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"We spin, we spin a weave of spears, where fighters' flags are flying. Let us not be careless with his life; we Valkyries have the choice of the dead."
— Darraðarljóð, the Song of the Spear, stanza 6

The valkyries, also called the valkyrs, are a group of quasi-divine female warriors who serve the god Odin of the Norse pantheon. They are called poetically the Handmaidens of Battle, the Choosers of the Slain,[1] and the Warrior Maidens of Odin.[2]

The valkyries' responsibility is to choose the Einherjar, Odin's warriors, from the most valiant of heroes who fall in battle.[3] For this reason, battle is poetically called the clash of the valkyrie.[4]

Appearance and personality

Valkyries can only be seen by those who are about to die.[5]

Valkyries are all female. They are commonly highly charismatic, and their beauty is matched only by their skill at arms. They travel outfitted with magical swords, armor, and shields, and ride great horses.[2] Their hair, typically blonde in color, is kept braided in a practical manner, and their heads are well protected with sturdy helmets.[5]

The valkyries travel on horseback, and are sometimes known to ride winged steeds.[1][6]

They wear swan plumage which allows them to fly between Asgard and the mortal realm of Midgard to choose the fallen dead. It is said that if this plumage is stolen from her, a valkyrie may be held captive by the thief for up to nine years before she can return.[2]

When they travel to the material plane, valkyries glow with bright colors that are seen from land the aurora borealis.[5] It is said that these are caused by a valkyrie slicing through the sky with her sword drawn as she rides to Midgard.[7]

Valkyries are chosen for their love of battle.[5] They will readily challenge a strong opponent to a fight for its own sake.

Abilities

The physical and supernatural abilities of a valkyrie are equivalent to those of a paladin of considerable skill.[1] They have the ability to hear the sound of battle, no matter where in multiverse it takes place, as long as the Norse pantheon are worshiped in that world.[5]

The Valkyries are minor deities of the Norse pantheon, and are immortal. They do not require food or rest, and do not suffer from old age, although they can be slain. Those killed in their home of Ysgard return to life as the warriors of Valhalla do.[8]

In their home plane, the valkyries are also invulnerable to many magical effects, including charm, symbol, fear and hopelessness spells.[9]

The unique sword Undead Slayer has the power to summon a valkyrie.[10].

Organization and structure

The valkyries ultimately serve the Norse pantheon, whose leader is the god Odin.[5] Their base of operations is Asgard.[11] They are also spotted in Jotunheim and Vanaheim, but are almost never encountered by adventurers in Alfheim.[9]

The leader of the valkyries is Reginleif, a chaotic neutral warrior maiden whose orders are carried out faithfully by every valkyrie, einherjar and petitioner of Asgard.[12] Including Reginleif, twenty-seven valkyries are known. Among the most notable are Skuld, Skogul, Svava, Gunn, Held, Gondul, Geirskogul,[13] Brynhild,[14] and the mad Arnora.[15]

The valkyries are out-ranked by most of the Norse gods, holding a position equivalent to a divine proxy or quasi-deity, such as Frey's shield-man Skirnir. They are in turn considered of higher status than the numerous Einheriar warriors and berserkers of Asgard.[16] Even a single valkyrie is able to lead an entire army by force of personality alone.[15] It is said that the fallen of Valhalla have died so often that they know each of the valkyries by name.[17]

The valkyries are rivals of the lillendi.[18]

The god Kord of the Greyhawk pantheon is said to be served by numerous tall, winged valkyries of menacing apperance and chaotic temperament, called by some storm angels.[8]

History

Creation

Legend has it that the valkyries were born from drops of blood spilled by gods on the battlefields of Ysgard.[8]

Recent history

In time of dire need, valkyries have served the defense of Asgard.[19] They have also been known to join the armies of Odin on forays into the Blood War.[20]

The Norse god Tyr once visited Stygia escorted by 14 valkyries.[21]

The mad valkyrie Arnora, plagued with nightmares of the final battle of Ragnarok, once raised an army to lead an assault on Jotunheim, at risk of starting Ragnarok early.[15]

Publication history

Original D&D

The valkyrs first appear in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976).

Basic D&D

AD&D 1st edition

The story Dragon #109 (May 1986), p.71-75, describes a valkyrie named Fria.

AD&D 2nd edition

The valkyries are primarily detailed in the Planescape sourcebook On Hallowed Ground (1996) and Book of Chaos{{UnknownBook}}.

D&D 3rd edition

The valkyries appear in Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.199-200. An alternative concept for the valkyrie appears in Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords (2006), p.156-158.

D&D 4th edition

D&D 5th edition

Creative origins

The valkyries appear in Norse mythology.

Reception and influence

The valkyrie appears as a character class in the roguelike computer RPG NetHack, where they are of lawful alignment and serve the Norse war god Tyr. The valkyrie is considered one of the best starting classes in NetHack due to its survivability, physical strength, and straightforward play style.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.200-201.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), p.32.
  3. Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.199.
  4. HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (1991), p.26.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.149.
  6. Planes of Chaos, Book of Chaos (1994), p.102-103.
  7. Dragon #109 (May 1986), p.71-75.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords (2006), p.156-158.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Plane facts on Gladsheim, Dragon #90 (Oct 1984), p.36-42,54-60.
  10. Encyclopedia Magica Volume Four (1995), p.1411.
  11. On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.178.
  12. Planes of Chaos, Book of Chaos (1994), p.113-114.
  13. Planes of Chaos, Book of Chaos (1994), p.107.
  14. HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (1991), p.67.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Planes of Chaos, Chaos Adventures (1994), p.32.
  16. Planes of Chaos, Book of Chaos (1994), p.103.
  17. Planes of Chaos, Travelogue (1994), p.40.
  18. Planes of Chaos, Monstrous Supplement (1994), p.17.
  19. Planes of Chaos, Book of Chaos (1994), p.117.
  20. Hellbound: The Blood War, The Dark of the War (1996), p.71.
  21. OP1 Tales of the Outer Planes (1988), p.79.
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