This page is devoted to both Valkyrie and non-Valkyrie heroines.

For women skilled in magic, witchcraft or divination or women simply known for their wisdom, there's a separate page, titled Witches.

 
Valkyries (Background)

Brynhild
Grimhild, see Gudrun
Gudrun
Hjordis (Sisibe)
Svava
Signy
Sigrdrifa, see Brynhild
Svanhild (Swanhild)
Sigrun      
Svava      
Hljod
Swan-Maidens
Olof
Other Valkyries



Related Pages:
     Norse Heroes I
     Norse Heroes II
     Witches






Valkyries
 

The Valkyries had often inspired poets as women-warriors. Their name means, "Chooser of the Slain", and were often called battle-maidens, shield-maidens, swan-maidens, wish-maidens and mead-maidens. As these names suggest, they had various functions.

Their main duty was to select the slain warriors, who had fallen in battle or other combat, such as quest or killing dragon, etc. These slain warriors were known as the Einherjar (Einheriar), and were chosen to fight alongside with the Aesir gods at Ragnarok. The Einherjar waited for Ragnarok, in Odin's hall, called Valhalla.

They were sometimes called "Swan-maiden", because they wore garments made of swan feathers that allowed them to fly, carrying off the slain warriors to the hall called Valhalla. Their other duties included serving mead or ales in drinking-horns or mugs to the Einherjar in Valhalla.

Three Valkyries appeared in the Volsunga Saga. Sigrun ("victory-rune") married the hero Helgi, the son of Sigmund. The other two Valkyries were Brynhild ("bright battle") and Gudrun ("battle-rune"), and these two were associated with the hero Sigurd, another son of Sigmund. Gudrun had also been associated with Helgi in other sources, as the hero's first wife.

Brynhild was the most famous of all the Valkyries. In the Volsunga Saga, Odin punished Brynhild, for assigning the wrong king to die in battle. Odin condemned her to marry a mortal. Brynhild vowed that she would only marry the bravest of warriors, so she slept in the Ring of Fire, until the bravest hero could ride through the flame. Sigurd had rode through the flame, twice. The second time, she was duped into marrying Gunnar, the brother of Gudrun, while her hero married Gudrun. In the end she caused Sigurd's death. Brynhild overcome with grief, died in Sigurd's funeral pyre. See Volsunga Saga for the whole tale about Brynhild.

Brynhild goes by a different name in the one of the poems of Poetic Edda. In Sigrdrifumal ("Lay of Sigrdrifa"), Brynhild was known as Sigrdrifa ("victory-urger"), where she taught the hero runic magic.

Odin also had the wish-maidens or Óskmær to serve him. In once instance, the wish-maiden have fertility function, as found in the Volsunga Saga. See Hljod.

 
Related Information
Name
Valkyries – "Chooser of the Slain".

Battle-maidens, shield-maidens, swan-maidens, mead-maidens.

Related Articles
Brynhild, Gudrun, Sigrun.

Volsunga Saga.




Brynhild (Brünhild)
 

A Valkyrie. Brynhild was the daughter of Budli. She was the sister of Atli and Bekkhild, and possibly of Oddrun. Brynhild was also the foster-daughter of Heimir. In a Eddaic poem, Helreid Brynhildar (Brynhild's Ride to Hell), it says that she was one among eight sisters; whether this referred only to Valkyries that served Odin or that she really had seven sisters, is not made clear (I'm assuming the former).

Brynhild (Brünhild or Brunhild) was the beautiful Valkyrie who punished by Odin for disobedience. Brynhild had struck down Hjalmgunnar, the king Odin had promised victory. As punishment Odin told the Valkyrie that she had to marry, but she made a vow to marry only a man without fear. In the high mountain of Hindarfell, sleeping within a circle of fire, Brynhild was to sleep until a hero with no fear ride through the flame.

Sigurd rode through the flame twice.

The first time he rode through, Sigurd had already killed the dragon Fafnir, and had taken the dragon's cursed treasure. Sigurd and Brynhild fell in love with one another. But Sigurd left her there, since he had many tasks he must perform. Sigurd promised to return to her when he had complete his tasks. Brynhild agreed and said she would wait for him within the Ring of Fire. She promised she would marry no other but the man who would ride through the flame. Sigurd gave her his magic ring (Andvaranaut), so they were betrothed.

The second time Sigurd came to her, he was disguised as Gunnar, through the use of magic. The problem was that Gunnar was not brave enough to ride through the flame, so they had switch faces (shape-shifting) and Sigurd rode in Gunnar's place.

