Max Payne Valkyrie Tattoo and Norse Viking Mythology

Max Payne wing tattooMax Payne, a 2001 Remedy Entertainment video game and 2008 noir action film with Mark Wahlberg and Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace Bond girl), features several meaningful allusions to Norse mythology. Valkyr, a drug invented to improve morale of the U. S. soldiers but halted due to unwanted side effect, is reminiscent of valkyrie (Old Norse valkyrje, which literally means ‘chooser of the slain’, the root val being the same as in Valknut, ‘knot of the slain’).

In the game and the movie valkyries seen by those who take Valkyr are male demonic creatures. Quite on the contrary, in Norse mythology valkyries are female. Valkyries choose warriors dying in battle: those who were brave become einherjar and after their death go to Valhalla (‘hall of the slain’) where they are served by valkyries. In Max Payne, Valhalla Project is the government-funded conspiracy that created Valkyr. In the movie, when Max (Mark Wahlberg) and Mona (Mila Kunis) try to find out the meaning of the wing tattoo that both Michelle, Max’s wife, and Natasha, Mona’s sister, had, the tattoo artist (Stephen R. Hart) tells them that Vikings used wing tattoos for protection in battle.

It is interesting that the tattoo artist has a Vegvísir, or Runic Compass, on his left shoulder. Björk has the same tattoo on her left upper arm.

Michelle, Max’s late wife, worked for Aesir Corporation, based in Aesir Plaza. Norse æsir (singular áss) were one of the two groups of the Viking gods in the Scandinavian pantheon. CEO of the Aesir Corporation is Nicole Horne: her name may point to Horn Triskelion or to Gjallarhorn, the mythic horn, which will announce the end of the world.

Valkyrie wings tattooThe other name with apocalyptic overtones is Jack Lupino. In Italian, lupino means wolfish. According to Norse mythology the wolf Fenrir kills Odin during the events of Ragnarök (Old Norse ‘final destiny of the gods’), when the world in its present form perishes. This also explains the name of the night club Ragna Rock, Lupino’s lair. The surname of Max’s partner, Alex Balder, shot by a killer, refers to god Balder whose death is described in Edda as a tragedy and a sign of the coming Ragnarök. The surname of Alfred Woden (video game only) is the Anglo-Saxon variant of Odin. Like the Norse god, Alfred Woden is single-eyed.

Asgard Building where Max Payne talks to Woden is reminiscent of Ásgarðr (Old Norse ‘enclosure of the æsir’), the city or country where gods dwell. Yggdrasil, the computer network in the military base, refers to the world tree that stands in the middle of Asgard.

Finally, the snowstorm that takes place in Max Payne may refer to Fimbulwinter, a terrible winter that precedes Ragnarök.

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60 comments… add one
  • Kent

    I am really enjoying reading you work. I have Danish Viking ancestors by way of Ireland so for the past few years I have looked into the connection our family has with our forgotten past. I have just recently been looking for a translation for one of Odins names, “Enemy of the Wolf, Bági Ulfr” in Danish Long Branch Runes. Any chance your expertise could lend a helping hand? Thanks and Skoll

  • Mike

    Is it possible to translate. ” Death before Dishonor ” in old Norse?

    • marius Øwre

      In norwgian it is “Død før Vanære”, i belive it is sililar in all the skandinavian countries.

  • Paul Thompson

    I think your site is cool you probably do not believe me but I am related to the queen of Sweden . Queen Wilhelmina was my great grandmothers sister. She came over here in 1900. I am just starting to look up all I can learn. I am proud to be a Viking I am 6-2 235 not a big guy. Blond hair and blue eyes and have two sons that are true giants. I don’t celebrate Columbus Day because it is a lie we have been taught in school still today. I will be back to your site with more info to learn and share.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Paul. I have no reasons not to believe you. Welcome on board and thanks for the feedback.

  • raggi

    hi i think the God you were reffering to alex balder is Baldur…

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Raggi. Yes, I think Alex Balder character’s name is based o the name of the god Baldr.

  • Pineapplehead

    Hi there!
    I’m making a Viking inspired cardie and I’ve adapted your Valkyrie wings sketch for the sleeves. I was wondering if you’d mind if I put a few photos of the finished garment on my Ravelry page with a link back this page of course :)

    Kind regards

  • T. Mason

    So the valkyrie tattoo isn’t for a sign for the valkyrie so they know which soldiers to take to Valhalla?
    was this just fabricated for the movie?

    • Viking Rune

      Yes, I think it was for the movie.

  • ankur

    hi i am planning to get a tattoo done, it will be my first! do u think d double winged tattoo on this page would look awkward on the back of my neck????

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Ankur. I think they will look great.

  • Tim

    I do understand the traditional element is important, but I also verymuch like these new depections and welcome them as a modernizing of Viking beleifs. Afterall, they look great and still carry the message.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Tim. Yes, Viking Age values are still important in the modern world.

  • baker

    im am cherokee indian but want to get the valkyrie wings done cause i am going to afganistan in 2012 so i was wondering if anyone knew a symbol that will bring protection to me.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Baker. Return safe and sound.

    • Trevyn

      Berkano it’s said to be a negative rune but always results in positive so make it home safe

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