Hervor's Death

Hervor's Death


Hervor is the name of two female characters in the cycle of the magic sword Tyrfing, presented in Hervarar saga with parts found in the Poetic Edda. The first Hervor was the daughter of Angantyr. The second Hervor was the daughter of Heidrek, the son of the first Hervor.

Additionally, Hervor is the name of a valkyrie married by Völund in the Poetic Edda poem Völundarkviða, see Hervör alvitr.

History Painting and Realism

History painting dates back to the Renaissance and was long considered to be the "grand genre". Nevertheless it has its peak in the 19th century forged by Neoclassicism and Romanticism. There it became the artistic contribution in the process of the construction of National Identities of the European and American nations.

At the same time history painting under the influence of historism pretended to be "realistic", to show history how it has been. Above all it was this pretension that led to the great failure of History painting AND Realism at the end of the century.

When artists and their public realized that telling history always will be subjective and a painting will always be an illusion Realism and history painting lost their ground to modern painting.


During January&ndashDecember 2020, the estimated 2020 age-adjusted death rate increased for the first time since 2017, with an increase of 15.9% compared with 2019, from 715.2 to 828.7 deaths per 100,000 population. COVID-19 was the underlying or a contributing cause of 377,883 deaths (91.5 deaths per 100,000). COVID-19 death rates were highest among males, older adults, and AI/AN and Hispanic persons. The highest numbers of overall deaths and COVID-19 deaths occurred during April and December. COVID-19 was the third leading underlying cause of death in 2020, replacing suicide as one of the top 10 leading causes of death (6).

Undoubtedly, the most famous Valkyrie recognized is that of Brunhild, one of the protagonists/antagonists of the Völsunga Saga and the Nibelungenlied. In the latter Brunhild is a superhumanly strong woman. However, in the Völsunga Saga , Brunhild is under an enchantment of Odin's for disobeying him in battle and allowing an opposing warrior to win in a battle. Brunhild is imprisoned in a ring of fire and placed in a deep sleep, only awakened when Sigurd—a warrior of royal blood—rides through the fire and frees her of the girdle which keeps her spellbound. From this moment, they pledge their love until a tragic series of magical events ends with Brunhild aiding in the murder of Sigurd and then casting herself upon his funeral pyre to die with him.

The importance of this tale, however, lies in the depiction of Brunhild. Valkyries can have an effect on the outcome of battles, though only with the approval of the great god, Odin. They can willingly choose a human lover, and can be prone to the human tendencies of jealousy and revenge as well. Though they work for the highest of the gods, the Valkyries are similar to many other Norse gods, who are not above mortal distresses.

Hervor, daughter of Heidrek, dying at the Battle of the Goths and Huns, Peter Nicolai Arbo

Painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1831-1892) depicting the death of Hervor, the heroine of the 13th century CE Scandinavian Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks. She wields her father's magic sword Tyrfing but it brings its owner nothing but trouble. Her son Heidrek inherits the sword and after his death, his daughter, also named Hervor, receives it and ends up dying in battle.

For context, this is the story of the Hervor the grandmother of the depicted character:

And here is some information about the armour. And before you ask, it appears that the dramatic opened haubergon has been given to men as well by the artist. The armour appears to be some kind of a haubergon. Whether it's period accurate or not I couldn't tell you, although artists often took artistic liberties making the designs more modern either for aesthetics or just because they weren't historians so they wouldn't know what would or would not be accurate. Either way it seems fairly close to the descriptions I've seen, but I'm also not a historian so if someone knows the subject better they would definitely be able to give better and more in depth answers.

A hauberk is a shirt of mail. The term is usually used to describe a shirt reaching at least to mid-thigh and including sleeves. Haubergeon ("little hauberk") generally refers to a shorter variant with partial sleeves, but the terms are often used interchangeably.

