5 Famous Valkyries in Norse Mythology

Anyone who knows anything about Norse mythology probably knows a bit about valkyries. However, there are many of them.

Experts think the number of valkyries mentioned in the mythology tales can be as high as 300. Which are the most popular among them?

The five most famous valkyries are Hildr, Sigrun, Brynhildr, Göndul, and Kára.

They frequently appear in the Poetic Edda, Prose Edda, and many other texts of Norse mythology. Their actions often decide and change the course of these legends. 

This article will discuss five of the most well-known valkyries and their history. 

Also, see What Is the Valkyrie Symbol? to learn more.

Who is Sigrun? See below

1. Hildr

Hildr is one of the most popular valkyries. She features prominently in many Norse poems and the Prose Edda, a book considered the most detailed source on Norse mythology available today. 

Hildr was the daughter of King Högni and Queen Hervor. Her name comes from Old Norse and is a poetic word for “battle.” [1]

According to the legend of Heðinn and Högni, Prince Heðinn and King Högni used to be great friends.

They were also the two best warriors of their time, evenly matched in heroic achievement and skill. Moreover, Hildr and Heðinn were supposed to get married. 

Once, when King Högni was out of his kingdom, Prince Heðinn abducted Hildr on the advice of Göndul, a Valkyrie.

An enraged Högni went after them and tracked them down to Hoy in Orkney, Scotland.

Hildr didn’t want either of them to be hurt, so she tried to play peacemaker and begged her father to avoid the war. However, Högni felt insulted and didn’t relent. 

A battle ensued, and two armies fought fiercely. After nightfall, the survivors returned to their respective camps, and Princess Hildr roamed the battlefield and resurrected the slain.

She would do this at the end of every day. [2]

Every morning the dead would rise and join their side in the battle. It’s said this cycle continued until Ragnarok. 

Also, see 15 Facts About Viking Women to learn more.

Scandinavian woman
Who is Brynhildr? See below

2. Sigrun

The name Sigrun means “victory rune.” She appears in the poems “The First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane” and “The Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane” in the Poetic Edda, a collection of Old Norse narrative poems.

Princess Sigrun was the daughter of King Högni of Östergötland and was promised to Höðbroddr, the son of King Granmarr. However, she didn’t want to marry him. 

Sigrun met Helgi Hundingsbane, and soon the two fell in love.

Sigrun told him about the impending wedding. Helgi, who wanted to marry her, assembled a force and invaded Granmarr’s empire. [3]

The Granmarrs were ready for the battle and had called upon many kings to help, including King Högni and his sons Bragi and Dagr.

Still, the fight proved disastrous for them, and most of the kings and chiefs died, except for Dagr. He was allowed to live in exchange for his loyalty to Helgi. 

However, Dagr had to avenge the death of his father and brother to keep his honor. He sought Odin’s help and killed Helgi with Odin’s spear. 

Helgi was put in a burial mound, and he went to Valhalla. But, he returned to his barrow one last time to spend a night with Sigrun. 

At dawn, Helgi left for Valhalla. Sigrun spent her life waiting for him to return one more time. But he didn’t, and she died early from grief. [4]

In the next life, Sigrun was born as Kára, a Valkyrie, and Helgi as Helgi Haddingjaskati, a legendary warrior, and they met again. 

Also, see 250 Viking Girl Names to learn more.

3. Brynhildr

Brynhildr, also known as Brunhild, Sigrdrífa, and some other names, is arguably the most famous valkyrie of all time.

Brynhildr means “armor warrior,” and she is one of the main characters in many poems in the Poetic Edda.  

According to the Eddic Poem Völsunga saga, Odin was angry at Brynhildr because she struck down the wrong king on the battleground.

He sentenced her to marry a mortal man and put her in a deep sleep, surrounded by a ring of fire. Brynhildr swore she would only marry a person who knew no fear. 

Eventually, the brave warrior Sigurd crossed the ring of fire, found Brynhildr and woke her up. They fell in love, and Sigurd left after promising to return and marry her. 

However, when he was away, Sigurd was given a potion that made him forget Brynhildr. Later, he married Princess Gudrun. [5] 

Meanwhile, Brynhildr was still protected by the ring of the fire. She was rescued again, this time by a prince named Gunnar, brother of Gudrun.

Bound by her words, Brynhildr had to marry Gunnar. 

During an argument with Gudrun, Brynhildr learned that Sigurd swapped faces with Gunnar, crossed the ring of fire on his behalf, and married her.

She was heartbroken and wanted vengeance, so she orchestrated the death of Sigurd. [6]

However, she was still in love with him. So, she jumped into Sigurd’s funeral pyre and died with him. 

Also, see Who Kills Lagertha In Vikings? to learn more.

Who is Kára? See below

4. Göndul

The name Göndul means “wand-wielder.” She features in multiple works in the Eddas. [7]

According to the saga of Sörla þáttr, Göndul was the Valkyrie who met Prince Heðinn thrice.

The first time, she suggested that Heðinn sail to the north and test his strength against Högni. The second time, she encouraged him to kidnap Princess Hildr. 

The last time they met, she revealed to Heðinn that she had put him, Högni, and their entire army in a spell as per the wish of Odin so that they continue to fight till Ragnarok. [8]

5. Kára

As mentioned earlier, Valkyrie Kára was a reincarnation of Valkyrie Sigrun. Her name means “the wild, stormy one,” and she appears in a prominent role in “The Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane” in the Poetic Edda. [9]

After the tragic end of Sigrun and Helgi’s story, they were reunited as Kára and Helgi Haddingjaskati in the next birth.

When Helgi was fighting against the army of Hrómundr, he was able to kill all eight of Hrómundr’s brothers, thanks to Kára.

She flew over the battleground in the shape of a swan, singing magical songs that made the enemy forget to defend themselves. 

However, when Helgi was fighting Hrómundr, he accidentally cut off the swan’s leg.

A hurt Kára couldn’t protect him any longer, and he was killed by Hrómundr after a fierce battle. 

Also, see 250 Viking Boy Names to learn more.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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