What are the Valkyries known for in Norse mythology?

The Valkyries, mythical figures in Norse mythology, are renowned for their role as warrior maidens and choosers of the slain. These female beings serve Odin, the chief god, by selecting fallen heroes from the battlefield and bringing them to Valhalla, the grand hall where they prepare for the final battle of Ragnarok.


The term “valkyrie” originates from Old Norse, specifically the word “valkyrja” in its plural form “valkyrjur.” This name is a combination of two words: “valr,” which pertains to those who were slain in battle, and “kjósa,” which means “to choose.”

Thus, the term “valkyrie” literally translates to “chooser of the slain,” reflecting their role in Norse mythology as divine beings who selected fallen warriors on the battlefield to be taken to Odin’s great hall Valhalla (“hall of the slain”).


In Norse mythology, the valkyries are often depicted as beautiful, fierce warrior women with supernatural abilities. They are usually portrayed as wearing armor and carrying spears or swords.

They are seen as powerful and ethereal beings who have the ability to fly and shape-shift. In some stories, they are also associated with horses and are said to ride across the sky on horseback.

Overall, the Valkyries are revered as divine figures closely connected to the realm of the afterlife and the fate of warriors in battle.

The role of the Valkyries in the Norse pantheon

The number one role of the Valkyries in Norse mythology is to serve Odin, the chief god. Furthermore, they act as messengers and warriors, fighting for their master, Odin.

The Valkyries are tasked with selecting slain warriors from the battlefield and transporting them to Valhalla, the majestic hall in the middle of Asgard (home of the Æsir gods).

These beautiful maidens are also known in the myths for deciding the outcome of battle.

Described as hostesses in Valhalla, the Valkyries are believed to serve mead (i.e. an alcoholic beverage) to the slain warriors.

Basically, these divine maidens are both agents of death and facilitators of an eternal warrior’s paradise, playing a significant part in Norse beliefs about the afterlife and the fate of brave warriors.

Valkyries are depicted as beautiful and fierce warrior women who fly above battlefields and decide the fate of warriors. In Valhalla, they serve as cupbearers and attend to the needs of the Einherjar, the chosen fallen warriors. In Norse mythology, Valhalla represents the perfect afterlife conditions that a Viking warrior hopes to secure after death. Picture: Valhalla (1905) by German artist Emil Doepler


In Norse mythology, Valkyries are not only warrior maidens who choose the fallen in battle but also complex beings with diverse roles. Some myths depict them as lovers or consorts of heroes and mortals, emphasizing their human-like emotions and relationships.

They are occasionally described as daughters of kings and gods, and their association with birds like ravens and swans, as well as horses, adds to their mystical and enigmatic nature.

In chapter 49 of the “Gylfaginning” (The Beguiling of Gylfi), the narrative recounts the events following Baldr’s death. When Baldr is slain, Odin and Frigg are devastated, and they arrive at his funeral to mourn their fallen son. With them, the valkyries accompany, as well as Odin’s ravens, Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory). Gylfaginning is the first main part of the Prose Edda.

Read More: Huginn and Muninn – Odin’s information-gathering ravens

Valkyries are associated with Odin, the chief god, and are said to serve as his chosen warriors, selecting fallen heroes from the battlefield to be taken to Valhalla, the hall of the slain.

How did the Valkyries choose the fallen warriors to take to Valhalla?

According to Norse mythology, the Valkyries would descend to the battlefield after a fierce battle and choose the fallen warriors who displayed exceptional bravery, skill, and valor. These chosen warriors, known as the Einherjar, were then taken by the Valkyries to Valhalla, the grand hall of the slain in Asgard.

The selection process was based on the Valkyries’ keen judgment, and they were believed to be guided by Odin in their decision-making. The chosen warriors would then spend their afterlife in Valhalla, feasting and preparing for the final battle of Ragnarok.

The Valkyries and the Viking Age

A female figure carrying a horn on runestone U 1163.

During the Viking Age, small amulets and figurines depicting women carrying drinking vessels or horns were commonly found in various archaeological sites, particularly in graves. These artifacts are believed to represent the Valkyries, as they share similarities with other female figures found carrying weapons and shields.

The association of these amulets with the Valkyries is supported by their symbolic significance. As the Valkyries were believed to be serving women in Valhalla, tending to the fallen warriors and offering them mead or ale from drinking horns during their feasts, the depiction of these women with drinking vessels or horns likely served as protective charms or tokens of honor for the deceased. It was believed that such depictions ensured the deceased would be well-received in the afterlife and join the ranks of the honored warriors in Valhalla.

These amulets and figurines not only reflect the cultural significance of the Valkyries but also provide valuable insights into the beliefs and rituals of the Viking Age people, who held the Valkyries in high regard for their role in the warrior afterlife.

A female figure bears a horn to a rider on an eight-legged horse on the Tjängvide image stone in Sweden.

