The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) The Real Valkyrie – Nancy Marie Brown

This book was an excellent combination of historical research, scientific analysis, social commentary, and storytelling. Through a rigorous analysis of literature, archaeology, and the application of scientific methods, Nancy Marie Brown argues that women who lived during the Viking age are grossly misunderstood, misrepresented, and characterized by a gendered standard that was made popular much later in Europe following the expansion of Christianity throughout western Europe. 

Brown utilizes the discovery of one Viking grave in particular as the basis for her fictional story of Hervor, a female Viking warrior. This grave was previously understood to be the quintessential example of a male Viking burial as the grave goods were clearly ‘male’ in nature, weapons, metal implements, warrior textiles, etc. However, when DNA testing proved that the skeleton found in the grave belonged to a female, it became clear that historians (and society) needed to reevaluate what Viking society looked liked and how we understand the roles, responsibilities, and freedoms of men and women living at the time. 

I found this book to be intriguing in both the science and the social commentary. Brown unapologetically calls out the gendered stereotypes used to characterize grave goods and ideas of what women and men ‘should’ do in society and paints a new idea of what Viking society and male/female relationships could have looked like in a time before the influence of Christianity and its patriarchal narratives and standards. I very much enjoyed listening to this book but I would warn the reader that there is more ‘history and science’ than ‘fictional narrative’ so if you’re looking for a dramatized story of a Viking woman this isn’t the book for you. However, if you want to learn about Viking society and the misinformation that has lead to modern misunderstandings of gender roles within that society, then absolutely pick up this book! You will not be disappointed! 

Read on my friends!

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