According to Norse Mythology, every single warrior who died in battle and gained the approval of the All-Father, Odin, while doing so, is now residing in Asgard, the land of the gods. There, they stay in the famous hall of Valhalla, feasting and preparing for the great apocalyptic battle of Ragnarok. In his work, The Prose Edda, Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) recorded a vivid description of Valhalla, drawing heavily from The Lay of Grimnir for his detail.
According to these sources, Valhalla is a huge hall outfitted with at least 540 doors standing tall and wide enough for around eight hundred rushing soldiers to easily pass through each doorway. Every day the Einherjar, the warriors who died in battle and were allowed to enter Odin’s hall, wake up, don their battle-gear and fight to the death amongst themselves, only to revive and meet back at Valhalla for a feast around suppertime. At the head of the feast sits Odin (curiously drinking only wine and not eating food), surrounded by his several pets. The All-Father, according to myth, is accompanied by two wolves, named Geri and Freki, and two ravens (or crows, for the less poetic), named Hugin and Munin. The ravens serve an important role for Odin, acting as his spies and scouts, gathering intelligence on the countless happenings among the humans, elves, dwarves, giants and gods.
Odin’s wolves and ravens, however, are not the most interesting animals present in Valhalla. The unimaginable quantity of food and drink required to happily feed all of the fallen warriors throughout history is, according to myth, apparently satisfied by two huge animals. For the food supply, a single boar named Saehrimnir is carved and cooked daily by a chef named Andhrimnir. The boar’s meat never fails to fill the stomachs of the Einherjar, and no matter how much has been carved from the beast, it always regenerates by nightfall, so as to be cooked again on the next day. As for drink, all of the alcohol consumed by the inhabitants of Valhalla comes from a giant goat named Heidrun. She stands atop Valhalla and perpetually chews on the leaves of a tree named Lerad (or Laerad), which some assume to be interchangeable with the World Tree of Norse mythology, Yggdrasil. While Heidrun merrily chews on her leaves, an endless supply of mead pours from her udders, supplying the warriors of Valhalla with all the alcoholic drink they could ever want or need.
Heidrun, according to myth, has to share the roof of Valhalla with another giant animal. Her companion’s name is Eikthyrnir, or Oak Antlers. Eikthynir is a huge stag who also spends his time chomping away at the great tree. While Heidrun eats the tree’s leaves and produces mead, Eikthynir gnaws at the tree’s branches. This oddly causes Eikthynir’s antlers to perspire profusely, and enough water pours from his horns to supply many of the rivers throughout Asgard.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
Picture Attribution: (Valhalla painted by Hermann Burghart (1834-1901), [Public Domain] via creative Commons).
- The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, translated by Jesse Byock. New York: Penguin Classics, 2005.