It’s been a while since I posted any women with swords — disappointing or otherwise. While I’ve certainly seen some terrible examples since my original post (they never go away), I’ve also come across some astonishingly great ones.
Anna Podedworna, Artist
This illustration by Anna Podedworna made my heart sing! A warrior woman shedding blood, rather than doing something “sexy” or otherwise dangerous to herself. Anna is also the artist for The Witcher Card Game. Click the link on her name to feast your eyes on her extraordinary work.
Kai Carpenter, Artist
I found this stunning painting in the latest Llewellyn’s 2020 Astrological Calendar: 87th Edition of the World’s Best Known, Most Trusted Astrology Calendar. Artist Kai Carpenter of Seattle created all of the stunning paintings for this calendar. In addition to Llewellyn, his other clients include DC Comics, Vertigo, Riot Games, and many, many others. Notice how his female warrior safely holds the bastard sword with it partially drawn — just enough to show us there’s a dangerous blade within? That, and he’s avoided the entire issue of boob armor with this fantastic armor design. You’re amazing, Kai. Thanks for this!
My sleuthing hasn’t turned up the artist of this oft-stolen painting. I hope that will change because this painting of Julie D’aubigny aka La Maupin — even though they’re both using the wrong sword for the time period — is brilliant because it shows her as she was: a deadly duelist.
(ETA: My husband found it! His name is Mike, and he’s been on DeviantArt forever. Well done, Mike! Thank you!)
As everyone knows, I’m completely obsessed with La Maupin, and I’ve written a YA novel about her. I’ve had agents and editors requesting the manuscript. Fingers crossed!
Beforeigners and Alfhildr
I love this fucking show from HBO Nordic. Unfortunately, this isn’t the photo I wanted to show you. The photo I really, really wanted to show you is a snippet that we get in the first episode of the character Alfhildr Enginsdottir played by Krista Kosonen. In that snippet, we’re flashing back to a Viking battle where Alfhildr is soaked in blood as she fights with shield and one-handed sword. She’s screaming. More like this, although this cropped photo sadly leaves out the carnage at her feet:
And she’s terrifying. (Not to say anything of Urd, who is delightfully lionhearted in this show.)
That’s how you do it. Big thanks to Anne Bjørnstad and Eilif Skodvin, the show’s creators, for these absolutely believably badass women.
Lagertha on Vikings
And who could forget Lagertha? Virtually any scene where she’s holding a sword and shield is brilliant.
Played by the award-winning actress Katheryn Winnick and based on the historical character, Lagertha always manages to look beautiful and dangerous at the same time without the show having her resort to chainmail bikini shenanigans.
I have to wonder if people specifically visualize Viking shieldmaidens differently than any other kind of woman with a sword because I see fewer faux pas for this kind of artwork and photography than for any other female sword fighter imagery.
More to Come
It’s hard to come by great depictions of female sword fighters where they look more like they’ll hurt someone besides themselves, but I’ll keep at it. Meanwhile, if you’re just seeing this for the first time, here’s the full list of blog posts in this series:
Why I Hate Most Photos and Drawings of Women with Swords (the viral post that started it all)
Depictions of Sword Women that are (Mostly) Awesome
Why I Should Never Have Mentioned Michonne
Some Hilarious Additions to the Women with Swords Wall of Shame
I love this kinda art too. Lagertha in Vikings was such a badass. She was one of the only women I’d seen in that type of role where she felt quite realistic (i.e not Buffy or Xena superpowers), but still actually quite intimidating.
I’ve never tried any kind of sword fighting or weapons practice myself, although I’ve always wanted to. My closest male co-worker is into all that stuff, including fencing, and he’s always making these dumb casually sexist comments about women could never compete against men in various types of combat. If I had enough spare time, I wish I could learn just so I could embarrass him and kick his ass. Lol something about those kind of cocky upper-middle class white men that always slightly enrages me!
I love Lagertha in Vikings! Man, your co-worker sounds like an ass. Cocky white dudes are a plague. I bet he has been beaten by a woman, and that’s why he goes on about it. Julie de Maupin in late 17th=century France killed men all the time in duels. Regardless, fencing is fun and great exercise. I just recently started getting into archery. That’s a whole ‘nother world of badassery in which women thrive.
Lol! Well we’re lucky in our office that the plague is contained to just one guy. He makes up for it though by doing his best job to exemplify all of white male entitlement in himself. If he’s not talking down to women’s capabilities, he’s making some crude comment about which woman has the ‘nicest ass’ or ‘biggest boobs’. (I’m fairly sure he’s never actually fought a woman by the way, because he trains at a male only club)
I’m curious if there are particular weapons or fighting styles that are best designed to give women the advantage in these situations though? Like I know with regular martial arts, there are just some cases where women are at a massive disadvantage with men (e.g boxing), and others a lot less so. So with the example you mention of ‘La Maupin’, who sounds quite remarkable, was it ever established how she managed to beat men so consistently (apparently 3 men in a row on one occasion)? Is that just purely a matter of skill or are there certain weapons or maybe fighting styles that women can use if they want to beat a man in a duel like that?
Lady, you need to first work on your HR-fu. This guy is breaking the law talking this way at work. It’s toxic and corrosive behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated. Start documenting and reporting — rinse, lather, repeat. Second, the European smallsword is light enough for a smaller person to handle. And since the blade is triangular and built to slide into flesh, it’s easier to kill people. You’ve got to be fast if you’re not strong. That’s the mantra.