Kobold Press

Valkyries: Shieldmaidens of the North

Brynhild, by Gaston Bussière, 1897In Norse mythology, valkyries are servants of Odin. These female figures choose the most valorous of those that die on the battlefield to bring to Valhalla to become einherjar—or the warriors who’ll fight during Ragnarök. This is far from Valkyries’ only function, however. The incomparable valkyries appear throughout the poetry of the skalds as lovers of champions and mortals, daughters of royalty, mentors to heroes, shieldmaidens, and tragic heroes. They sometimes have raven companions or possess the ability to shapeshift between human and swan. These battle-mistresses have thus been attributed many titles, and their very names always describe some aspect of the battlefield, conflict, or war.

Terms Describing Valkyries

• Alvítr: “All-White”

• Biört: “Bright”

• Dísir Suðrænar: “Southern Dísir” or “Goddesses” …

• Drósir Suðrænar: “Southern Maids”

• Hjalmmeyjar: “Helm Maidens”

• Hjalmvítr: “Helm-White”

• Hvít: “White”

• Óskmeyjar: “Wish Maidens”

• Skjaldmeyjar: “Shield Maidens”

• Sólbiört: “Sun-Bright”

• Suðræn: “Southern One”

• Svanmeyja: “Swan Maiden”

• Valakusjó: Gothic form of the word Valkyrie

• Valkyrie: “Chooser of the Slain”

• Valmeyjar: “Battle Maidens” or “Corpse Maidens”

• Waelcyrie or Waelcyrge: Old English form of the word Valkyrie; also means “Raven”

• Walachuriá: Old High German form of the word Valkyrie

Valkyries’ Names and Their Meanings

• Brynhildr: “Bright Battle,” “Byrnie of Battle,” or “Mail-Coat of Battle”

• Eir: “Clemency,” “Help,” “Mercy” or “Peace”

• Friagabi: “Giver of Freedom”

• Geirahöð or Geirahöd: “Spear-Battle,” or “Spear of Battle”

• Geiravör: “Spear-Vör”

• Geirdriful: “Spear-Flinger”

• Geirönul, Geirrönul, Geirömul, or Geirölul: “The One Charging Forth With the Spear”

• Geirskögul: “Spear-Skögul” (see Skögul below)

• Göll: “Battle,” “Battle Cry,” “Loud Cry,” “Noise,” or “Tumult”

• Göndul: “Enchanted Stave,” “Magic Wand,” “She-Were-Wolf,” or “Wand-Wielder”

• Grimhildr: “Mask” or “Helm of Battle”

Guðr or Gunnr: “Battle” or “War”

• Herfjötur: “Fetter of the Army,” “Host-Fetter,” or “War-Fetter”

• Herja: “Devastate”

• Hervör Alvitr: “Hervör All-Wise,” or “Hervör Strange-Creature”

• Hilda or Hildr: “Battle”

• Hildeberg: “Battle Fortress”

• Hildegund: “Battle War”

• Hjalmþrimul: “Female Warrior” or “Helmet Clatterer”

• Hjörþrimul: “The Sword Warrioress”

Hlaðguðr Svanhvít: “Hlaðguðr Swan-White”

• Hlökk: “Battle,” “Din of Battle,” or “Noise”

• Hrist: “The Quaking One” or “The Shaker”

• Hrund: “Pricker”

• Kára: “The Curly One,” “The Stormy One,” or “The Wild”

• Kreimhildr: Signification unknown

• Mist: “Cloud,” “Fog,” or “Mist”

Ölrún: “Ale-Rune”

• Raðgrðr or Ráðgriðr: “Counsel of Peace,” “Council-Truce,” “Gods’ Peace,” or “The Bossy”

• Randgriðr or Rangrid: “Shield-Destroyer,” “Shield of Peace,” or “Shield-Truce”

• Reginleif: “Daughter of the Gods,” “Heritage of the Gods,” or “Power-Trace”

• Róta: “She Who Causes Turmoil” or “Sleet and Storm”

• Sanngriðr: “Very Cruel” or “Very Violent”

• Sigrdrífa or Sigrdrifa: “Inciter to Victory,” “Victory Blizzard,” or “Victory-Urger”

• Sigrún: “Victory Rune”

• Skamöld: “Sword-Time”

• Skeggöld or Skeggjöld: “Axe-Age” or “Wearing a War Axe”

• Skögul: “Battle,” “High-Towering,” “Rager,” or “Shaker”

• Skuld: “Debt,” “Future” or “She Who Is Becoming”

• Sváva: Signification unknown

• Sveið: “Noise” or “Vibration”

• Svipul: “Changeable”

• Þögn: “Silence”

• Þrima: “Fight”

• Þrúðr: “Power” or “Strength”

4 Replies to "Valkyries: Shieldmaidens of the North"

Wolfgang

April 26, 2011 at 9:06am

I know that thorn is pronounced “th”, more or less. I had no idea that eth is often silent (and originally Irish!).

Including a “signification unknown” under “meanings” strikes me as funny.

Jarrod

April 26, 2011 at 5:21pm

Well, at least I have made The Kobold-in-Chief smile, so my day is not entirely lost after all…

On a more serious note: I have checked many references over the Web and at home and have not been able to find a description for Kreimhildr and Sváva, but I have decided to let them in the article anyway because they were mentionned in more than one place. If anybody can tell me what these two names mean don’t be shy and leave a comment here.

If not, well… a mystery is always intriguing, and we now have two to solve!

Dan Voyce

April 27, 2011 at 5:33am

Excellent work, Jarrod. The more he smiles, the less he has his minions beat us in the text mines!

Frank

May 2, 2011 at 12:00pm

Krimhild/Kriemhild/Grimhild apparently means “masked hero” in Old High German, at least according to the german wikipedia entry.

The male form of the name is Hildegrim.

Kriemhild is of course known from the Nibelungenlied and i guess the Islandic form of the name would probably be Kreimhildr.