Longboat Captain, by Dmitry Burmak

longboat_captain1Longboat Captain, by Dmitry Burmak

“On we sweep with threshing oar, Our only goal will be the western shore.”
—Led Zeppelin, “Immigrant Song”

I don’t know for certain where the tacky stereotype of viking women in plate bikinis originated, but my understanding is that it’s in part a sexualized carryover from the Valkyries from Richard Wagner’s operas from the 1800’s (though at least Brunhilde wore clothes with hers). The appalling tradition lived on into the film age and can still be found in comics, video games, and fantasy art. I’m willing to give artists the benefit of the doubt when I know the bikini plate is being used for the purpose of parody, but I have little patience for any who attempt to pass this off as practical, realistic armor. With this in mind, I found Dmitry’s Longboat Captain a refreshing contrast to the half-naked Norsewomen found throughout fantasy art.

While there are plenty of fighting women throughout Norse Mythology, as well as several in the Icelandic and Vinland Sagas, I’ve never seen a credible source suggesting that viking women in combat was a common occurrence throughout history. (Though I’d be interested in seeing research on the topic, if someone wanted to share in the comments.) Even if viking heroines can’t thus be portrayed with complete historical accuracy, it’s still possible to strive for thematic appropriateness and respect for the Norseman character.

longboat_captain2As archer armor goes, I prefer the half-sleeve chain mail over the full-sleeve. Not having the extra weight allows for steadier aim and better bow-handling. Strong against enemy blades, our captain’s mail is suitably effective for boarding actions against enemy ships or beach-storming actions against enemy settlements. The leather harness at her waist should provide additional deflection against any arrows to her abdomen.

Our captain’s bracers are an essential part to any archer’s attire. As well as protecting from the bite of the bow’s string, the bracers’ riveted plates offer protection from enemy weapons in melee combat and offer a harder surface area when stiff-arming or back-fisting an opponent. Her pants look to be soft leather, offering reasonable flexibility while keeping her legs safe from glancing arrows and light melee combat. Her heavy, leather boots are fur lined to keep her feet warm during the winter or when beaching their ship in icy waters.

On top of the smart attire, I love the strength of character found in Dmitry’s Longboat Captain. She’s not some raging barbarian likely to go berserk without a moment’s notice, nor some doll-faced SI model posing for a fantasy-metal album cover. No, by all appearances, our captain is a competent warrior and leader of men. I find it easy to imagine her readying her bow as her longboat pursues an English cog, her posture and expression saying, “run, Limey, I dare you.”

Thanks again to Dmitry for letting me borrow his captain. As always, thanks for reading, folks and stay awesome!

Image by Dmitry Burmak, copyright of Paizo Publishing. Used with permission.

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2 Responses to Longboat Captain, by Dmitry Burmak

  1. I don’t know about the battlefield, but I do know Viking women were at least trained to defend the home. One of the things in my Viking Mythology class was about customs and ceremonies, and it seems at the wedding ceremony a bride was given a sword as a wedding gift, while she gave her husband livestock as part of a dowery. As Vikings were largely a farming folk who only raided part of the year*, they had established homes that would need protecting by at least some members of the family while they were gone.
    *going raiding was actually called “going viking”, and since the raids were how most outside groups know of them, the verb got turned into a name for the group who did the raiding.

    • Thanks for the input, lark! I love the idea of using ‘viking’ as a verb, and I think I recall using the phrase ‘going viking’ back when I was playing Age of Empires II all of the time.

      As far as their women fighting, your comment about giving the women swords for defensive purposes intrigues me. The Sagas talk about viking ‘shield maidens,’ but strictly in regards to their mythology. If you can pass along any research on the topic I’d love to see it. Thanks for reading and take care!

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