Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Valkyries ("choosers of the slain", alternative spelling: Walkyries, Old Norse valrkyrja, valkyrja, pl. valrkyrjur, pl. valkyrjur, Walachuriá (Old High German), Valakusjó (Gothic), wćlcyrge (OE)) are figures of Norse mythology. They are lesser goddesses (dís, pl. dísir) who are usually depicted as beautiful shieldmaidens on winged horses, armed with helmets and spears.
However, valkyrie horse was a kenning for wolf (see Rök Stone), so contrary to the stereotype they did not ride winged horses. Their mounts were rather the packs of wolves that frequented the corpses of dead warriors.
Whereas the wolf was the Valkyrie's mount, the Valkyrie herself was quite unromantically represented by the raven (). Consequently the packs of wolves and ravens that scavenged the aftermath of battles were portrayed as serving a higher purpose.
This purpose was to choose the most heroic of those who have died in battle (called Einherjar), and to carry them off to Valhalla. This was necessary because Odin needed warriors to fight at his side at the preordained battle at the end of the world, Ragnarok.
The origin of the Valkyries is not given in extant texts.
List of the Valkyries:
- Brunhilde (ON Brynhildr; appears in the Völsunga saga, confused or identified with the Valkyrie Sigardrifa.)
- Göll (ON Gǫll)
- Göndul (ON Gǫndul)
- Gunn (ON Guðr or Gunnr, chooser of the slain, mentioned in several sources)
- Herfjoturr (ON Herfjǫturr; caused the paralysis of defeat)
- Hildr (Battle Valkyrie)
- Hladgunnr (ON Hlaðgunnr)
- Hlokk (ON Hlǫkk)
- Hrist (served the einherjar in Valhalla)
- Mist (served the einherjar in Valhalla)
- Rota (ON Róta; chooser of the slain)
- Skuld (Norn and chooser of the slain)
- Sigrdrifa (ON Sigrdrífa)
- Sigrún (mentioned in Helgakviða Hundingsbana II)
- Skagull (ON Skǫgul; filled Odin's horn with mead)
- Skeggjald (ON Skeggjǫld)
- Svafa (ON Sváfa)
- Thrud (ON Þrúðr; a daughter of Thor's who served the einherjar in Valhalla).
Richard Wagner incorporated Norse tales that included the Valkyrie Brünhilde (Brynhild) and her punishment and subsequent love for the warrior Siegfried (Sigurd) into his operas Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung. In Wagner's treatment the Valkyries are nine daughters of Wotan (Odin) and Erda (Jörd) 'Earth' and are named: Brünnhilde, Helmwige, Ortlinde, Gerhilde, Waltraute, Siegrune, Rossweisse, Grimgerde, and Schwertleite.
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