This month we’re doing a series called the A-Z blogging challenge where we dive into Fairytale Retellings and provide prompts for writers. Writers are the people making the books, television shows, and movies of tomorrow. For more information on the challenge check out my earlier post here.
A valkyrie (pronounced “VAL-ker-ee”; Old Norse valkyrja, plural valkyrjur, also spelled Walkyrie, Old Norse Valkyrja “choosers of the fallen” or “chooser of the slain”) is a female helping spirit of the god Odin.
They were a group of maidens who served the god Odin and were sent by him to the battlefields to choose the slain who were worthy of a place in Valhalla. The modern image of the valkyries as elegant, noble maidens bearing dead heroes to Valhalla is largely accurate for what it is, but a highly selective portrayal that exaggerates their pleasant qualities.
To some extent, this tendency toward sanitization is present even in the later Old Norse sources, which focus on their love affairs with human men and their assisting Odin in transporting his favorites among those slain in battle to Valhalla, where they will fight by his side during Ragnarok.
These foreboders of war rode to the battlefield on horses, wearing helmets and shields; in some accounts, they flew through the air and sea. Some Valkyries had the power to cause the death of the warriors they did not favour; others, especially heroine Valkyries, guarded the lives and ships of those dear to them. Old Norse literature made references to purely supernatural Valkyries and also to human Valkyries with certain supernatural powers. Both types of beings were associated with fairness, brightness, and gold, as well as bloodshed.
When the einherjar are not preparing for the events of Ragnarök, the valkyries bear them mead. Valkyries also appear as lovers of heroes and other mortals, where they are sometimes described as the daughters of royalty, sometimes accompanied by ravens and sometimes connected to swans or horses.
Towards the end of the poem, valkyries again descend from the sky, this time to protect Helgi amid the battle at Frekastein. After the battle, all the valkyries fly away but Sigrún and wolves (referred to as “the troll-woman’s mount”) consume corpses:
Helmeted valkyries came down from the sky
—the noise of spears grew loud—they protected the prince;
then said Sigrun—the wound-giving valkyries flew,
the troll-woman’s mount was feasting on the fodder of ravens:
The battle won, Sigrún tells Helgi that he will become a great ruler and pledges herself to him.
Further in chapter 2, a quote from the anonymous 10th century poem Eiríksmál is provided (see the Fagrskinna section below for more detail about the poem and another translation):
What sort of dream is that, Odin?
I dreamed I rose up before dawn
to clear up Val-hall for slain people.
I aroused the Einheriar,
bade them get up to strew the benches,
clean the beer-cups,
the valkyries to serve wine
for the arrival of a prince.
Though not strictly in the realm of fairytales, I hope you found this post inspiring to your muse. If you were going to re-write the Valkerie what would you change and what would you keep?
For more blogs participating in A to Z 2020 click the link here.
ABOUT T.S. VALMOND:
T.S. Valmond is the science fiction and young adult fantasy author of The Bolaji Kingdoms Series and The Verity Chronicles. As an award-winning poet, world traveler, and sign language interpreter she uses her experiences to fuel her stories. She’s a regular contributor to the website and founder of the Riders & Flyers group.