Sigurd had forgotten his pledge to Brynhild, was now betrothed to Gudrun, sister of Gunnar. Sigurd's amnesia was due to the magic potion of Grimhild, mother of Gunnar and Gudrun.

Brynhild was disappointed that it wasn't Sigurd who came for her. With no choice (because of her promise), she agreed to marry Gunnar. Sigurd exchanged the rings with Brynhild again, taking back the magic ring (Andvaranaut); Brynhild thought that Gunnar had taken her ring. Sigurd then brought her to Gunnar's court. Sigurd then resumed his own form. Gunnar and Brynhild were soon wedded, while Sigurd married Gunnar's sister, Gudrun.

Sigurd probably slept with her the first time they met, and bore a daughter named Aslaug. When Brynhild married Gunnar, instead of Sigurd, Byrnhild left Aslaug with Heimir, a chieftain and husband of Bekkhild, Brynhild's sister. (In the Nibelungenlied, Brunhild (Brynhild) was a virgin before she married Gunther (Gunnar).)

Later Brynhild argued with Gudrun of who had the bravest husband. Gudrun claimed that Brynhild had be duped by Sigurd and Gunnar, that it was actually Sigurd who rode through the flame the second time, disguised as Gunnar. As proof, Gudrun produced the magic ring that Brynhild had unknowingly returned to Sigurd. When the truth had being revealed, Brynhild sought revenge upon Sigurd.

Brynhild told Gunnar that Sigurd had broken his vow to him, and slept with her the night before she arrived in the palace. Anger at the betrayal, Gunnar sought Sigurd's death. Since vow to brotherhood to Sigurd, Gunnar and Hogni could not kill Sigurd without violating their oaths. His brother (Guttorm) mortally wounded Sigurd. At his death, Brynhild mocked Gudrun's grief and told her husband, that she lie about Sigurd betraying him. Brynhild told Gunnar and Hogni that her brother would avenge her death upon them. Gunnar tried to prevent her from killing herself, but Hogni saw that it was inevitable.

At the funeral, Brynhild was overcome with grief, killed herself. Brynhild revealed to Gunnar that he had always loved Sigurd, and asked her husband to allow her body to be burned together with Sigurd in a single pyre. By her order, she had Sigmund, the three years old son of Sigurd and Gudrun, killed and burnt in the pyre with her and Sigurd.

Brynhild seemed to have the ability to interpret dreams and as well foretell the future. Brynhild told Gudrun (before Gudrun met Sigurd), that Sigurd would love her (Brynhild) but marry Gudrun. She also told Gudrun that Sigurd would die at her brothers' hands, and that she would marry Atli and that she would killed her children and Atli. She also saw that Svanhild would be trampled to death. During the funeral of Sigurd, Brynhild told her husband, that he and Hogni, would be kill by her brother (Atli).


In German literature (Nibelungenlied), Brynhild had been identified with Brunhild, the warrior queen of Isenstein (possibly in Iceland). The theme in which Siegfried (Sigurd) won Brunhild for Gunther (Gunnar) through deception, and how Kriemhild (Gudrun) disclose to Brunhild, which would utlimately leads to Siegfried's death – the Nibelungenlied was the same as that of Volsunga Saga, but how and the way it reach its climax was different in many aspects. See Brunhild for more detail.

Being a daughter of Budli, would make her a Budling, however, in a fragment of a poem of Sigurd (Poetic Edda), she was called a "lady of the Skioldungs". Skioldungs were descendants of Skiold. Brynhild is connected to the Skioldungs because her father was one of the 18 sons of Halfdan the Old, or Ali in Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda (see 2nd genealogy about Halfdan the Old). Nine of these sons of Halfdan found dynasties in the northern kingdoms. Brynhild was there related to Sigurd (on his mother's side) and to children of Guiki (Gunnar, Hogni and Gudrun).

 
Related Information
Name
Brynhild Buðladóttir.
Brynhild, Brynhildr – "bright battle" (Norse).
Hild – "battle".
Brünhild, Brunhild (Germanic).

Sigrdrifa? (from Sigrdrifumal in Poetic Edda)

House (Dynasty)
Budlungs (descendants of Budli).

Related Articles
See also Brunhild.

