Sela, the Pirate Princess | Ladyfencers series
History of power has always been ruled by greed and envy. But not only men took part in this game, also women had territories, armies and… fleets. We previously talked about Grace o’Malley, the Pirate Queen , but this time we go back at the time of the Ancient Danes, to meet the Princess of the Seas.
Today we’ll tell you about the Pirate Princess Sela, one of the first recorded pirate women in history, whose story appears in one of the most important sources for the early history of Denmark, the Gesta Danorum.
Introduction: The shores of Norway – 5th century
A light breeze blew over the land, birds were singing and Sela’s face was warmed by the sun when she extended her arm to shake Horwendill’s hand as a gesture of goodwill after days of playing cat and mouse along the shores of Norway.
The sea gives, the sea takes.
Never has it been so cold, when I rode on the waves of the sea, driven by the oars of my men. Not when wind and rain tormented us nor when we waded through the tide on the shore, when we raided the small villages that were so fortunately close to the sea. The sea gives, the sea takes. Be it goods and fish or pirates.
«Come, let us meet unarmed and find peace.», King of Jutland’s messenger had told my men.
A jealous and hateful man, Horwendill is. Fearing me so much, he set up this meeting to “talk”, to end the war started between him and my brother, King Koller.
A sharp pain shot through Sela’s body, when the spatha that had killed her brother Koller before, pierced her side.
«Traitor!», she spat, accompanied by a gush of blood from her lips, towards her enemy. That coward!
I always imagined dying on the planks of my ship, that brought me the glory that Horwendill, King of Jutland could never achieve. Not even by becoming a pirate like myself.
How could I have been so reckless? Why didn’t I put on my shirt of linked iron rings before the meeting?
Knowing all the cunning tactics on the field of battle, proficient with spear, sword and shield and yet, he fooled me.
After he killed my brother in the duel, I thought he would be man enough to fight again, if he wanted to end the war. Once and for all.
Sailing towards dark shores
A feeling of coldness she never experienced before, embraced her body and her eyelids started to become heavy.
«I trusted in his goodwill, when no challenge came. And now I pay the price. At least it will be fast» she realised.
And all these thoughts rushed through Princess Sela’s mind in split seconds, when she slipped away into the darkness.
This is how we imagine Sela’s end, as there is no proof of her existence nor accounts of her life and death besides one sentence in the «Gesta Danorum», written by Saxo Grammaticus in the 12th century. He tells the history of Denmark often mixed with sagas and legends, yet it is one of the most important sources for the early history of Denmark.
Saxo Grammaticus mentions Sela, the Pirate Princess, in book three, right after the part when Horwendill killed Koller in a duel, as follows: Deinde sororem eius, Selam nomine, piraticis exercitam rebus ac bellici peritam muneris, persecutus occidit. «Then he pursued that (Koller’s) sister, with the name Sela, skilled in piracy and experienced in war and killed her.»
In terms of setting a timeframe, we are talking about the early 5th century, late antiquity, centuries before the time we call the Viking Age.
If you enjoyed the story about Sela, the Pirate Princess, you might want to check out our LadyFencers series, where we handpick the most incredible women in history – from noble-hearted ladies to downright nutjobs – who left funny or epic stories behind, for better or worse!
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