What does the name Ashildr reveal about Maisie Williams’s Doctor Who character?

Paul Jones uses Old Norse, urban slang and wild speculation to explain how the name Ashildr hides references to valkyries, immortality and the Doctor himself...

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So we finally know the name and true identity of Doctor Who’s mysterious Girl Who Died.

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Maisie Williams is playing a young Viking called Ashildr who, “barring accidents”, is now immortal, thanks to a reprogrammed Mire “battlefield medical kit” implanted in her by the Doctor. 

But what about that name? Did writers Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat simply pick it out of the Viking phone book? It would seem not. 

Ashildr is a combination of two Old Norse words: áss, which translates as god, and hildr, battle – an appropriate moniker given that she helped defeat an (admittedly fake) deity in a battle to save her village, and has since become a god of sorts herself.

But there’s more to it than that. In Norse mythology Hildr was a valkyrie, one of 12 of Odin’s handmaidens who chose which warriors would live or die on the battlefield. As the Doctor pointed out, “Immortality isn’t living for ever… Immortality is everyone else dying”, which is why when he brought Ashildr back from the dead he also gave her another medical kit – so that she could one day choose a companion to save from death, just like Hildr the valkyrie.

That’s my knowledge of Old Norse exhausted, but is there anything else we can extrapolate from the name Ashildr?

Well, according to the Urban Dictionary, “shil” is a word “used as a substitute for other words or phrases”. And if you remove the “shil” from Ashildr, what do you get? Adr – a Dr – a Doctor. Far-fetched? Perhaps. Then again, Ashildr is a character with regenerative abilities, who is practically immortal, and has spent time in many different periods of history.

You have to admit, it sounds a lot like someone we know…

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Doctor Who continues next Saturday at 8:20pm on BBC1