VIKINGS: Personae In Memoriam II

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The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

146a6-lissa-bryanHistorical fiction author Lissa Bryan is with me again to discuss the historical aspects of the show. Lissa has written a fantastic historical fiction story of her own, and she is an amazing historian and storyteller. (You can read my review of her Tudor love story, Under These Restless Skies here on my site.)


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Heillir! We—Lissa Bryan and Sandi Layne—are two historical fiction authors with a serious thing for Vikings. And for VIKINGS, the amazing series that is going to begin its fourth season on HISTORY CHANNEL.


We are SO excited! So, Warriors and Shieldmaidens all, get your weapons and armor ready, because it’s going to be an amazing season!

On this, our second Favorite Dead Viking Friday, we’ve got two ladies to spotlight. First, a most amazing woman:


We met Siggy when she was the wife of Earl Haraldson.

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Played with beautiful flexibility by Jessalyn Gilsig, Siggy was the supportive wife of the region’s most powerful man.

After the earl’s death, though, Siggy came into her own. As soon as her husband fell in single combat with Ragnar, Siggy called out these words:

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She was the first to kneel to Ragnar as jarl.

Lagertha was kind to the new widow. Siggy feared she was going to be turned into a slave, but Lagertha promised she would never treat Siggy that way. She took Siggy and her daughter, Thyri, under her protection.

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When the young Bjőrn objected, Lagertha used the situation to teach a lesson in compassion to her son. She reminded Bjőrn Haraldson could have won.

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But despite the kindness she was shown an the acceptance she eventually earned within the community, Siggy struggled with resentment over what had happened to her.

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She allied herself to the new earl’s brother, Rollo.

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She hoped to regain her standing, but with more influence than she had had before. Did she and the mercurial Rollo love one another or was it a relationship of convenience?

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Despite the difficulties of her situation, Siggy showed herself to be incredibly brave. When Kattegat was attacked, she picked up a sword and shield and rushed out to defend her new home.

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Rollo gave her the task of protecting Princess Asluag and Siggy did it with aplomb.

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She and Aslaug became good friends.


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and eventually was one entrusted with the safety and well-being of Ragnar’s sons.

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This provided her life with happiness, but also led to her death. Siggy died nobly, saving the boys’ lives, in what was one of the most beautiful cinematic deaths in television history.

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And her face, when she met her end, was at peace. She earned her place in the halls of her fathers in Valhalla.



Now, a girl who died all too soon:


I confess that Gyda is my one great disappointment in this series (other than the intermittent boot-sole issues).

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Played charmingly by Ruby O’Leary, Ragnar’s only daughter bade fair to grow into a strong Viking woman.

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She seemed more nurturing, perhaps, than her mother, but she was much loved and protected by her entire family.

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It was bittersweet for Lagertha to watch Gyda grow into a woman. She was so proud of her, but it was a harsh reminder of the passage of time, and that she was getting older, too.

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Gyda was adored by Athelstan, the Christian priest Ragnar took as a slave to help care for his children.

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Lagertha was a little concerned at first.

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She needn’t have worried. Athelstan was beloved by the children, and he protected them just as fiercely as Lagertha did.

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Gyda loved him, too. As she lay dying of the plague, she asked her mother to pray for Athelstan, who was also ill.

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Ragnar never forgot his only little girl. He spent time alone more than once mourning her, and there was a very touching scene indeed where he spoke to her memory (or spirit?) with great affection. His goodbye to her deserves to be repeated in full:


“Gyda, I have come to say goodbye to you, properly. I’ve been thinking about you, about when you were small. You were so lively you could run as swiftly as the wind. You were like a quick-silver. But then, before I knew it, you stopped running here and there and everywhere, and you became still. At 12 years old you had the stillness and the calm of a fine woman. What children you would have produced! What joy that would have brought to all of us!

Dear child, Gyda, you are not gone because you are always in my heart. They say that a man must love his sons more, but a man can be jealous of his sons and his daughter can always be the light in his life.

I know very well that you are with the Gods. But I will wait here, a while, and if you wanna come and talk to me, then come and talk., and I will gently stroke your long and beautiful hair once again with my peasant hands.”

Text of Ragnar’s goodbye and gifs by amebuschaos on Tumblr

Alas, today, Gyda’s character can only be seen to grow into womanhood in fan fiction.


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What are your thoughts? Join Lissa Bryan and me, Sandi, tonight as we chat at 8PM EST on Twitter about our favorite dead Vikings. Use the hashtags #ShieldGeeks and #FaveDeadViking to join in the fun!


  1. Angelyn · February 15, 2016

    I’d heard Siggy’s death was due to the actress’ decision to leave the show.

    In my opinion, Gyda’s death was necessary to develop Ragnar’s character.

    Great post in this series!

    • Sandi · February 15, 2016

      Yes, that was the reason behind the way Siggy’s death was written. And Gyda’s death may have been necessary, but I refuse to think it was okay. lol

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