CUSHING — Nancy Marie Brown says that rather than holding the household keys, Viking women carried weapons. The author of “The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women” presents that story in a free talk from the Cushing Public Library on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. To register, call Wendy Roberts at 207-691-0833 or email

In 2017, DNA tests revealed to the collective shock of many scholars that a Viking warrior in a high-status grave in Birka, Sweden, excavated in the past, was actually a woman. In her book, recently published by St. Martin’s Press, Brown weaves together archaeology, history and literature to imagine the Birka warrior’s life and times, showing that Viking women had more power and agency than historians have imagined. She has named the Birka warrior Hervor and imagines her life intersecting with other real women, including Queen Gunnhild and Queen Olga of Kyiv.

Much of our perception of the Viking age (roughly a.d. 750-1050) is based on Victorian biases, Brown states. She draws on science, history and a thorough knowledge of Viking literature to recreate Hervor’s life and times. She has published extensively on the era, including “The Saga of Gudrid, Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths” and “The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman.” Her study of the famous Lewis Chessmen, Ivory Vikings, is a model of detective work on an enigmatic subject.

Brown has studied Icelandic literature and culture for decades. She lives on a farm in Vermont, where she keeps Icelandic horses and an Icelandic sheepdog.