Atli, Sigurd, Gudrun, Gunnar, Hogni, Guttorm, Grimhild.
Völsunga Saga. Sacrifice: Hanging and Runes


Brynhild, the Valkyrie
Arthur Rackham
Illustration, 1910



Gudrun (Grimhild, Kriemhild)
 

Wife of the hero Sigurd. Gudrun was the daughter of Giuki and Grimhild. She was the sister of Gunnar, Hogni and Guttorm. In the first lay of Gudrun (Gudrunarkvida I), when Gudrun mourned for Sigurd, she has a sister named Gullrond. But in Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda (41), Gudrun's sister was named Gudny, and Guttorm was only her half-brother (The Song of Hyndla 27).

Gudrun had a vision that her family and Brynhild would cause her husband's death. In the dream, Sigurd was sometimes symbolised as beautiful falcon with feather of gold, at other times as a hart.

Sigurd was actually in love with, Brynhild whom he was betrothed to (at their first meeting). The hero only had no memory of Brynhild, because Grimhild gave magic potion to Sigurd. Without his memory of Brynhild, Sigurd fell in love with Gudrun and married her. She became mother of a daughter named Svanhild and a son named Sigmund (Sigmund Sigurdarson).

Later, some time after Brynhild married her brother Gunnar, Gudrun and Brynhild had an argument. Infuriated by Brynhild's remark about her husband, Gudrun reveal the truth about who rode through the flame for Brynhild, Sigurd. Her brother and husband had deceived Brynhild. Enraged by the revelation, Brynhild sought Sigurd's death.

When her brother Guttorm killed Sigurd, her son Sigmund II was killed on the day of the funeral of Sigurd and Brynhild. Brynhild had deprived Gudrun of her son. Gudrun could not bear to live with her family anymore, ran off with Svanhild, and live for awhile with King Alf of Denmark, Sigurd's stepfather.

Years later, Atli, brother of Brynhild, want to have Gudrun's hand in marriage. Her brother (Gunnar) and her mother Grimhild tried to encourage Gudrun to marry Atli. Gudrun recalled in her dream that Atli would cause her brothers' death, refused. Grimhild, however, used her potion on Gudrun and made her daughter forget Sigurd.

Gudrun left her daughter behind, and married Atli. By Atli, Gudrun was the mother of two sons, Erpr and Eitill. However, Gudrun was unhappy with the marriage, and later realised that Atli married her so he could get the treasure of Sigurd, (which now belonged to her brothers, Gunnar and Hogni), and to avenge Brynhild's death.

Unlike the German tradition, ie. the Nibelungenlied, Gudrun was not interested in Sigurd's treasure, nor did she wanted to avenge her Sigurd upon her brothers, Gunnar and Hogni. Gudrun was more loyal to her brothers than to Atli, her second husband.

Gudrun tried to warn her brothers of Atli's treachery. Atli had invited the Giukings (Niflungs) to Hunland, to visit their sister. Gudrun had sent her cursed ring, the Andvaranaut, wrapped around by wolf's hair, to indicate treachery from Atli. Gunnar suspecting treachery, the two brothers hid the treasure before leaving home. They sank the treasure in the Rhine. The treasure became known as Rhinegold. When Atli's men ambushed the Burgundians, Gudrun donned a mail coat, took up the sword, and fought beside her brothers. Eventually all the Burgundians men were slaughtered, while Gunnar and Hogni were captured, and when neither brother would reveal the treasure whereabouts, they were interrogated before they were killed.

When Atli was celebrating with followers, they became intoxicated with wine and mead. Gudrun saw her chance to avenge her brothers. She killed her two sons to Atli, roasted their hearts before serving it to her drunken husband. After Gudrun revealed to husband what she done, she ran a sword through Atli. Together with her nephew, Niblung, son of Hogni, they killed the other guest by setting the palace on fire.

After killing Atli, she tried to drown herself, but was saved by King Jonakr, whom she married and became mother of three sons: Hamdir, Sorli, and Erp. When her daughter Svanhild was killed by a jealous king named Jormunrek, she asked her sons to avenge their stepsister's death. All three of her sons died.

There is also a story of Gudrun being a Valkyrie, who first fell in love with Helgi, half-brother of Sigurd. She married Helgi until he died, before she even met Sigurd.

In the Third Lay of Gudrun, a poem found in the Poetic Edda, Gudrun's maid, Herkia or Herkja, had accused Gudrun of committing adultery with Thiodrek (Dietrich). Gudrun bravely plead her innocence to her husband Atli. Gudrun was subjected to a trial where she had to retrieve precious stones from a hot, boiling cauldron. Gudrun retrieved the stones, her hand and arm unscalded. Herkia failed the test and her arm was scalded from the ordeal. Herkia was put to death at the bog for false accusation against the queen.

