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
  • Freki Odin's Wolf

    Actually, and I’m eyeing a book of mine about the Nordic Lore, Valkries where the battle maidens of the Norse Gods. They would come to the battles to look for those that had died bravely, those they deemed worthy to fight for Odin in the coming of Ragnorak. They would take the fallen to the Halls of Valhalla where they would fight each other every morning, the fallen would once again be revived and then they would go to the Mead Hall (Can’t recall the name ATM) drink mead and eat the same boar that was revived every day for them to eat. (Also can’t remember the boars name nor do I feel like flipping through pages to find it.)

    Some friends of mine are saying I have some Norse in my blood cuz I really don’t look much like a Mexican, even thou im half. For my first tattoo, I’m planning on getting the Valkyrie wings on my back instead of a wolf first.

    • Viking Rune

      Sæhrímnir is the name of the creature killed and eaten every night by the Æsir and einherjar.

  • marius

    who has the real valkery picture or tattoo!? I want that tattoo for a long time, but i can find it on a really good picture!

    greats and thnx

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Marius. I don’t think it is at all possible to have a picture of a real Valkyrie.

  • clayton

    hey,just to let you know, the valkrie are female, but may transform inyo a raven, which explains why the valkrie had wings but the person did look like a demon, im just saying they can transform into ravens so the movie is right

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Clayton. Where in the Norse mythology do they speak about Valkyries transforming into ravens?

  • Skog

    Hi guys. Just wanted to say that the wings of a Valkyrie are only mentioned once in Norse texts, and they’re supposed to resemble the wings of a swan. Max Payne is a good enough movie, but the Valkyrie part is pretty wrong.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Skog. Where in the Norse texts are they mentioned?

  • robert

    I agree that the movie did not delve into the mythology enough but at the same time the movie was not about Norse mythology and your information is very detailed but it seems to be based around the movie there’s not enough information on the gods or on Valkyries.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Robert. I think we have enough information on the Norse mythology in the Eddas.

  • jerome

    I know this was touched on earlier, but I was wondering if I could get a picture of the illustration in the book that the tattoo artist shows Max Payne. I was wanting to get that scene tattooed on my back.

    Thank you very much,

    • cj

      Hello. I have a Valkyrie wing tattoo on my left shoulder but the stems are short. I’m planning to have another wing tattoo soon. It’s cool.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Jerome. This picture is available here: More on Max Payne Tattoos.

  • Michelle

    My husband and I are also intersted in getting Valkyrie wing tattoos, but I’m curious to know where the idea of them providing protection comes from. Does this idea stem from anything that’s a true part of the mythology, or is it just something that has been fabricated to improve the Max Payne story?

    • Viking Rune

      I am not aware of any historical proof of the idea that Valkyrie wings ever meant protection in battle for Vikings.

    • Gunnar

      Norse Valkyries would look over soldiers in battle, not aiding, but carrying off the soldiers who had an honorable death (Killed in combat), to Valhalla.

  • solr

    Vikings did not have tattoos that were recorded. HOWEVER, Vikings wore symbols (such as Valkyrie wings or Thor’s hammer) on their shields of armour. The myth of the Valkyrie was: The Valkyrie is a blonde maiden sent from above to “kill” the warriors of war who were most honorable. The bravest, hero of war would be chosen to go to “heaven” and drink as much as he wanted and have many maiden virgins. This would be the warriors reward. There are many different interpretations of nordic mythology. I sugguest to do the research and learn some very interesting things!

    • Viking Rune

      Hi Solr. Why, we have Ibn Fadlan’s witness who says that Vikings whom he met in Rus were “tattooed from finger nails to neck with dark green trees, figures, etc.” I am not aware of original sources that say valkyries killed “most honorable” warriors: they simply chose who had to die. Whether or not they were blonde, sources, as far as I remember, are also silent. As for maiden virgins in the afterlife, that surely belongs to Islam, not to Norse Viking beliefs. Thank you for invitation to research.

  • mark

    Thanks for putting up the pics for this symbols. Norse myth is what I believe in and I wanted to get the tattoos before I’m in the army so when I’m out there in the field I know I’m watched over. Thanks again for the pics.

    • Viking Rune

      You are welcome, Mark.

  • Kylie

    Very nice image. I got a tattoo identical to this design on my right foot. It’s got the quote “death before dishonor” inside the wings. My brother is in the marine corps and he’s a huge part of my life. The quote is a very common marine quote and these wings represent the angel that I hope is looking over my soldier… my brother. The wings also represent protection while they’re out in the field.

    • Viking Rune

      Kylie, it’s so important to care for someone in this life. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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