Thor’s Day Alert #12: Valkyrie
Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!
By now you’ve no doubt heard about Tom Cruise’s new movie, Valkyrie. By all counts, this film looks terrible. But the irony of its title is perfect! Valkyries of Norse lore can, after all, save warriors on the battlefield — but one thing they can’t do is save a person from himself.
[Aside: Someday I’ll probably watch this movie on DVD, after German has been dubbed in and subtitles added. Call me crazy, but California accents and Nazis scream ridiculousness. Och!]
The word Valkyrie means “chooser of the slain”. Even if you don’t know much about Norse myth, you’re probably familiar with the most common concept of Valkyries: warrior maidens who descend upon the battlefield where they collect fallen Norsemen and carry them to the afterlife in Valhalla.
But Valkyries do much more than that. It’s said they orchestrate entire battles according to the plans of their boss, the War-father Odin. Thus it can be argued that Valkyries don’t merely collect the battlefield dead — they choose who lives or dies in the first place.
To influence such outcomes, Odin’s shield maidens employ certain magicks, the effects of which can be inferred by the caster’s name. In the midst of battle, for instance, you’d hate to see the Valkyrie named Herfjoturr heading your way, for her name means war-fetter. Which means battle-paralysis. Not good.
Unless the Valkyrie named Friagabi takes sudden pity on you; her name means fetter-breaker.
Another term used for Valkyries is “corpse maidens”. Here, then, is another instance of how the physical world — in this case the grim realities of warriors — influences myth and spiritual beliefs, for it’s also said that Valkyries can take the form of ravens. Though I’ve never seen a battlefield strewn with the bodies of dead men, I have seen ravens pecking and pulling at the flesh of dead animals. It’s not difficult to imagine these wily birds watching a battle from a safe distance and then flying in to feed when a suitable number of men have fallen, never to move again.
As for me, I prefer the popular concept of Valkyries — that of warrior-maidens who carry slain Vikings to Valhalla. Well, that and artist conceptions of how Valkyries pass the time between battles!
Thanks for stopping by. See ya next week!