She should not be confused with Gudrun Osvifrsdottir from the Laxdæla saga.


In the Germanic literature, Gudrun is identified as Kriemhild, daughter of Aldrian and Uote.

In the Norwegian epic, titled Thiðrekssaga (Saga of Thidrek), her name was similar to Kriemhild; in this tale she was called Grimhild, "mask-battle". Grimhild was the daughter of Aldrian or Irung and Oda.

Kriemhild married the hero Siegfried (Sigurd). When her brother Gunther (Gunnar) and his henchman, Hagen (Hogni), killed Siegfried, Hagen had stolen Siegfried's treasure that Gudrun should have inherited. Kriemhild wanted the treasure, so she could use it to avenge her husband's death.

When she could not retrieved the treasure, Kriemhild married Etzel (Atli), king of the Huns. With a new and powerful husband, Kriemhild plotted her brother's death. She pretended that she was reconciled with brother and sent a message to Gunther to come and visit her. Hagen did not trust Kriemhild, so he hid the treasure somewhere on the Rhine River. When Gunther and his followers arrived, Kriemhild tricked Etzel's men into attacking her brother and his followers.

Gunther and Hagen were captured. It was she, who killed her own brother Gunther, not her husband Etzel. She killed Gunther to avenge Siegfried's death. Kriemhild also killed her brother's henchman Hagen, when he would not reveal the location of Siegfried's treasure. The German hero Hildebrand, sick of the killing committed by Kriemhild, killed his queen. The Nibelungenlied ended with her death, and the treasure was never recovered. See Kriemhild and the Nibelungenlied.

Gudrun or her German counterpart, Kriemhild, was a vindictive woman, but the heroine had different traditions, which produced two different outcomes.

In the Norse tradition, we have the heroine (Gudrun) who was more loyal to her brothers than her second husband (Atli), despite her brothers being responsible for the death of Sigurd and her son. She set out to avenge her brothers and kill Atli.

In the German tradition, the heroine (Kriemhild) was neither loyal to her second husband (Etzel), nor her brothers. Her single-minded determination to avenge her first husband (Siegfried) and eliminate her arch-enemy, Hagen, at all cost. Kriemhild used her husband and her son to sow discord between Etzel's vassals and the Burgundians, to manipulate the destruction upon her own family. Even her favourite brother, Giselher, was not spared.

The Norse version was no less horrific, because Gudrun killed her own two sons to Atli, and served their blood and flesh to her intoxicated husband, in a feast. The death of her sons was used to taunt her husband, before she cut down Atli with a sword.

 
Related Information
Name
Guðrún Gjúkadóttir.
Gudrun, Guðrún – "battle-rune" (Norse).
Grimhild, Grimhildr – "mask-battle" (in the Thiðrekssaga, Norwegian).

Kriemhild (Germanic).

Hildico, or Ildico (historically).

House (Dynasty)
Burgundy:
Niflungs (descendants of Nefir or Niflung),
Nibelungs (German descendants of Nibelung).
Giukings (children of Guiki).

Related Articles
See also Kriemhild.

Sigurd, Gunnar, Hogni, Guttorm, Grimhild, Brynhild, Atli, Helgi.
Völsunga Saga.



Hjordis (Sisibe)
 

In the Icelandic legend, Hjördís (Hjordis) was the wife of Sigmund and mother of the hero Sigurd.

Hjördís is known from various names. In the Icelandic works she was Hjördís or Hiordis the daughter of King Eylimi (though in the song of Hyndla, her father was called Hraundung), in the family called Odlings. Hiordis, as well as her father were descendants of Lofdi, hence they were the Lofdungs.

She is the sister of Svava, a Valkyrie, though this link between two women is only due to Eylimi being their father. But in the Norwegian Thiðrekssaga, she was Sisibe the daughter of the King Nidung of Spain. While in the Nibelungenlied, she was called Sieglind and was known only as wife of King Siegmund of the Netherlands.

In the Norse myth, she was the last wife of Sigmund. Hjördís was known for great beauty and was wooed by Lyngvi, the son of King Hunding, but she preferred Sigmund, even though the hero was a great deal older than she was.

