A good example of how Odin honors them is to be found in Gylfaginning, when discussing Balder's funeral it says, " All sorts of people came to this cremation. First and foremost Odin, acccompanied by Frigga, and his Valkyries." Odin always seems to have his Valkyries within arms reach, be it at important functions, on battlefields, or in Valhalla to serve the Einherjar. They almost remind me of a king's royal guard, or trusted bodyguards.
It seems that they are allowed to have personal lives, but when the call of war is heard they have to leave to serve Odin. This is seen fairly clearly in the Lay of Volund, where Volund, Slagfid, and Egil, meet three Valkyries spinning flax on the shore of a lake with their swanskins lying beside them. Two of these Valkyries were the daughters of King Hlodver. Their names were Hladgudr Svanhvit, and Hervor Alvitr. The third was the daughter of Kjarr of Valland. Her name was Olrun. The Lay of Volund tells us, "The brothers took them home . Egil married Olrun, Slagfid, Swan - White, and Volund married Hervor Alvitr. They lived together for seven years. Then the Valkyries flew away to go to battle and did not come back." The poetic telling of this is nice:
So they lived for seven years
But the eighth they started yearning,
And the ninth could remain no longer.
The maidens wanted to go through Mirkwood,
Young Valkyries on their way to wars.
One interesting line comes from The Second Lay of Helgi Hundings Bane when it says, " She was a Valkyrie and rode through the sky and over the sea." This Valkyrie it is said is Svava reincarnated. Now if the spirits of Valkyries can be reincarnated, that would explain why the daughters of kings become Valkyries. Is it possible that Odin doesn't choose these women, and that it is the spirits of the dead Valkyries who choose who will succeed them ?
In the Lay of Sigrdrifa, the great hero, Sigurd comes upon a woman who is a sleep, and is in full battle armor. He uses his sword Gram, to cut the corslet off of her. Then the woman awakens, and speaks with Sigurd. The woman, Sigrdrifa, tells him that she had a spell placed on her by Odin that made her sleep. She is also said later to be a Valkyrie. It also tells us that she was pricked by a sleep thorn, by Odin, for felling Hjalmgrunnar, who Odin wanted to be victorious. This clearly shows that even though Odin is King of the Valkyries, these women warriors sometimes choose the slain against the wishes of the All - father. This means of course that they have free will. That is not the perception of them that I have always had, but it is an interesting theory, and one that I will ponder upon for quite a while. I love those who are independent, and who decide for themselves what is right and wrong !
Mention of Valkyries isn't found only in manuscripts written during and just after the Viking Age. They are also found on many Rune Stones both in Sweden and Norway, and their images are found on several implements of this era as well. But it is in the written record that their lives come to life for us. They are just so damn fascinating !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love and Thor's protection !