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Valkyries: Fierce women of war

The women who, in Norse myth, swept down on battlefields to pick out heroes from among the dead, taking them off to live with Odin, the god of war in his great hall of Valhalla

In Norse mythology, Valkyries were women who went out into battles to choose the slain warriors who deserved to be in Valhalla, Odin’s place in Asgard, to carry on fighting in preparation for the final apocalyptic confrontation of Ragnarok, between gods and giants. Fighters would see the Valkyries flying through the air or riding on horses, with shields and helmets, some saving the lives and ships of those they favoured, some causing death to those they disliked. These stories of Valkyries and Valhalla offer insights into the lives and values of the people who told them, with the possibility that human women went into battle too.

Bridget Kendall is joined by Sif Rikhardsdottir, Professor and Chair of Comparative Literature at the University of Iceland, Marianne Hem Eriksen, Associate Professor of Archaeology at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo in Norway, and Judith Jesch, Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham, in the UK.

(Picture: Illustration from The Rhinegold and the Valkyrie, 1910. Artist: Arthur Rackham Credit: Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

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