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The Valkyrie are female figures who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live. They take the slain to Odin. In some lore, they provide alcoholic beverages to the slain (so there's that).

What politics would have them choose who lived and who died in a battle. Presumably, they don't support any one given faction, for they would simply annihilate the entirety of the opposite faction. Yet, in Norse mythology, there's no meaning to their selection (that I can find).

What is the best motivation that a Valkyrie would have for killing a proportion of the battlers on both sides?

EDIT: This is for a storyline; I must justify my Valkyrie picking off warriors both brave and cowards; this-side and that-side. In an attempt to prevent being too broad, I'll specify that the best answer is a reason that best justifies and benefits the Valkyries, Odin, and the world at large.

EDIT 2: Clarification as requested; just like the many questions about shapeshifters, vampires, and minotaurs (oh my), this is a question using popular mythology. I'm talking about Norse Valkyrie on Earth, not a distant planet or universe.

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I thought in norse mythology the Valkyries didn't choose who died they merely took some of the dead to Valhalla – sdrawkcabdear Feb 9 at 1:36
Erm... Since you're talking about norse valkyrie here on earth: They are not choosing the ones to die or to live. They choose the Einherjer (the ones who died with honour) out of the already dead and bring them to Walhall (not Odin, though they are sent by him). In Walhall they are partying and fighting the whole day with Thor, as preperation for Ragnaròk. So, there is no PC, they just take the warriors that honoured themselves with their actions in battle. – Bounce Feb 9 at 9:03
"Choosers of the slain" doesn't mean they decide who gets to die; it means they decide who, among the slain, are worthy of Valhalla. – Shadur Feb 9 at 9:35
@sdrawkcabdear The meaning of their name, “choosers of the slain,” refers not only to their choosing who gains admittance to Valhalla, but also to their choosing who dies in battle and using malicious magic to ensure that their preferences in this regard are brought to – mb21 Feb 9 at 16:36
up vote 17 down vote accepted

It all depends on the needs of Odin's heavenly army.

If they need mighty swordsmen for the front line, then for earth-bound mighty swordsmen, today is a good day to die.

If however, they need a new camp cook or a couple dozen latrine diggers, the Valkyrie would choose from less courageous stock.

Watch out you WorldBuilders! When Odin needs a new scribe, the Valkyrie may be coming for you!

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"Why me?," asks Delfus the Lightfingered. The magnificent battle angel consulted her clipboard, "I have a quota for battle-hardened people under five feet tall to operate Odin's new trollslayer 3000 magically enhanced battle armor. Now get on board, I don't have all day. And drink this: Bifrost compensators two and five are down so it's going to be a bumpy ride." – slashingweapon Feb 8 at 22:47
@slashingweapon Please tell me there's a story like that out there. Sounds like a modernized Christmas story, only with Norse mythology. – Lepidolite Mica Feb 9 at 19:10

Going off of the lore, the reason that they brought the slain to Valhalla was so that they could fight in Ragnarok. So it would make sense that they simply want to bring the best warriors, no matter which side they were on in a particular human conflict.

Continuing on that train of thought for a while, an argument that seems believable would be that they choose to kill those warriors who have nothing more to learn from living on Earth - the only way they could become better fighters is by training in Valhalla until the end of time.

TLDR politics don't matter that much when you're talking about building an army for the end of the world.

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But you said the Valkyries would choose who lives and who dies? So the best warriors would die if the Valkyries would find them useful so they can join the army for the end of the world in Valhalla. – Marcus Bitzl Feb 8 at 22:16
That's the trick with the second paragraph. The army for the end of the world is those who died in battle and went to Valhalla. The valkyries choose the best warriors to die so that they can train and improve even more in Valhalla, leading to a better Ragnarok Army. – John Robinson Feb 8 at 22:16
@Mikey Worth noting that "best warriors" doesn't necessarily mean the same thing to humans and Valkyries, especially since the training in Valhalla may be able to yield different results than training on Earth. As an example, a Valkyrie might choose someone physically weak, whose strength could be built, because they have enormous courage and dedication. Or perhaps they choose a strong person with great fear because the Valhallan training can help them master fear. – jpmc26 Feb 8 at 23:36
It doesn't necessarilyi follow that the best warriors will survive any given battle and the worst will die. The worst may hang back or even run away and thus escape harm, while the best plunge into the fray despite the odds. The best may face off against the best from the opposing army, rather than slaughtering a bunch of the weakest. Etc. – Jay Feb 9 at 14:24
Yeah: I think your problem is a modern "death is bad" and possibly even "I have control over my death" mindset rather than the Norse way. They didn't just believe that death in battle was honorable, they believed that the insane dick-head who runs things personally set up the honors... If only you can prove yourself a brave enough bad-ass. They were close enough to conflict to have lost the simplistic notion that skill/ability/strategy can do more than shift the odds. Everyone dies; in armed conflict anyone might, regardless of how awesome. Stray arrows end kingdoms. Can't fight fate. – The Nate Feb 9 at 15:27

Actually, the Valkyries didn't just send dead to Valhalla and Odin's hall. An oft overlooked fact is that the Asatru actually has three Gods of the Dead (the rule of three is quite important and a recurring theme in Norse mythology, also exemplified by the Valknut, often representing death, and Odin). One of these is Odin, who receives half of those who die in battle to serve him at Ragnarok, another is Hel, who harvests those who die of age, sickness and other un-warriorlike causes. These will then sail on Naglafar, a ship crafted from the nails of the dead, during Ragnarok as Yggdrasil burns.