During the Viking age, mail usually was worn in the form of a mail shirt (brynja), like the reproduction shown to the right. Typically, the garment was T-shaped, with short sleeves (half to three-quarters length) and thigh length. (Anything longer would make it difficult to ride a horse, although in later periods, slits in the mail placed front and rear between the legs allowed riders to wear longer mail shirts.)

As archaeologists, we’ve spent over thirty years studying warrior women from a variety of cultures around the world, and, we have to tell you, shieldmaidens pose a problem.

Stories of Viking warrior women are found in a number of historical documents, but several come from factually unreliable heroic sagas, fornaldarsogur. A good example is Hervor’s and Heidrek’s Saga. After the hero, Angantyr, falls in battle his daughter Hervor takes her father’s sword and uses it to avenge his death by killing his enemies. There are similar stories of Brynhilde and Freydis, in Sigurd’s Saga and the Saga of the Greenlanders. But in each case the story is more about myth-making than fact. As well, these are tales of individual women who are highly skilled with swords and fight in battles, but give no evidence for a ‘community’ of women warriors, which the shieldmaidens are supposed to have been.

There are, however, more reliable historical resources. In the 1070s, for example, Adam of Bremen (chronicling the Hamburg-Bremen archdiocese) wrote that a northern region of Sweden near lake Malaren was inhabited by war-like women. But he doesn’t say how many women, nor does he clarify what “war-like” means. Were these women just zealously patriotic, bad-tempered, aggressive, or maybe even too independent for his Medieval Christian tastes? It’s hard to say.

Then we have the splendid references to ‘communities’ of shieldmaidens found in the works of 12 th century Danish historian, Saxo Grammaticus, whose writing is sure to make every modern woman livid. Keep in mind, Saxo was likely the secretary of the Archbishop of Lund, and had specific Christian notions about appropriate female behavior. He wrote:

“There were once women in Denmark who dressed themselves to look like men and spent almost every minute cultivating soldiers’ skills. …They courted military celebrity so earnestly that you would have guessed they had unsexed themselves. Those especially who had forceful personalities or were tall and elegant embarked on this way of life. As if they were forgetful of their true selves they put toughness before allure, aimed at conflicts instead of kisses, tasted blood, not lips, sought the clash of arms rather than the arm’s embrace, fitted to weapons hands which should have been weaving, desired not the couch but the kill…” (Fisher 1979, p. 212).

Okay. Saxo says there were ‘communities’ of shieldmaidens. Apparently, he means more than one community. How many? Ten? Fifty? Five thousand? In his The Danish History, Books I-IX, he names Alfhild, Sela, and Rusila as shieldmaidens, and also names three she-captains, Wigibiorg, who fell on the field at Bravalla, Hetha, who became queen of Zealand, and Wisna, whose hand was cut off by Starcad at Bravalla. He also writes about Lathgertha and Stikla. So…eight women? They might make up one community, but ‘communities?’

Historical problems like these have caused many scholars conclude that shieldmaidens were little more than a literary motif, perhaps devised to counter the influences of invading Christians and their notions of proper submissive female behavior. There are good arguments for this position (Lewis-Simpson, 2000, pp. 295-304). However, historically most cultures had women warriors, and where there were more than a few women warriors, they formed communities. If the shieldmaidens existed, we should find the evidence in the archaeological record.

For example, do we see them represented in Viking material culture, like artwork? Oh, yes. There are a number of iconographic representations of what may be female warriors. Women carrying spears, swords, shields, and wearing helmets, are found on textiles and brooches, and depicted as metallic figurines, to name a few. One of the most intriguing recent finds is a silver figurine discovered in Harby, Denmark, in 2012. The figurine appears to be a woman holding an upright sword in her right hand and a shield in her left. Now, here’s the problem: These female warrior images may actually be depictions of valkyries, ‘choosers of the slain.’ Norse literature says that the war god, Odin, sent armed valkyries into battle to select the warriors worthy of entering the Hall of the Slain, Valhalla. Therefore, these images might represent real warrior women, but they could also be mythic warrior women.

And where are the burials of Viking warrior women? Are there any?

