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March Book Club: The Real Valkyrie

Nordiska’s Book Club

To all of you who are new, welcome! Nordiska has launched its own book club for fellow Nordic reading enthusiasts to connect and be in community with one another virtually. We invite you to expand your Nordic reading repertoire and discuss a variety of written works with us the last Thursday of each month.

To returners, welcome back! I hope you all enjoyed last month’s biography of Danish artist and ethnographer Emilie Demant Hatt and her travels in Sápmi. This month we will be returning to the Viking age to discover who the real valkyries were in this historical non-fiction piece by Nancy Marie Brown. If you remember from last year, we read The Far Traveler by the same author about the historic voyages of a Viking woman to North America.

March’s Pick: The Real Valkyrie

To celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8) and National Women’s History Month in March, we have decided to highlight women’s lesser-known roles in Nordic history. Women’s histories have historically been marginalized, and due to the work of researchers and writers like Nancy Marie Brown, incredible stories are finally being spotlighted. We hope that you can join us in reading and discussing Brown’s latest publication, The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women.

A contemporary artist’s rendition of a Viking warrior found in a Swedish grave in Birka. (Image: Tancredi Valeri / Antiquity 2019)


In the tradition of Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra, Brown lays to rest the hoary myth that Viking society was ruled by men and celebrates the dramatic lives of female Viking warriors.

In 2017, DNA tests revealed to the collective shock of many scholars that a Viking warrior in a high-status grave in Birka, Sweden was actually a woman. The Real Valkyrie weaves together archaeology, history, and literature to imagine her life and times, showing that Viking women had more power and agency than historians have imagined.

Brown uses science to link the Birka warrior, whom she names Hervor, to Viking trading towns and to their great trade route east to Byzantium and beyond. She imagines her life intersecting with larger-than-life but real women, including Queen Gunnhild Mother-of-Kings, the Viking leader known as The Red Girl, and Queen Olga of Kyiv. Hervor’s short, dramatic life shows that much of what we have taken as truth about women in the Viking Age is based not on data, but on nineteenth-century Victorian biases. Rather than holding the household keys, Viking women in history, law, saga, poetry, and myth carry weapons. These women brag, “As heroes we were widely known—with keen spears we cut blood from bone.” In this compelling narrative Brown brings the world of those valkyries and shield-maids to vivid life.

Virtual Book Club Meeting Information

We will be meeting to discuss The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women on Thursday, March 31st at 6:00pm PST via Zoom. You can find the Zoom invitation link here to register for the meeting ahead of time and/or keep a look out on our social media sites for an invitation.

You can purchase your copy of The Real Valkyrie on Nordiska’s website by following this link, or come and visit us in store in downtown Poulsbo. As a thank you for purchasing your book with us, Nordiska is offering a 15% discount on the book club pick of the month by using the code: bookclub22.

Published by nordiskapoulsbo

I write for, edit and maintain this blog about celebrating and being inspired by Scandinavian cultures for the Nordiska store in Poulsbo, WA.

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