"Lone-fighters." The champions of Odin, the heroes who have fallen in battle and who are brought to Valhalla by the valkyries. There they wait for the final battle at Ragnarök to fight on behalf of the Æsir. In Vafþrúðnismál, Gagnráðr (Odin) asks Vafþrúðnir
what the Einherjar do in Herrjan's halls, until the powers perish, and the giant replies:
- All the Einherjar
- in Odin's halls
- each day together fight;
- the fallen they choose,
- and from the conflict ride;
- beer with the Æsir drink,
- of Sæhrimnir eat their fill,
- then sit in harmony together.
Their meals are prepared from the flesh of Sæhrímnir and the valkyries bring them beer. In Hjaðningavíg it is said that those einherjar who are wounded or have fallen in their practice-battles are revived the next day.
In Gylfaginning, chapter 20, Snorri Sturluson says that Odin is called Father of the Slain, because all those that fall in battle are his adopted sons. He appoints them Valhalla and Vingólf, and they are then called Champions. In chapter 38, Gangleri comments that if all the men fallen in battle since the beginning of the world are now come to Odin in Valhalla, there must be a very great host there. Hárr agrees that there is a very mighty multitude there, and many more shall come, but that it will seem all too small in the time when the Wolf (Fenrir) shall come. He adds that never is so vast a multitude in Valhalla that the flesh of the boar Sæhrímnir shall fail to feed them. Hárr also says that their mead comes from the udders of the she-goat Heiðrún and that she fills a tun every day.
That tun is so great that all the champions become quite drunk from it.
In chapter 41, Gangleri asks Hárr what the sport of the champions is when they are not fighting, and Hárr replies, paraphrasing Vafþrúðnismál:
Every day, as soon as they are clothed, they straightway put on their armor and go out into the court and fight, and fell each other. That is their sport; and when the time draws near to undern-meal, they ride home to Valhall and sit down to drink.
In Lokasenna, Thor is called einheri by Loki, and this is the only time the singular form is attested. In Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, Sinfjötli insults Guðmundr by saying that he was once a woman, a mischievous crone, a giantess, a valkyrie in Alföðr's hall and that all the einherjar fought with each other for his sake. In the poem Hákonarmál in Hákonar saga góða, Odin sent two valkyries — Göndul and Skögul — to the battlefield to tell the dying king Håkon that he shall dwell in Valhalla after his death.
As Odin has his champions, so does Hel, and these will follow Loki when the enemies of the gods march to Vígríðr for the final battle. At that time, eight hundred einherjar shall at once march from each of the five hundred and forty doors from Valhalla.
- Grímnismál, 18, 23, 36.
- Gylfaginning, 20, 36, 38, 39, 41, 51.
- Heimskringla, 32.
- Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, 38.
- Lokasenna, 60.
- Vafþrúðnismál, 40-41.