Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Höðr (often anglicized as Hod, Hoder, or Hodur) is the brother of Baldr in Norse mythology. Tricked and guided by Loki, he shot the mistletoe arrow which was to slay the otherwise invulnerable Baldr.

According to the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda the goddess Frigg made everything in existence swear never to harm Baldr, except for the mistletoe which she found too young to demand an oath from. The gods amused themselves by trying weapons on Baldr and seeing them fail to do any harm. Loki, upon finding out about Baldr's one weakness, made a missile from mistletoe, and helped Höðr shoot it at Baldr. After this Odin and the giantess Rindr gave birth to Váli who grew to adulthood within a day and slew Höðr.

The Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus recorded an alternative version of this myth in his Gesta Danorum. In this version the mortal hero Høtherus and the demi-god Balderus compete for the hand of Nanna. Ultimately Høtherus slays Balderus.

The name of Höðr occurs several times in skaldic poetry as a part of warrior-kennings. Thus Höðr brynju, "Höðr of byrnie", is a warrior and so is Höðr víga, "Höðr of battle". Some scholars have found the fact that the poets should want to compare warriors with Höðr to be incongruous with Snorri's description of him as a blind god, unable to harm anyone without assistance. It is possible that this indicates that some of the poets were familiar with other myths about Höðr than the one related in Gylfaginning - perhaps some where Höðr has a more active role. On the other hand the names of many gods occur in kennings and the poets might not have been particular in using any god name as a part of a kenning

In Gesta Danorum Hotherus is a human hero of the Danish and Swedish royal lines. He is gifted in swimming, archery, fighting and music and Nanna, daughter of King Gevarus falls in love with him. But at the same time Balderus, son of Othinus, has caught sight of Nanna bathing and fallen violently in love with her. He resolves to slay Hotherus, his rival.

Out hunting, Hotherus is led astray by a mist and meets wood-maidens who control the fortunes of war. They warn him that Balderus has designs on Nanna but also tell him that he shouldn't attack him in battle since he is a demigod. Hotherus goes to consult with King Gevarus and asks him for his daughter. The king replies that he would gladly favour him but that Balderus has already made a like request and he does not want to incur his wrath.

Gevarus tells Hotherus that Balderus is invincible but that he knows of one weapon which can defeat him, a sword kept by Mimingus, the satyr of the woods. Mimingus also has another magical artifact, a bracelet that increases the wealth of its owner. Riding through a region of extraordinary cold in a carriage drawn by reindeer, Hotherus captures the satyr with a clever ruse and forces him to yield his artifacts.

Hearing about Hotherus's artifacts, Gelderus, king of Saxony, equips a fleet to attack him. Gevarus warns Hotherus of this and tells him where to meet Gelderus in battle. When the battle is joined, Hotherus and his men save their missiles while defending themselves against those of the enemy with a testudo formation. With his missiles exhausted, Gelderus is forced to sue for peace. He is treated mercifully by Hotherus and becomes his ally. Hotherus then gains another ally with his eloquent oratory by helping King Helgo of Hålogaland win a bride.

Meanwhile Balderus enters the country of king Gevarus armed and sues for Nanna. Gevarus tells him to learn Nanna's own mind. Balderus addresses her with cajoling words but is refused. Nanna tells him that because of the great difference in their nature and stature, since he is a demigod, they are not suitable for marriage.

As news of Balderus's efforts reaches Hotherus, he and his allies resolve to attack Balderus. A great naval battle ensues where the gods fight on the side of Balderus. Thoro in particular shatters all opposition with his mighty club. When the battle seems lost, Hotherus manages to hew Thoro's club off at the haft and the gods are forced to retreat. Gelderus perishes in the battle and Hotherus arranges a funeral pyre of vessels for him. After this battle Hotherus finally marries Nanna.

Balderus is not completely defeated and shortly afterwards returns to defeat Hotherus in the field. But Balderus's victory is without fruit for he is still without Nanna. Lovesick, he is harassed by phantoms in Nanna's likeness and his health deteriorates so that he cannot walk but has himself drawn around in a cart.

After a while Hotherus and Balderus have their third battle and again Hotherus is forced to retreat. Weary of life because of his misfortunes, he plans to retire and wanders into the wilderness. In a cave he comes upon the same maidens he had met at the start of his career. Now they tell him that he can defeat Balderus if he gets a taste of some extraordinary food which had been devised to increase the strength of Balderus.

Encouraged by this, Hotherus returns from exile and once again meets Balderus in the field. After a day of inconclusive fighting, he goes out during the night to spy on the enemy. He finds where Balderus's magical food is prepared and plays the lyre for the maidens preparing it. While they don't want to give him the food, they bestow on him a belt and a girdle which secure victory.

Heading back to his camp, Hotherus meets Balderus and plunges his sword into his side. After three days, Balderus dies from his wound. Many years later, Bous, the son of Othinus and Rinda, avenges his brother by killing Hotherus in a duel.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Nægling is the name of one of the swords used by Beowulf in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem of Beowulf. He receives it after defeating Grendel and Grendel's Mother. The name may well mean "nailer", that is it drives like a nail in to its enemy. However it is also possible that it refers to jeweled nails on its hilt. If this is so it would correspond to the Nagelring, a sword from the Vilkina saga, said to be the best sword in the world. Beowulf wins the sword from a fight between the Geats and Frisians. The sword does not survive Beowulf's final encounter with the dragon, snapping in two. An important note is that the sword breaks not because of the dragon's strength, but rather the force the hero himself puts behind it.

