Scott Farrell comments:
We know that a woman can be a knight in shining armor today (without sacrificing her femininity), but what about in the ancient world? Even the savage Vikings and Celts knew that a lady didn’t stop being a woman just because she picked up a sword. As Ms. Fearn reminds us, the appropriate counterpart to the male “knight in shining armor” is a character sometimes called the “shieldmaiden.”
When one thinks of a man in terms of the Code of Chivalry the most common image is the knight. The knight is the embodiment of chivalry as well as masculinity. There is no conflict between being a man and being a warrior.
However, call to mind an image of the chivalrous woman and usually two very deviant pictures come to mind. Either it is the damsel in distress whose role is to showcase the courage and valor of the male knight, or it is the Amazon who is usually depicted as masculine. There is, however, another image of the chivalrous woman, one seldom recognized: the shieldmaiden.
A shieldmaiden is a balance between the two extremes of femininity. She is not wholly a lady, bound to the world of the household. Nor is she fully a soldier, cold as a steel blade. A shieldmaiden is a balance, the fulcrum between the woman and the warrior. But like all balances, the way of the shieldmaiden can be hard. It is easy to fall to one extreme or the other.
A shieldmaiden is firstly a woman. As a woman she is the keeper of the hearth flame that provides a safe nurturing environment for her family. She is the teacher of her children and lady for her lord. The shieldmaiden has the courage to do the unglamorous daily tasks and to do them graciously. She is an example to her family and the keeper of the peace. She is generous to others while also being generous to herself. She keeps her word no matter how hard to fulfill and she stands by her beliefs. She selflessly serves.
As a woman do not be afraid to show your femininity or to look good, whatever your style. Do not be embarrassed of spending a day shopping or crying over a sappy movie. It is okay to pamper yourself. Try not to get so caught up in being strong you forget to be a woman.
As a warrior a shieldmaiden must have the strength to make her way in a man’s world. She must be willing to get her hands dirty and make sacrifices. She may have to bide her time in an unsavory position until the time to fight is at hand. When that time comes she must have the courage to stand without blame. She keeps her word and is willing to show mercy. She is willing to help others. She stands by her convictions and her committments.
Embrace your strong capable side. Do not listen when the world tells you something is not suitable for women. It takes a lot of bravery to try something conventional wisdom says a woman cannot do. Do what you want and do not listen to those wanting to put you in a cage.
One of my inspirations has been Eowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan, from The Lord of the Rings. She went through suffering and ignoble duty and in the end she took her chance to fight and accomplished what no man could do. Although at the beginning of the story she is cold and distant, by the end is able to find the strength to be vulnerable. May that be a lesson to us all.
©2004 Rebecca Fearn
The image of the Nordic shieldmaiden used above comes from the catalog of Icegait Creations, an on-line supplier of handmade carved stone tiles and artifacts, as well as apparel and novelties celebrating the image of the Icelandic Horse.