Life as a Viking woman was pretty hard. Sure, Viking women enjoyed more freedom than many of their counterparts in other parts of the world, but Viking men were really really into raiding and plundering and killing and all that good stuff, and as a result they were usually "away on business" nine months out of the year doing their whole "sacking towns and pillaging monasteries" thing. Sure, a dude's got to pay the bills somehow, but if you were a Viking wife you were generally expected to hang out around the homestead, raise the children, fend for yourself, and keep the community running pretty much on your own most of the time. During times of war and raiding, it wasn't uncommon for entire villages and towns to be left in the hands of the womenfolk. This was pretty liberating I guess, but it seems like it would kind of blow to have to pick up the slack while you're husband is out there partying, feasting, and hitting people over the head with an axe.
Regardless, this was the case one day in the early twelfth century when the King of Sweden decided that he wanted to go off and fight the Norwegians for some reason. He put together a large force of warriors, recruited every able-bodied Swedish Viking worthy of his longaxe, and set out to hack and slash his way into Valhalla one dead Norseman at a time.
Unfortunately, while the Swedish men were all out west trading epic face-punches with the Norwegians, the Danish Kingdom to the south thought it would probably be a good time to invade Sweden and pillage the holy living bejeezus out of some of the towns the King had so graciously left undefended. This was great for the Danes and all, but it kind of sucked if you were one of the women and/or children who just so happened to be standing in the drop zone for the imposing, dragon-headed Viking landing craft.
On this particular instance, the first target in the Danish army's line of fire was the border town of Smaland, which, according to legend, was the home to a young girl named Blenda. Blenda was basically your typical sixteen year-old woman – she more-or-less enjoyed picking flowers, plowing fields, and fighting off full-scale invasions from neighboring militaries – and when she heard word that the Danes were coming, she took it upon herself to get all the women of the land together to devise a way to withstand the inevitable onslaught of beards, swords, and more (even bigger) beards.
So as I previously mentioned, Viking women were pretty damned hardcore, but Blenda and her buddies honestly weren't going to stand much of a chance in a straight-up deathmatch against a rampaging horde of badass, neck-punching Danish berserkers who spent their entire lives cracking people in the faces with axes and stuffing them into garbage bags. Still, that didn't exactly mean these chicks were going to sit around and let themselves be plundered and carried off like a bunch of Medieval twenty-inch rims left unattended overnight in downtown Brooklyn. They were from Smaland, which (as far as I can tell at least) is basically a suburb of Geatland – the home of hardcore, monster-arm-snatching, mother-stabbing ass-wreckers like Beowulf - and these tough broads weren't going to just kick back and chill while the Danes plundered all their hard-earned crap, killed their children, and dragged them off to wherever the hell it is that Danish people come from. No, these determined women had a plan, and it was a twisted, devious scheme so beautiful in its simplicity and its deviousness that the Danish invaders could never have seen it coming.
The women of Smaland rode out and met the marauding army with a nearly-endless onslaught of low-cut dresses, giant roasted turkey legs, huge hocks of beef jerky, and flowing mugs of sweet, delicious mead.
For some reason this is the image that pops into my head when I think about this story.
I’m pretty sure the real thing was just like this, only with Viking helmets.
And, you know, Swedish instead of German.
It's a well-known fact that Vikings are unavoidably and irresistibly drawn to mead at all times. They are powerless to resist it. That magical elixir is like a tasty, fermented-honey tractor beam that sucks in all Berserkers within a hundred-foot radius and forces them to consume so much alcohol that they start barfing out of their eyes and fall asleep watching SportsCenter at like two in the morning. The women of Smaland knew this, and that's pretty much exactly what happened here. The Danish horde rolled into Wahrend expecting to be chasing terrified women through the burning huts of their pillaged, looted town, but instead they basically walked onto the set of one of those crazy over-the-top 1980s beer commercials where Spuds McKenzie is jumping a surfboard over the Great Wall of China and the Swedish Bikini Team is rocking out to a boom box blasting Brian Adams or Loverboy or some other such ridiculous crap. The big, tough warriors had no clue how to respond to an armada of hot Swedish babes bearing delicious meats and alcoholic beverages, and fawning over their giant man-biceps, so they basically decided to give in, hang out, and have a huge party, because - as we all know - nothing makes guys more retarded than boobs and/or booze.
After a few hours of Blenda's cohorts surreptitiously slipping the Danish warriors grain alcohol and/or medieval roofies, the invading army all got wasted and passed out all over the place. It was at this point that Blenda decided it was time to move on to phase two of her evil plan: She and her friends snuck out to their farm houses, grabbed whatever instruments of face-wrecking destruction they could get their hands on, and returned to the party carrying a frightening collection of axes, staves, clubs, weed whackers, hedge trimmers, garden rakes, rubber hoses, and pitchforks.
Now it was on like neckbone. Blenda and the women of Smaland tore the Danes a few new assholes, hacking them all into shark chum in the span of just a few minutes and utterly annihilating the invading army with a few hundred well-placed axe blows directly into the goddamned face. The King of Sweden returned from his campaign to find that Blenda and her girlfriends triumphantly standing on top of a massive heaping pile of dead Vikings, and was so pumped up about the whole thing that he granted the women of Smaland a bunch of totally awesome political and social rights that had been previously unavailable to them. From that point on, all daughters had the right to inherit property, money and land equally with their brothers, and were allowed to wear military-style garments around town and at their weddings. They were also given the prestigious right to wear the Royal Coat of Arms on their clothing – a tradition that has lasted to this day. Blenda is still recognized as a national hero in Sweden.
And that, my friends, is a pretty badass way to fight for women's rights.
Another version of the Legend
Nilsson, Victor Alfred. Sweden. P.F. Collier, 1901.
Traveler's Guide to Sweden. A. Bonnier, 1871.