There are many excellent reasons to watch the History Channel’s show Vikings: historical accuracy, blood and sex, violence and love. Besides these fine aspects, what has kept the show going is the cast of complicated, interesting characters, from the protagonist Ragnar Lothbrok and his desire for adventure and discovery to Floki the ship builder.
But my great love for this show comes from both the historical fact that shieldmaidens existed, along with the representation of these women and other women of the time in the show. There are queens and princesses, but there are also warrior women shown not only in the battle scenes but in their homes, living as a part of their community in ways besides their battle armor or their beds.
Having watched both seasons of the show on Hulu, I have developed a deep appreciation of Lagertha, a former shield maiden who begins the show married to the protagonist, having borne him two children already. Her path diverges and realigns with Ragnar’s through the two seasons, showing her as not only the love interest but a woman and a leader in her own right.
Since the third seasons starts in February, I decided to put together a list of Lagertha Destroying Stuff as a refresher for those who will be following her story.
Destroying Rape Culture As A Character Introduction
While her scary/hot husband Ragnar Lothbrok is off raiding, Lagertha is at home on the farm, protecting her babies and her land.
Since the men are away, some idiot tries to sexually assault her, resulting is the coolest reveal of a female character able to kick some serious ass. Lagertha takes this dude down with her shield maiden skills.
The Vikings were a little crazy and bloodthirsty, but they let anyone who was strong enough or had enough will power train and fight.
Destroying Her Marriage
After a miscarriage and the death of their daughter, Lagertha’s alienation from Ragnar grows. After her husband’s affair and the arrival of the pregnant princess Aslaug, Lagertha makes the decision to leave him. She would literally destroy her marriage rather than remain to share not only her husband’s love but also her power and status with a younger woman capable of providing him with sons.
What’s so very cool about Lagertha is that besides her skill as a warrior, she has a strong sense of self and what she wants. She would rather retain her pride than stay where the man she’s in love with is splitting his love between her and another woman. Lagertha’s exit from Ragnar’s life is a beautiful destruction because she exerts her agency as a free person and though it’s difficult, makes the decision to leave her husband and son to create a new life.
In the time before custody battles, Bjorn is given the choice of whether he’ll live with his mother or father – possibly never seeing one of his parents ever again – and decides to stay with Ragnar, who by this time is a jarl. When Lagertha leaves without telling Ragnar, he chases her down and tries to convince her to stay. She sticks to her guns and makes it clear that she cannot stay, reasoning that he has been fated to have many sons and it’s likely she will never bear any more children. Out in the field, as they say their goodbyes, Bjorn joins them, telling them he’s changed his mind and wants to go with his mother.
Bjorn was present when his father began sleeping with Aslaug and did not approve of Ragnar sleeping with someone that was not his mother. Despite his father’s power and renown, Bjorn decides to leave. Bjorn is a fascinating character because of his choice to leave with his mother, not only because, as we learn in Season 2, he is fated for things even greater than Ragnar.
In this show of love and loyalty to his mother, Bjorn leaving with Lagertha shows a complete destruction of the family created by Lagertha and Ragnar. She left because her pride and agency as a free woman gave her the right to go, allowing Ragnar to meet his destiny. It’s possible that she never imagined that Bjorn would actually leave with her, but with both of them walking out on Ragnar, there is a complete separation of the family that the audience came to love throughout the first half of the season.
Destroying the Patriarchy
Episode 2 of Season 2 fast-forwards four years. We discover Lagertha has remarried, Ragnar has a small brood of little blonde dudes with his pregnant-again wife Aslaug, and Bjorn grew into a major hottie.
Lagertha’s husband, a jarl, does not love or respect her or her son. He hits her and degrades her, refusing to acknowledge her as a powerful woman, resulting in the lovable grown Bjorn to threaten to kill her husband if he ever hit her again.
It’s later in the second season that Lagertha becomes a warlord in possibly my favorite moment of destruction in the show. Back at her husband’s home after assisting Ragnar in taking back his home from Jarl Borg, her husband attempts to humiliate her in front of his people. So she stabs him in the face.
She was basically just done with everything at this point. In many ways, I feel like she was ready to die, despite the lack of battle glory. She was in her husband’s home surrounded by his sworn men, she had just returned from her ex-husband’s home where she saw his new family, and her adult son Bjorn decided to remain with his father. She was very likely at the point where she didn’t care if she lived or died.
In a strange twist of fate, one of her husband’s men pulls out his sword and kills her husband as he writhes on the floor with a knife through his eye. With the support of this community, she becomes a jarl in her husband’s place, making it possible to bring forces to Ragnar later in season 2.
Lagertha’s badassery is probably the most exciting part of the show. Yes, we get lots of shirtless Rollo and lots of battles fought by blonde white men, but the strength of the show relies on characters like Lagertha to flesh out the storyline.
Not all is well in the lives of the Vikings, as the English begin fighting back against the raiders, where we find ourselves as we await the premiere of Season 3.
Christina Casano is a TV & Film writer at Girls in Capes, with a focus primarily on TV shows. Spanning cult favorites and current series, her favorites include Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and Once Upon a Time. Christina is a recent graduate of Miami University and is now based in Chicago.