According to the Volsunga Saga, she was pregnant when Sigmund and her father (Eylimi) fell in battle to the sons of Hunding. Sigmund was mortally wounded. He asked Hjördís to collect his shattered shard of his sword to be reforged for their unborn son. Hjördís fled to Denmark where she remarried to Alf, the son of King Hjalprek. Hjalprek raised her son Sigurd as if he was his own son, under the fosterage and tutoring of Regin. When Sigurd was old enough to avenge her husband's death, Hjördís gave Sigmund's shards to be reforged by Regin. With the sword Gram, Sigurd killed Lyngvi and his brothers in battle, and later killed a dragon Fafnir, who guarded the fable treasure of the dwarf Andvari.


In the Thiðrekssaga, the tale was quite different.

Sigmund was the king of Tarlungaland (most of France) and he had successfully wooed Sisibe (Hjördís), the daughter of King Nidung of Hispania (Spain).

Unlike the Volsunga Saga, it was not a rival king who had warred on Sigmund, because of Sisibe's beauty, but it was Sigmund's own vassals and advisers who had betrayed him during his absence.

They had only being at home for seven days, when Sigmund received news from his sister that he was called upon by King Drasolf, his brother-in-law, to aid him in war in the Pulinaland. During her husband's absence, she and Sigmund's kingdom were left in the hands of his two vassals, Count Artvin (Artwin) and Count Hermann (Herman). Sigmund left his kingdom with his army, without any knowledge that his young bride was already pregnant.

Artvin lusted after Sigmund's pregnant wife. When he made known of his attraction for her, she warned him to leave her alone or else face her husband's wrath. Fearing that Sisibe would disclose this to her husband, Artvin conspired with his companion Hermann to discredit the Queen.

When Artvin and Hermann met with Sigmund in the forest, they told her that she had committed adultery with her thrall (slave). Artvin claimed that he had killed the stranger and any witness to her treachery. Sigmund believing Artvin's lies, because he ordered his counts of her removal before his return to court. Artvin's plan was to lure Sisibe to the forest called Svava-forest (Black Forest?) and cut off her tongue for rejecting him.

The plan went went almost without a hitch. Sisibe had thought she would be going into the forest to meet with her husband. When they pulled off her horse when they reached a brook, Artvin gloated that her husband had given them permission to punish her for committing adultery.

Sisibe was shock with this news and frightened out of wits, managed to momentarily escape them. Hermann, who was reluctant from onset of Artvin's plots against the queen, now felt pity for the innocent, but terrified woman. Hermann felt guilty for also lying to their king. For now, Hermann refused to commit atrocity against a pregnant queen, and stood ready to defend her.

Artvin and Hermann were friends and blood brothers but they now fought one another with hatred. As they fought, Sisibe had crawled away to where belongings were, near the water. There she gave birth to Sigurd.

Frightened by her ordeal and weakened by the delivery, she wrapped her son in a linen cloth. Sisibe also put a neck chain around her son neck, with a ring that had rune inscriptions on it. She managed to place him in a crystal cask, before she fainted from fatigue and fright.

Hermann proved himself a better warrior as he drove his former friend back. With his sword, Hermann lopped Artvin's head. As Artvin fell, his foot knocked the crystal vessel into the river. Sisibe seeing her newborn son floated away downstream, Sisibe fainted in despair and died. Hermann buried her body.

(According to a different tradition, after killing Artvin, Hermann turned his attention on the queen. Seeing that Sisibe was cold and senseless, he thought the queen had died. So he left the bodies behind.)

Hermann returned to the king's with the news of the death of his wife and son. Hermann also told the king that he had killed Artvin. Sigmund banished Hermann for killing Artvin and disobeying his order.

The child in the casket landed on some rock, where Sigurd was found and was suckled by a hind. The baby lived with the hind for 12 months, but he grew rapidly; he was taller and stronger than any four-year-old boy.

One day Mimir, the great smith, founded the boy in the forest with the hind. Mimir saw that the boy could not speak, he realised that the gentle hind brought him up. Mimir, who was married, but had no son, decided to take the boy home and became the child's foster-father. It was Mimir who named the boy Sigurd.

As you can see, this version about the birth of Sigurd is quite different from the Icelandic legend, like the Volsunga Saga and the Eddas, where Sigmund had died in battle before his son was born, and Hjördís lived to marry Alf, the son of King Hjalprek of Denmark. Whereas in the Thiðrekssaga, Sisibe (Hjördís) died, but not Sigmund.


