Peter Nicolai Arbo, (1831-92)
Valkyrie’s Death, 1880
Oil on canvas
A 10th century Viking unearthed in the 1880s was an elite warrior buried with a sword, an ax, a spear, arrows, a knife, two shields, and a pair of warhorses. And like a mythical valkyrie, a new study published finds that the warrior was a woman—the first high-status female Viking warrior to be identified. A few female Viking soldiers have been unearthed over the years, but none had the trappings of high rank found in the Birka burial—not just weapons and armor, but also game pieces and a board used for planning tactics. Now, the warrior’s DNA proves her sex, suggesting a surprising degree of gender balance in the Vikings’ violent social order. More on the unearthed warrior
In Norse mythology, a valkyrie (from Old Norse valkyrja “chooser of the slain”) is one of a host of female figures who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live. Selecting among half of those who die in battle, the valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin. There, the deceased warriors become einherjar. When the einherjar are not preparing for the events of Ragnarök, the valkyries bear them mead. Valkyries also appear as lovers of heroes and other mortals, where they are sometimes described as the daughters of royalty, sometimes accompanied by ravens and sometimes connected to swans or horses. More on the Valkyrie
Peter Nicolai Arbo (June 18, 1831 – October 14, 1892) was a Norwegian historical painter, who specialized in painting motifs from Norwegian history and images from Norse mythology. He is most noted for Asgårdsreien, a dramatic motif based on the Wild Hunt legend and Valkyrie, which depicts a female figure from Norse mythology. More on Peter Nicolai Arbo
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