In Norse mythology, valkyries are female figures associated with the god Odin. Valkyries are noble maidens whose task is to bring the bodies of heroes killed in battle to their final resting place in Valhalla. In Old Norse, the word “valkyrja,” from which the name “valkyrie” is derived, describes a being who presides over the death of an individual fallen in battle. While caring for the dead is the valkyries’ main role, they are also caretakers of the deceased and occasional lovers of both mortal men and gods.
After a man dies in battle, transportation of his body and soul are left to the valkyries. The valkyries declare the men “einherjars,” which is a title of honor and distinction that indicates they were once heroic fighters. Immediately after death, the men are whisked away by the valkyries to Valhalla, which is the land of the dead ruled by Odin. After arriving in Valhalla, however, the men do not always stay dead. Chosen ones are brought back to life in the afterlife, and both Odin and the valkyries have discretion over which revived men will fight alongside Odin. The chosen men were often those admired or favored by Odin before their death, usually for their military prowess or leadership. Upon arriving in the underworld, the selected men are given a drink of mead, which is an alcoholic beverage made with honey or fermented fruits. They are then enlisted to fight by Odin’s side in Ragnarok. Along with serving the god of the underworld, many revived heroes become love interests of the maidens.
The valkyries are complex beings associated with many emotions. In some accounts, they are described as warm and emotionally sensitive beings who are loyal to Odin and faithful lovers to other men. In other instances, however, they are depicted as cold and cunning women who take advantage of the men with whom they have affairs. In stories where the valkyries are depicted as evil beings, they are said to use their magical powers to bring only carefully selected fallen heroes back to life, who are usually their personal favorites or the favorites of Odin. The valkyries have considerable control over deciding who is admitted to Valhalla. In some stories, they have discretion over who dies in battle, too. Most accounts of this power are embedded in the book of Norse mythology called Prose Edda. Because of their ability to make life and death decisions, the valkyries are sometimes associated with other gods and characters in Norse legends with similar powers. A chief example is the god Odin, who is a god associated with war and death. By affiliation, the valkyries are also associated with Odin’s ravens, who are named Muninn and Huginn. Together, the ravens provide Odin with his knowledge and power.
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