In the Nibelungenlied, where she was known as Sieglind, and she was married to Siegmund (Sigmund), the king of the Netherlands. The only role in the German epic was that she was concern about her son Siegfried (Sigurd) seeking to woo Kriemhild (Gudrun), the Burgundian princess, and later on, when she welcomed her new daughter-in-law when Siegfried and Kriemhild lived with them in the Netherlands. In this story, both parents outlived their son, Siegfried (Sigurd's).

 
Related Information
Name
Hjordis, Hjördís, Hiordis (Icelandic).
Sisibe (Norwegian).
Sieglind (German).

Hjördís Eylimadóttir.

House (Dynasty)
Lofdungs (descendants of Lofdi).

Related Articles
Sigmund, Sigurd.
Siegmund, Siegfried.




Signy
 

Signy was the daughter of Volsung and Ljod (Hljod). She was the sister of Sigmund (her twin) and nine other brothers.

Signy was the reluctant bride of Siggeir, king of Gothland. She immediately knew that Siggeir was treacherous and murderous. She unsuccessfully tried to convince her father not to let the marriage to take place. When Siggeir invited her father and brothers to his land, Signy tried to warn her father of her husband's plot, but was ignored. As a result, Volsung and nine of her brothers died. She only managed to save twin, Sigmund.

Signy bore four children to Siggeir. As her brother hid in the wood near the palace, the two plot to avenge their family. Signy planned to use her two eldest sons to destroy Siggeir. When each of her two elder sons reach the age of eleven, she send them to her brother to test their mettle. When each of her son show lacking in strength and courage, Signy ordered her brother to kill her son.

Still determined to avenge her father's death, Signy sought help from beautiful witch. The witch transformed Signy so that her looks resemble the witch herself. Disguised as the witch, Signy made love to her brother for three nights. She bore Sigmund a son named Sinfjotli.

Signy sent Sinfjotli (when he was eleven) to Sigmund. Sigmund was unaware that Sinfjotli was really his son. Likewise, Sinfjotli did not know Sigmund was his father. Together, Sigmund and Sinfjotli were strong enough to defeat Siggeir and his warriors. Using stealth, they tried to sneak into Siggeir's palace, but Siggeir and Signy's younger children spotted them. Again, Signy ordered Sigmund to kill her children, but he refused. They were instead killed by Sinfjotli. Sigmund and Sinfjotli were captured. Siggeir had them put in the barrow, and have them buried alive. Signy however secretly managed to give the magic sword to Sigmund. Sigmund and Sinfjotli dug their way out of the barrow.

When Sigmund and Sinfjotli escaped, they set the palace on fire letting no one but Signy to escape. Signy came out of the burning building only to tell Sigmund that Sinfjotli was really his son. Signy who was involved with her other children's death, returned to the burning house, to die with her husband, whom she hated.

 
Related Information
Name
Signý Völsungsdóttir.
Signy, Signý (Norse).
Sigemund (Anglo-Saxon).

Volsungs (descendants of Volsung).

House (Dynasty)
France:
Volsungs (descendants of Volsung).

Related Articles
Volsung, Hljod, Sigmund, Sinfjotli, Siggeir.



Svanhild (Swanhild)
 

Svanhild or Swanhild was the daughter of Sigurd and Gudrun. Svanhild was the sister of Sigmund Sigurdarson, as well as half-sister of Aslaug, the daughter of Sigurd and Brynhild. After Sigurd's death, Gudrun took her daughter to Denmark, where she was brought up in the court of Alf, Sigurd's stepfather.

Svanhild was so beautiful that the aged king, Jormunrek, wooed her. Gudrun agreed to her marriage to the king. However, she was in love with Randver, Jormunrek's son. Jormunrek's advisor, Bikki, betrayed them, by revealing to Jormunrek. Jormunrek killed his own son while Svanhild was trampled to death by horses. At first, the horses were unwilling to harm Svanhild, because she had inherited her father's eyes – very penetrating gaze.

Gudrun asked her three sons to King Jonakr - Hamdir, Sorli, and Erp - to avenge their half-sister's death. During their journey, his brothers accidentally killed Erp. Hamdir and Sorli managed to maimed Jormunrek, but the king's men kill the brothers.




Historically or in Germanic legend, Svanhild was identified with Sunilda, wife of chieftain of the Rosomoni. When the failed to aid the Goths against the Huns, Ermanaric (Jormunrek) captured Sunilda, and had her torn to pieces by wild horses. Her brothers, Sarus and Ammius, tried to avenged her death, by killing Ermanaric. They only managed to wounded Ermanaric.