The third God of Death is, interestingly enough, Freya. She receives the other half of the Warriors that die in battle. It may therefore be that the Valkyries are operating off of two different sets of priority lists as well.

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Hm... I wouldn't invoke the "rule of three" here, which is more popular among the Wicca. Odin is the "collector of warriors" among the Æsir, while Freya has the same position with the Vanir. Hel is separate from either, in that she doesn't deal in warriors at all. – DevSolar Feb 9 at 14:38
The rule of three in Norse myth is actually more like the eastern concept of yin and yang. For a major example: fire and ice are opposing forces that set up a middle ground in proper balance. That's such a fundamental concept, it's the first part of their creation myth. Rivers of fire and ice run together to make the foggy & steamy spot where life forms. (Applies to giants, too.) – The Nate Feb 9 at 15:35

To end suffering.

A mortally wounded human is not going to survive and the Valkyrie can end their suffering. On the surface, this may seem like the choice has already been made, which is exactly correct. In the same way that fortune favors the bold, Death finds us all, and only the good die young; the Valkyrie make choices that are very difficult to argue with. This ensures their continued existence in mythology.

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Are you suggesting that they select before battle who dies purely for altruistic reasons? (+1, but I need something juicier). – Mikey Feb 8 at 22:10
Not before battle at all, it's triage during battle. Yeah, it's not a great answer, more of a cop-op :) – Samuel Feb 8 at 22:13

They want weapons and warriors and tactics, so they don't want the war to end on earth as without the war they will get no more warriors. They sometimes let ceasefires happen to replenish the breeding stock of humans but always they will trigger another war and then take the strongest warriors from the side that would be victorious until the sides are balanced once more.

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The Valkyries are fighting the war at the end of time itself, they aren't just preparing for it. This is the god war: the all-war.

They are picking people to die in battle both to recruit an army to take to the end of time, and to change what happens before the end of time in this world. Each thread cut is a soldier in the battle.

Have a descendant whose removal will change history in a way that might harm Odin's cause? You get harvested. Going to kill someone who will die childless, causing someone else to inherit land and not go treking, and thus not found a colony? Your number is up.

Naturally the adversary is also fighting this war of precognition. They, however, use plague and disease as their harvesting weapon of choice.

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A mysterious reason, to be revealed at the very crucial end of the story, dun dun duuuun!

Cowardly protagonist dies in a cowardly way, amazed to find himself in Valhalla, believes in himself 'cause apparently the cute Valkyrie believes in him - she'll drop some encouraging remarks along the way - finds inner strength, becomes a capable warrior, then finds out that [actual reason inscribed in ancient Nordic runes, only the worthy can read the truth, blah blah blah].

Possibly there's a chasm on the way to the battlefield. Odin's too lazy to build a bridge so they'll pile up inept warriors' bodies upon which the real heroes can stomp on. Oh and the cute Valkyrie with her high heels.

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That works for the protagonist, but doesn't explain the reasons behind the masses of other people who were chosen. – Jerenda Feb 16 at 23:12
sure it does @Jerenda , there's plenty of cute Vals to go around. But if you're looking for a real reason, I'd go with the usual: connections. Odin sired a lot of kids without his wife knowing and he wants to get them a good job – Nahshon paz Feb 17 at 11:04

According to Norse Mythology, the Valkyries's decisions are based off on weather you died a noble death on the battle field. Some warriors tried incredibly hard to be chosen and (according to some historians) took drugs to assure their bravery. They were called Beserkers.

If the Valkyries chose their Einherjar (warriors) in preperation for Ragnarok (the apocolypse), warriors would be chosen that can withstand long periods of waiting, advanced combat abilities and utter fearlessness in the face of death.

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The gods treat the battle (or the war at large) as a game. Not simply which side wins, but complex rules that amount to what are essentially side bets. Killing specific combatents is a way to influence the stats being wagered on, like how sweeping the ice affects the puck in curling. Keeping that analogy, it's not about making one puck go farther, but a strategic placement of stones across multiple pitches.

The actual criteria is some five dimensional metric based on human's collective state, and completely beyond the comprehension of anyone who's not a god.

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