Questions & Answers

The Valkyrie’s Vigil (1906) by British painter Edward Robert Hughes

Who are the Valkyries?

The Valkyries, revered figures in Norse mythology, are powerful female beings associated with warfare and fate. They serve Odin, the All-Father, by selecting fallen warriors from the battlefield and guiding them to the afterlife in Valhalla. The Valkyries play a crucial role in preparing for the apocalyptic battle of Ragnarok.

What is their origin story?

The origins and development of the valkyries in Germanic paganism and later Norse mythology have been the subject of various theories. According to some scholars, these legendary shield maidens were likely originally seen as “demons of the dead” who chose warriors slain on the battlefield.

They would later become associated with Odin and be seen as heroic figures in poetry. And as the concept of Valhalla evolved from a scene of a battlefield to a sort of paradise, depictions of the Valkyries evolved from demonic and frightening beings to more human-like figures capable of emotions and even love for mortals.

According to some legends, Valkyries would appear to human heroes and kings during or after battles, bestowing their favor upon them. They would sometimes choose mortal men as their lovers or husbands, and these unions were believed to have divine significance, making the offspring of these unions blessed or favored by the gods. These legendary unions were said to give rise to the lineages of later rulers, creating a sense of divine ancestry and legitimacy for those in power.

How are they depicted?

In depictions and artistic representations, the Valkyries are often shown holding cups and ale horns, emphasizing their role as both fierce battle maidens and gracious hosts in the halls of Valhalla. This aspect of the Valkyries’ duties highlights their dual nature as powerful warrior spirits and benevolent caretakers of the honored fallen warriors.

The image of the Valkyries as fierce and beautiful women was well-known during the Viking Age, and it has continued to captivate and inspire people in modern times.

Their role as divine beings who determine the fate of warriors and bring them to the afterlife has made them iconic figures in Norse mythology, symbolizing bravery, honor, and the allure of the mysterious realm beyond death.

What were some of their epithets?

As a result of their role, they have been described as “wish fulfillers”, “choosers of the slain”, “wish maids”, and “Odin’s maids”.

Who are some of the most famous Valkyries in the myths?

The valkyries Hildr, Þrúðr and Hlökk bearing ale in Valhalla (1895) by Danish painter Lorenz Frølich

Grímnismál, Völuspá, Sigrdrífumál, Völundarkviða, Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar, Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, and Helgakviða Hundingsbana II are among the poems where Valkyries are mentioned or play essential roles.

In the poem Völuspá, a seeress (i.e. völva) describes the Valkyries as “Ladies of the War Lord” – which is a reference to them being the maids of Odin. Some of the Valkyries mentioned in the poem are Gunnr (“war”), Hildr (“battle”), Skuld (“debt” or “future”), and Skögul (“shaker”).

The Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál makes mention of Valkyries such as Hlökk (“noise”, or “battle”), Randgríð (“shield-truce”), Ráðgríð (“council-truce”), Reginleif (“power-truce”), Herfjötur (“host-fetter”), Hrist (“shaker”) and Mist (“cloud”). In the poem, Odin, who had taken the form of Grímnir, described the Valkyries as people who bring “ale” (bear) to the einherjar.

For example, in the saga, the Valkyrie Sigrún falls in love with Helgi Hundingsbane, a heroic prince, and they become a tragic and romantic couple. Sigrún’s name is believed to mean “Victory Rune”.

Helgi Hundingsbane and Sigrún (1919) by German artist Robert Engels

Did you know…?

Valkyrie (1908) by Norwegian-Danish sculptor Stephan Sinding located in Churchill Park at Kastellet in Copenhagen, Denmark

  • Much of what we know about the Valkyries come from the Poetic Edda, a collection of Old Norse poems, and the Prose Edda, written by 13th-century Icelandic poet and politician Snorri Sturluson. Additionally, Valkyries appear in the Heimskringla, another work by Sturluson, and the Njáls saga, one of the Sagas of Icelanders. Skaldic poetry, charms, and runic inscriptions also feature these mythical beings, showcasing their widespread presence in Norse literature and culture during the medieval period.
  • In Norse mythology, there is a connection between the goddess Freyja (or Freya) and the Valkyries, particularly in relation to her afterlife field called Fólkvangr. Similar to Odin’s hall in Valhalla, Fólkvangr is where half of the slain warriors. Freyja’s description in Gylfaginning, where she takes half of the fallen warriors during battle, supports this interpretation. Her dwelling, Sessrumnir, which means “filled with many seats,” is thought to serve a similar function as Valhalla, indicating her connection to the realm of the warriors who died honorably in battle as well as the Valkyries.
  • What the above means is that the Valkyries most probably operated in multiple realms in Norse mythology, including the realms for elves and jotnar (i.e. giants in Norse mythology).

Read More: Most Famous Gods and Goddesses in Norse Mythology

An illustration of valkyries encountering the god Heimdallr as they carry a dead man to Valhalla (1906) by Lorenz Frølich

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