In 1830, Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria commissioned the building of a Valhalla temple near Regensburg, Germany. Here, pan-Germanic heroes were celebrated to strengthen the German unification project. At around the same time, August Smith created a Valhalla museum at Tresco Abbey Gardens on the Isles of Scilly, to house the figureheads from local shipwrecks. The mythical hall of fame is also depicted in Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle operas, numerous paintings and in the writing of Hunter S Thompson. Elton John, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull all refer to Valhalla in their songs.
"In pre-Christian societies, especially Germanic ones, the only way to survive after your death is by achieving fame," says Professor Larrington, explaining the myth's enduring appeal. "Now that there is less cultural confidence in the idea of life after death, people cling to the idea of being famous and impressing themselves on the world in some way. Valhalla is our 15 minutes of fame."