may never know precisely how our ancestors lived and died, but I suspect it was not too unlike today—filled with rules and their exceptions, clothed in diversity, and much more complicated than they appear. People of the past enjoyed good food, comfortable surroundings, and were miserable when they did not get them, just like us. They loved and hated, liked and tolerated others they came in contact with, like we do. We are all bound by universal truths; we all need a reason to get up in the morning. Viking women loved their children, or maybe they were poor mothers; they loved their husbands, or maybe they just used them to get by. There have always been women who loved women, they just haven’t always been able to say so. And maybe there were, as in this modern day, some women who possessed the will, drive, and fortitude to don a warrior’s uniform, pick up a weapon, and fight for who and what they love.


Blurb

Sigrid and Elyn coverAttracted by passion, repelled by war. Can two shieldmaidens navigate battlegrounds of the sword and the heart?

Pre-Viking Scandinavia. Sigrid the Valiant is legendary throughout the kingdoms of Norvegr, along with her twin brother, for their many heroic deeds, but her heart has not found a home. Now, racing on the heels of their father’s murder, a neighboring kingdom’s raids threaten to cause an all-out war.

Elyn is a young shieldmaiden with a score to settle, fighting her own insecurities along with enemies who threaten her homeland, but she remains unconvinced all is as it seems.

When the two clash on opposite sides of their shield walls, sparks fly from both their swords and passions. But when they talk, the two fierce women discover an antagonist’s plot has pitted their kingdoms against each other.

Will Sigrid and Elyn move past their suspicions and differences to forge a relationship and foil the villain’s scheme, or will the enemy’s assassins end their search for the truth?

Action, adventure, and intrigue ride together with romance in this enemies-to-lovers saga from the pre-Viking land of Norvegr. Award-winning, best-selling author Edale Lane brings history to life in this fast-paced sapphic novel. Grab your ax and rönd and join the quest by clicking to buy now!

Warnings: violence, rape (in a memory), slavery as part of society

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B5W48342


Bio

edale lane bio photoEdale Lane is an award-winning author (Rainbow Awards, Imaginarium Awards, Lesfic Bard Awards) who is realizing her dream of being a full-time writer. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Tribute in Blood, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication regarding research. A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature. After driving an 18-wheeler cross-country for eight years, she now lives with her partner in beautiful Chilliwack, B.C. Canada.


Giveaway

Edale is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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