Friday, June 10, 2011

Viking Age & Medieval Pirates

Years Active:
Country of Origin: Norwegan Viking
Comments: Fought against her brother Thrond for the thrones of both Denmark and Norway. Possibly fictional. Recorded in Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danoram (History of the Danes). Johannes Steenstrup linked her to the Ingean Ruadh (Red Maid) of Irish folklore.

Years Active:
Country of Origin: Norwegian Viking
Comments: Sister of Rusila. Became a pirate to avoid marriage. Recorded in the Gesta Danorum.

Years Active:
Country of Origin: Norwegian Viking
Comments: Leader of a group of male and female pirates. Also recorded in the Gesta Danorum.

Princess Sela
Years Active: c. 420 AD
Country of Origin: Norwegian
Comments: Sister of Koller, king of Norway. Horwendil (later to be father of Amleth/Hamlet) was kind of Jutland but gave up the throne to become a pirate. Koller “deemed it would be a handsome deed” to kill the pirate and sailed to find the pirate fleet. Horwendil killed Koller but had to later kill Sela, who was a skilled warrior and experienced pirate, to end the war. Recorded in the Gesta Danorum.

Wigbiorg, Hetha & Wisna
Years Active: c. 800s AD Century AD
Country of Origin: Norwegian Vikings
Comments: All three are listed in the Gesta Danorum as sea captains. Wigbiorg died in battle, Hetha became queen of Zealand and Wisna lost a hand in a duel.

Alvilda ~ alias Alfhild, Aelfhild, Alwilda, Awilda
Years Active: Post 850 AD. Often wrongly dated to 450 AD.
Country of Origin: Swedish Viking
Comments: There is some doubt of Alvilda's actual existence, in fact, the date of her reign cannot be verified. Much of what is known is based on the verbal retelling by bards in the Viking halls:

The story starts with Alvilda rejecting her suitor, Prince Alf (son of King Sigarus or Sigar of Denmark). There is a difference of opinion on how her rejection took place: Some say Prince Alf successfully entered Alvilda's room by besting her 'guard snakes'. Since he was able to pass this feat, he’d win the hand of Alvilda should she agree. The other version of the rejection is that Alvilda's father set up an arranged marriage with Prince Alf, which the princess rejected. Either way, instead of marrying the prince, she fled her home with women recruits who did not want to marry.

Alvilda's recruits soon ran into some mourners who had lost their captain. Alvilda took command of this crew and took up piracy. With a group double in size, she became a menace to the shipping community and her thievery alerted the law around the Danish coast. Prince Alf, who was unaware the pirates were commanded by his bethrothed, attacked the pirate ship. Eventually the prince's crew boarded the ship and killed most of the pirates. When Alvilda was taken to the prince, he recognized her and proposed marriage. She accepted, quit piracy and eventually became Queen of Denmark.

Years Active: c. 870 AD
Country of Origin: Viking
Comments: Ladgerda is the inspiration for Hermintrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Aethelflaed ~ alias The Lady of the Mercias (872-918)
Years Active: 911-918
Country of Origin: English
Comments: Eldest daughter of Alfred the Great of England. Became the military leader of the Anglo-Saxons after her husband’s death in battle against the Danes in 911. Took command of the fleets to rid the seas of the Viking raiders.

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