 
Related Information
Name
Svanhildr Sigurðardóttir.
Svanhild, Svanhildr, Swanhild (Norse).
Sunilda (historical).

Volsungs (descendants of Volsung).

House (Dynasty)
France:
Volsungs (descendants of Volsung).

Related Articles
Sigurd, Gudrun, Jormunrek.
Völsunga Saga.



Sigrun
 

Valkyrie and lover of the hero Helgi. Sigrun was the daughter of King Hogni.

Sigrun was due to marry Hodbrod (Hodbrodd), son of King Granmar, whom she despised and had no intention of marrying. So when Sigrun met Helgi, son of Sigmund, she urged the hero into battle against Hodbrod.

The sons of Hunding, enemies of Helgi, became allies of Hodbrodd. Helgi had killed their father in an earlier war. Helgi with the help of his half-brother Sinfjotli, defeated and killed Hodbrod in battle. Hunding's sons - Alf, Eyolf, Herward and Hagbard - were also killed.

 
Related Information
Name
Sigrun.

Related Articles
Helgi, Sinfjotli.

See Helgi Hundingsbani in The Two Helgi for full legend.



Svava
 

Valkyrie in the Helgarkvida Hiorvardssonar (Lay of Helgi Hiorvardsson, Poetic Edda). Svava was a daughter of Eylimi. If this Eylimi is the same king in the Icelandic saga of the Volsungs, then this would make her sister of Hjordis, who was wife of Sigmund and mother of Sigurd. But this seem unlikely, because Helgi Sigmundsson is supposed to be the reincarnation of Helgi Hiorvardsson.

Svava is a Valkyrie, and the poem referred to her as a shield-maiden.

Svava was riding with eight other Valkyries, where she met Helgi, son of Hiorvard and Sigrlinn, and she gave him the name, Helgi (his parents had never given a name at birth, until Helgi and Svava met).

Helgi and Svava married, but Hedin, Helgi's half-brother desired Svava for himself, and in the duel, Hedin had mortally wounded her lover. Helgi told his wife that Svava should marry and sleep with Helgi's killer (Hedin), but she rejected her husband's proposal. It would seem that Svava died with Helgi, and they were both reincarnated. She as Sigrun, and he as Helgi Sigmundsson.

 
Related Information
Name
Svava.

Related Articles
Hjordis, Helgi Hiorvardsson.



Hljod
 

A wish-maiden or óskmær and wife of Volsung. Hljod was a daughter of the giant Hrimnir.

Hljod first appeared in the Volsunga Saga, serving Odin as a wish-maiden, one of the many names for a valkyrie. When Rerir, son of Sigi and grandson of Odin, was having trouble to beget a child upon his wife, Odin summoned Hljod to deliver a magic apple. Apples have several different mythological symbols in Norse mythology. For the gods in Asgard, the apples of Idun keep all deities from aging. But in Hljod's case, apples are symbol of fertility. Hljod dropped the apple on Rerir's lap. It is not exactly explicit, who ate the apple, but it is most likely Rerir had shared the apple with his wife. Shortly afterward, Rerir's wife became pregnant.

Rerir died before the child was born, and Rerir's wife carried the child for an incredible six years, before her son was born. Her son was named Volsung, and she died after childbirth, but not before her son gave her a kiss.

Volsung grew faster and stronger than most boys of that age. When he was fully grown, the giant Hrimnir send his daughter Hljod to marry Volsung.

Hljod became the mother of ten sons and one daughter. The eldest of her children were the twins Sigmund and a daughter Signy. Hljod doesn't appear again in the story before the incidence of Siggeir's arrival at her husband's court.

 
Related Information
Name
Hljod – "howling".

Related Articles
Rerir, Volsung, Sigmund, Signy.



Swan-Maidens
 

Swan-maidens was another name for the Valkyries, because they wore garments with swan feathers, which enabled them to fly, just like the goddess Frigg or Freyja have a cloak of falcon feathers.

Here, I am interested in three particular swan-maidens, found in the poem in the Poetic Edda, called Völundarkvida ("Lay of Völundr").

Volund, or Wayland as he was known in English legend, was a famous master smith. Volund and his two brothers, Egil and Slagfid, encountered the three swan-maidens bathing in the lake. The three brothers raped these maidens.

Two of the maidens, Alvit (Hervor) and Svanhvit (Hladgud) were the daughters of King Hlodver. While the third swan-maiden, named Olrun, was the daughter of King Valland. The three brothers had each married one of the maidens. Volund (Wayland) was married to Alvit, while Egil was husband of Olrun and Slagfid that of Svanhvit.

