Location: Kattegat, Scandinavia
TV Show: Vikings
Actor: Katheryn Winnick
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 of Vikings. Vikings is set in a very time in history where violence and rape were common, this article contains mentions of both. Please read on at your own discretion.
I defy anyone to watch the first episode of Vikings and come out of it not thinking Lagertha is insanely awesome. She is introduced as a loving mother and wife, but within a couple of scenes, she is kicking the asses of two would-be rapists after they enter her home when her husband is away. She only gets stronger as the series goes on.
Her husband, Ragnar, longs to explore the land to the west and Lagertha has just as much longing for adventure. She has fought alongside the other warriors in Kattegat as a shield maiden and doesn’t see herself as any less than any of the men. In fact, when Ragnar initially decides to sail west without her, Lagertha is furious. It was a dream they both shared, therefore they should be taking the risk of the journey together. It’s unsurprising then, that when given the chance to join Ragnar on his second invasion of England, she jumps at the chance.
It’s on this second journey that we see Lagertha’s other strength, her sense of honour. Lagertha believes strongly in the laws of her Gods, as well as in her own sense of what is right and wrong. She has one of the strongest moral compasses in the show, so when she comes across the Earl’s right-hand man trying to rape a Saxon woman on a raid, she struggles against and eventually kills him. When Ragnar later falsely confesses to the crime to the Earl Lagertha can’t stay silent and claims responsibility (although she is not believed). She cannot bring herself to do what she believes is wrong, even at great personal cost.
At the beginning of the second series, Ragnar sleeps with another woman (Aslaug) who bears him a child. As Lagertha has lost her ability to have children, and their daughter has passed away, Ragnar accepts Aslaug and her child into their home as part of their family. He even suggests to her that he take Aslaug as a second wife while drunk. To save her honour Lagertha divorces Ragnar (Viking women had the right to decide to divorce their husbands) and sets out on her own from Kattegat, without her son, Bjorn, who chooses to stay with his father. After Ragnar chases after her to in order to try and win her back, Bjorn decides to stay with his mother, who refuses to return. Despite it causing her great personal pain, as she clearly still loves Ragnar, Lagertha cannot bring herself to act against her honour or what is right. It’s one of the first times we see her sense of morality bring her pain, but it’s certainly not the last. It happens again and again as the series progresses and Lagertha takes on more responsibilities as a leader.
Lagertha initially rises to power alongside her husband and is trusted with the rule of Kattegat while he is away. After her divorce, however, Lagertha gains power of her own. For a while, she is married to the rich-yet-abusive Earl of Ingstat, whose abuses she does not suffer lightly. He denies her the right to lead troops to help Ragnar when Kattegat is invaded. She takes them anyway. When she returns, he threatens her and rips her dress off in the middle of the great hall. She responds by stabbing her through the eye and claiming his Earldom as her own. She becomes an important figure in Scandinavia as the only female Earl, as well as a valued military leader and advisor in the assaults on both England and Frankia.
Despite Lagertha’s toughened exterior she never loses her love for her son or her family. It is one of her strengths as a leader. She clearly cares about those who serve under her and is not willing to throw their lives away for nothing. She has a strong sense of right and wrong, and believes strongly in her Gods, and never shies away from a fight or an adventure if she can help it.