Redesign a Myth Project

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I am exploring the Valkyrie myth for the digital painting project. This afternoon I have been researching Norse mythology and the Valkyrie. I am pleasantly surprised to find that the legend was different to what I originally thought; I believe that I will have a lot to work with.

The Valkyrie Legend

The term Valkyrie means “chooser of the fallen”, which is explored in several ways within the legend (EB, 2015).

According to Norse mythology, the Valkyrie are warlike female spirits of the god Odin (Højbjerg, 2011). They circled over battlefields, flying with swan wings and riding on horses (EB, 2015). After the battle, they chose the slain warriors that would be taken to Valhalla (Odin’s adobe) while they waited for Ragnarok (the end of world) when they would fight as Odin’s ghostly army (Joe, 2010).

The_Valkyries_Chooser_of_the_Slain

Romanticised depiction of Valkyries

Romanticised tales of the Valkyrie depict them as noble, heavenly beings helping the dead to their final resting place (McCoy, 2012). These legends describe tales of golden-haired virgins who protected, and often fell in love with, mortal heroes (MR, 2012). In these tales, the Valkyrie could transform into swans but would be trapped on earth if caught without their swan plumage (similar to the swan-maiden myth).

This censored version of the Valkyrie is a distinct departure from the sinister nature of the original legend (MR, 2012). Old Norse mythology depicts the Valkyrie as spirits of carnage and slaughter (McCoy, 2012). Considered fierce and bloodthirsty, these maidens not only chose who went to Valhalla but also dictated the fate of those in battle (Højbjerg, 2011). As the battle raged, the Valkyrie circled above like birds of prey (Joe, 2010). Using malicious runic magic, they altered the destiny of the fighting warriors, leading many to their deaths (McCoy, 2012). In this way, the Valkyrie lived up to their title as “chooser of the dead”.

A new design

For the project, I plan on redesigning a Valkyrie (character), her horse (creature) and a battlefield (environment). I really want to draw from the old heathen version of the legend as it is much darker and more interesting.

When researching, I found constant references to the Valkyrie being like birds of prey: circling the dead and scavenging their bodies once the battle was over. I would like to, in some way, incorporate this into my design. I feel that this will be appropriate as ravens were considered a symbol of Odin and the Valkyrie were his helpers (McCoy, 2012).

tumblr_n7a8gg86hN1qfxu09o1_1280

Woodward captures the original myth in his piece “Valkyrie”

In addition to this, I think I would like to rework the traditional dress in some way. In most resources I found (and, most artworks too) the Valkyrie wear helmets and shields (EB, 2015). A lot of artworks depict them with swords but this is inaccurate (but I guess up for artist interpretation) as they did not engage in battle themselves and spears were more common at the time (MR, 2012).

Personally, I would like to incorporate a runic staff/wand. This would relate to Seidr, the magic system used to alter the fate and lives of the warriors, and would also work with the Norse beliefs of destiny (McCoy, 2012). In addition to this the tradition golden/heavenly colour palettes could be changed to match the legend’s emphasise of blood and death (EB, 2015).

At this stage I will need to do a lot of concept work but I am quite excited to work on designs with such a cool, badass origin.

References

Encyclopedia Britannica (EB). (2015). Valkyrie. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from
http://www.britannica.com/topic/Valkyrie-Norse-mythology

Højbjerg, M. (2011). Valkyries in Norse Mythology. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from
http://www.viking-mythology.com/valkyries.php

Joe, J. (2010). Valkyries. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from
http://www.timelessmyths.com/norse/valkyries.html

McCoy, D. (2011). Destiny. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from
http://norse-mythology.org/concepts/destiny-wyrd-urd/

McCoy, D. (2011). Magic. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from
http://norse-mythology.org/concepts/magic/

McCoy, D. (2010). Runes. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from
http://norse-mythology.org/runes/

McCoy, D. (2012). Valkyries. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from
http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/valkyries/

Mythical Realm (MR). (2012). The Valkyries. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from
http://www.mythicalrealm.com/legends/valkyries.html

Valkyrie [Image]. (2014). Retrieved from
sweet-bread.tumblr.com/post/88996506273/valkyrie-10×14-arches-hot-press-140lb-daniel

Valkyries [Image]. (2011). Retrieved from
http://www.viking-mythology.com/valkyries.php

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