This is tricky. What would the burial of a shieldmaiden look like? How would archaeologists know if they found one? Well, archaeologists recognize the burials of warriors in two primary ways:

1) Bioarchaeology. If you spend your days swinging a sword with your right hand, the bones in that arm are larger, and you probably have arthritis in your shoulder, elbow and wrist. In other words, you have bone pathologies from repetitive stress injuries. At this point in time, we are aware of no Viking female burials that unequivocally document warrior pathologies. But here’s the problem: If a Viking woman spent every morning using an axe to chop wood for her breakfast fire or swinging a scythe to cut her hay field—and we know Viking women did both—the bone pathologies would be very similar to swinging a sword or practicing with her war axe. Are archaeologists simply misidentifying warrior women pathologies? Are we attributing them to household activities because, well, they’re women. Surely they weren’t swinging a war axe. See? The psychological legacy of living in a male dominated culture can have subtle effects, though archaeologists work very hard not to fall prey to such prejudices.

2) Artifacts. Sometimes warriors wear uniforms, or are buried with the severed heads of their enemies, but they almost always have weapons: swords, shields, bows, arrows, stilettos, spears, helmets, or mail-coats. A good example is the Kaupang burial.

There are many Viking “female weapons burials,” as archaeologists call them. Let us give you just a few examples. At the Gerdrup site in Denmark the woman was buried with a spear at her feet. This is a really interesting site for another reason: The woman’s grave contains three large boulders, two that rest directly on top of her body, which was an ancient method of keeping souls in graves—but that’s a discussion for another article. In Sweden, three graves of women (at Nennesmo and Klinta) contained arrowheads. The most common weapon included in female weapons burials are axes, like those in the burials at the BB site from Bogovej in Langeland (Denmark), and the cemetery at Marem (Norway). The Kaupang female weapons burials also contained axeheads, as well as spears, and in two instances the burial contained a shield boss.

There are many other examples of female weapons burials. For those interested in the details please take a look at the Analecta Archaeologica Ressoviensia, Vol. 8, pages 273-340.

So did the shieldmaidens exist? When taken as a whole, the literary, historical, and archaeological evidence suggests that there were individual Viking women who cultivated warriors’ skills and, if the sagas can be believed, some achieved great renown in battle. Were there communities of Viking women warriors, as Saxo claims? There may have been, but there just isn’t enough proof to definitively say so…yet.

However, Lagertha, you personally are still on solid ground. You go, girl.

Heidrek appears in the in the 13th century Icelandic saga Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks (The Saga of Hervör and Heidrek).

In the original, Heidrek attends a feast to which he has not been invited. Angantyr, his brother, offers him a seat. Heidrek intentionally goads two adjacent men into fighting one another, resulting in one's death. Hofund throws him out, so he throws a stone back at the building, accidentally killing his own brother. For this he is sentenced to outlawry, but his mother gives him the sword Tyrfing to take with him. ΐ]

Heidrek thereafter has a daughter, who he names Hervor, and son, who he names Angantyr.

Get A Copy


The parentage of Hervor the Shieldmaiden remains a big question. Accounts tell different figures were her parents. But the most widely accepted material tells that Hervor was a daughter of a Viking berserker who went to Valhalla after his final battle. Because she was the daughter of a bloodthirsty father, everyone in her neighborhood abandoned her. No parents wanted their kids to play with Hervor. They even banished Hervor into the woods when she was born. But Hervor never allowed others to decide her fate. She lived on.

When Hervor reached her age, she didn't learn to do things that girls at that age normally did for example brewing, cooking, etc. All she knew was to wield her weapon to find food. Some neighboring boys came and disturbed Hervor. But all they got back were the black eyes and swollen faces. Hervor even broke a leg of a neighboring boy.

That Hervor finally joined the army was no all of a sudden. She submitted to the army and quickly made her way to the war-band leader. Hervor was among the greatest Viking Shieldmaiden. She never disappointed her people for she always brought back a lot of treasure after voyage.