A shield maiden was a woman who chose to fight as a warrior alongside Viking men during the Viking Age (approximately 793 to 1066 AD). While the concept of shield maidens has been romanticized in literature and popular culture, historical evidence for their existence is limited.
The primary sources from the Viking Age, such as sagas and historical texts, don't extensively mention female warriors in the same way they do male warriors. However, there are occasional references to women taking part in battles, and archaeological evidence suggests that some women may have received training in combat and were buried with weapons.
The idea of shield maidens has been perpetuated in Norse mythology and later sagas, with notable figures like Lagertha from the "Saga of the Ynglings" and the Valkyries serving as warrior maidens choosing those worthy to go to Valhalla. In reality, the extent to which women actively participated in combat during the Viking Age is still a topic of scholarly debate.
So, while the image of a shield maiden as a brave and skilled warrior woman is captivating, the historical evidence supporting the widespread existence of such figures is less clear-cut.