As the chronicles are silent on the subject of Malusha's pedigree, 19th-century Russian historians devised various theories to explain her parentage and name. An archaeologist Dmitry Prozorovsky believed that Malusha was the daughter of Mal, a Drevlyan leader. A prominent chronicle researcher and linguist Alexei Shakhmatov considered Malusha to be the daughter of Mstisha Sveneldovich, son of a Kievan voyevoda Sveneld. He believed that the name Malusha was a slavinized version of a Scandinavian name Malfried. Another Russian historian Dmitry Ilovaisky came to an opposite conclusion that the Slavic name Malusha was turned into a Scandinavian Malfried. Ukrainian historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky criticized both of these versions.
The Primary Chronicle records that a certain Malfried died in 1000. This record follows that of Rogneda's death. Since Rogneda was Vladimir's wife, historians assume that Malfried was another close relative of the ruling prince, preferably his wife or mother.