The Real Red Sonja Found in South Kazakhstan

Red Sonja 1973, "The Raiding Party" by Eric Trautman, drawn by Ivan Rodriguez, Dynamite 2015

There are very few things cooler than when comics meet archeology, especially when they involve the most badass sword and sorcery warrior of all time–the She-Devil with a Sword, Red Sonja herself. Recently, the remains of the real-life counterpart of the Our Lady of the “Iconic Funk” was found in South Kazakhstan.

Estimated to date back to 200 BC, the ancient female warrior was buried “clasping a huge sword and dagger” along with arrows and bowls and pots in the ancient region of Kangyuy. The Kangyuy people were nomads who lived near the Syr Darya River and Aral Sea in the southern steppes of Kazakhstan and northern part of Uzbekistan. In case you are a geography nerd like me, this is the area:

Map of Kangyuy region
Credits: Wikipedia with “notes” by Ginnis Tonik.

The Kangyuy were a warrior people who controlled part of the Silk Road AND fought off the Huns at one point. This female warrior is the first female warrior skeleton discovered in the area. Up until this point, it was believed that only the Kangyuy men were warriors (after 23 years of research and evidence), but the presence of “Red Sonja” says otherwise. Further, since she was buried with her sword in her right hand and a dagger in her left, she may have even been buried with military honors as this is a ceremonial position. See below:

From MailOnline, skeletal remains of Real Red Sonja
Credits: MailOnline with “notes” by Ginnis Tonik. Click here for the rest of the pictures, not edited by yours truly.

The pottery and arrows also attest to her wealth and status. So, in sum, like our very own She-Devil, she was probably a big damn deal (and not technically white though red hair was a slim possibility).

This is pretty darn cool (well, for a whole lot of reasons), but one of them being that Hyrcania, the home state of fictional Red Sonja, was an actual historical location on the borders of Iran and Turkmenistan:

Credit: Wikipedia, map of Hyrcania
Credits: Wikipedia with “notes” by Ginnis Tonik.

So to put these two locations in relation to one another:

Google Map of Eurasia
Credits: Google maps with “notes” by Ginnis Tonik.

Pretty, cool, right? I am assuming you agree.

Calling this historic female barbarian “Red Sonja” is pretty exciting for fangirls like me because to quote The Daily Mail: “Red Sonja has since become the archetypal fantasy figure of a fierce and beautiful female warrior.” But also being a fangurl, I get pretty upset when news sources get it wrong. For example, Speroforum, an international news site out of Houston, TX, touches on the Red Sonja lore and claims: “In the comics and the film, Red Sonja is bent on terrific revenge for the slaying of her family by an evil queen. She has since become the prototype of vengeful, beautiful barbarian warrior women.” This is NOT true. Prior to the 1985 film, Red Sonja’s family was killed by mercenaries. In the film, Queen Gedren played by the stunning Sandahl Bergman kills Red Sonja’s family because Red Sonja rejects her sexual advances which was later turned into a two-issue limited series by Mary Wilshire and Louise Simonson:

Ginnis Tonik w/1985 Red Sonja #1, by Mary Wilshire and Louise Stimonson
Credit: Me with the first issue of the Red Sonja limited series for the movie.

I feel so much better now that that point has been corrected. #everycomicfanever

But, this “Red Sonja” warrior is not the only historical, redheaded female warrior. If you like your female warriors, redheaded, you should also look into Boudicca, Celtic Warrior Queen. Or for some fictional badass redheads, check out:

And if you want to learn more about redheads, check out Marion Roach’s The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair which I am currently reading and can’t put down.

Ginnis Tonik

Ginnis Tonik

Smashing the patriarchy with glitter, pink lipstick, and cowboy boots. You can follow her on Instagram @ginnistonik