The three swan-maidens lived with the three brothers for seven years, before they had unexpectedly abandoned their husbands, and were never heard of again. Volund's two brothers went to find their wives, but the smith stayed at home in Wolfdale.

 
Related Information
Name
Alvit, Hervor.

Svanhvit, Swanwhite; Hladgud.

Olrun.

Related Articles
Wayland.



Olof
 

Queen of Saxland, and mother of Yrsa. Although, she is not a really a Valkyrie, the Olof in Hrolfs saga do like dressing in armour and carry weapons around.

According to the saga of Hrolf Kraki, she was unmarried. She was raped by Helgi king of Denmark, after she rejected his marriage proposal. She had Yrsa, but she neglected her daughter, and knowing that Helgi would marry she did her daughter, Olof did not say anything, letting them committed incest. Some time after Hrolf was born, Olof revealed the secret to what seem to be happy couple. Both were devastated by the truth, and Yrsa left her father-husband and returned to Olof, only to be married off to Adils, king of Sweden, whom Yrsa despire.

Olof got her revenge on Helgi for raping her, and get her with a child whom she never loved.

In the Ynglinga (part of Heimskringla), however, Snorri Sturluson says that Alof (Olof) the Great was married to Geirthjof, the king of Saxland, and that Geirthjof was Yrsa's father, not Helgi of Denmark. Though the saga and the Ynglinga are both Icelandic literature, their traditions seemed to be different, in regarding to Yrsa's father. Alof's part in the Ynglinga, but more about Yrsa's marriage to both Adils and Helgi were different to the saga. (See Yrsa, Helgi and Adils.)

In Snorri's Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, Olof is not mentioned at all. However, Yrsa and Hrolf are, but neither Eddaic works revealed much about them.

In the Old English epic, Beowulf, Olof is not mentioned at all, and the father of Yrse (Yrsa) is neither Halga (Helgi) nor Geirthjof; her father was Healfdene (Halfdan), which would make Yrse sister to Heorogar, Hrothgar and Halga (Helgi). Also she is not the mother of Hrothulf or Hrolf in this Old English epic.

Queen of Saxland. Olof was both a warrior-queen and sorceress, she could very well be a Valkyrie. Not only was she beautiful, she was very strong. But her beauty was not match by her temperament, because she was cruel and arrogant. She wanted no husband, least of all, Helgi, king of Denmark.

When Olof rebuffed Helgi, by humilating him – got him drunk, drugging him to sleep, shave off all his hair, and stuck tar all over his body, before sticking him a bag and send him back his ship. Helgi was powerless against Olof, since she managed to gather her army.

 
Related Information
Name
Olof (according to Hrolfs saga Kraka).
Alof the Great (according to Ynglinga Saga).

Sources
Saga of Hrolf Kraki was written in the 14th century.

Ynglinga Saga was written by Snorri Sturluson.

Related Articles
Helgi, Yrsa, Adils.



Other Valkyries
 

I have already written articles on the Valkyries Brynhild, Gudrun and Sigrun, so here are a list of other Valkyries, where only their names survived, but they have no myths of their own.

The following Valkyries were found in a list of Snorri Sturluson's Gylfaginning in the Prose Edda.

They served as mead-maidens to the Einheriar in Valhalla:

 
Hrist ("shaker"),
Mist ("cloud"),
Skeggiold ("axe-age"),
Skogul ("shaker"),
Hild ("battle"),
Thrud ("power"),
Hlokk ("noise" or "battle"),
Herfiotur ("host-fetter"),
Goll ("tumult"),
Geirahod ("spear-fight"),
Randgrid ("shield-truce"),
Radgrid ("counsel-truce"),
Reginleif ("power-truce").

The Valkyries, who rode into the battlefield, were responsible for allotting death and governing victory. Two of them were mentioned: Gunn or Guinn ("war") and Rota. They rode with the youngest Norn Skuld, who was also a Valkyrie.

These are called valkyries. Odin sends them to every battle. They allot death to men and govern victory. Gunn and Rota and the youngest norn, called Skuld, always ride to choose who shall be slain and to govern the killings.
Gylfaginning 35 (Prose Edda)

In the second poem of Helgi Hundingsbani, Gunn was mentioned to have sisters (names not given), who were most likely Valkyries as well.

 
Related Information
Related Articles
Brynhild, Gudrun and Sigrun.









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