Nægling forbærst,
geswác æt sæcce sweord Bíowulfes,
gomol ond grǽgmǽl. Him þæt gifeðe ne wæs
þæt him írenna ecge mihton
helpan æt hilde; wæs sío hond tó strong

The idea of a sword failing for the hero at a crucial time has parallels in other Germanic works such as in the Volsunga saga and Gesta Danorum. However this is especially true in the Gunnlaugs saga, where the author goes at pains to show that it was the hero and not the foe who broke the sword. Furthermore, in Germanic tradition, exceptional swords may often use words such as old, ancient, or ancestral. However this may not always fit the story of the hero, such as when the sword is forged for him. In Naegling's case, the sword has more of a literary characteristic than a specific ancestral lineage, as is evident from its name. Nevertheless the sword is described as being gomol ond grægmæl (old and gray) Nagling.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Hrunting was a sword given to Beowulf by Unferth in the ancient Old English epic poem Beowulf. Beowulf used it in battle against Grendel's Mother.

Beowulf is described receiving the sword in lines 1455-1458:

"And another item lent by Unferth
at that moment of need was of no small importance:
the brehon handed him a hilted weapon,
a rare and ancient sword named Hrunting.
The iron blade with its ill-boding patterns
had been tempered in blood. It had never failed
the hand of anyone who hefted it in battle,
anyone who had fought and faced the worst
in the gap of danger. This was not the first time
it had been called to perform heroic feats.

However, although the sword possessed great power and was claimed to have never failed anyone who used it, when Beowulf descended to the bottom of the lake to fight Grendel's mother, the sword proved ineffective. As the "fabulous powers of that heirloom failed," Beowulf was forced to discard it.

Swords have great significance in the war-centred Anglo-Saxon culture from which Beowulf arises. Therefore, emphasis is strongly placed on the exchange of weapons of war. Weapons such as swords circulated through Anglo-Saxon society as inheritance through family, birthed through the monsters, found under magic rocks, and as rewards between lords and their subjects. Occasionally such exchange was also seen between warriors. One example of a weapon as a gift is seen in the exchange of Hrunting. As Unferth passes his sword to Beowulf, he admits the loss of his glory, and his submission to this greater warrior. However, when Hrunting fails Beowulf in his battle against Grendel's mother, it possibly reflects its previous owner, Unferth, who failed to defeat the hated Grendel. In addition, Beowulf’s defeat of Grendel prompts the Danish king Hrothgar to bestow upon him many gifts consisting of weapons; this further emphasizes the importance of weaponry to such a society. Beowulf then passes on his rewards to his king Hygelac, thereby establishing his obligation to his king. Hrunting’s various meanings demonstrate that weapons of war can carry not only positive, but also negative, significance.

Unferth’s very act of giving Hrunting to Beowulf and the sword’s unexpected failure in the battle against Grendel’s mother bear much symbolism in the poem. Given that Unferth shows his dislike for Beowulf early in the story, Unferth’s choice to award Beowulf with Hrunting, which means “thrusting,” can be interpreted as a sign of peace and acceptance. In this light, the giving of the sword seems to be an indication of Unferth’s recognition of Beowulf as a capable and powerful warrior. On the other hand, the poem portrays Unferth as a sly and treacherous man. Furthermore, scholars even propose that Hrunting is “the very sword with which [Unferth] slew his own kin.” It is possible then that Unferth's motive in giving away his sword upon being confronted with the problem of Grendel's mother could very well be to avoid going into battle. The passing of Hrunting from Unferth's hand to Beowulf is therefore a reflection of Unferth's treachery as he abandons his role as a warrior of Heorot. At first glance, Unferth's sudden act of generosity towards Beowulf appears to have been done for noble reasons. However, what is known about Unferth and the sword's inefficacy in battle strongly suggest that Unferth's intentions are cowardly rather than noble.

The reason behind Hrunting's failing against Grendel's Mother has been a point of much scholarly debate. J.L. Rosier, in A Design for Treachery: The Unferth Intrigue, puts forth the contention that Unferth deliberately gave Beowulf a sword that he knew would fail, possibly for the purpose of preventing Beowulf from succeeding where Unferth himself failed. Yet this point has been contested by J.D.A Oglivy, who notes that the poem itself offers another explanation. First, Oglivy notes that if Unferth supplied an inferior weapon then it doesn't follow for the poet to have gone into extensive detail about the magical infallibility of the sword. Further, as the sword that Beowulf ultimately finds and slays Grendel's Mother with is noted to be made by giants, it implies that Grendel's line possesses magical invulnerability that prevents weapons made by man from harming them.

Another explanation that has been put forth connects Hrunting’s failure to the broader underlying message of Christianity prevalent throughout the poem. Kent Gould, in his essay "Beowulf" and Folktale Morphology: God as Magical Donor, suggests that Hrunting fails because it was given to Beowulf by Unferth, a heathen. Only the more powerful replacement blade that God gives Beowulf is capable of destroying evil. According to Gould, "the message would be clear enough to the poem's Christian audience: only God can contribute enough power to overcome enemies to whom the poem has elsewhere given a Scriptural history." Grendel and Grendel's mother have such a history, as Grendel's lineage is described in lines 106-108 to have descended from Cain.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Tyrfing, Tirfing or Tyrving (The name is of uncertain origin, possibly connected to the Terwingi) was a magic sword in Norse mythology, which figures in a poem from the Poetic Edda called Hervararkviða, and in Hervarar saga. The name is also used in the saga to denote the Goths. The form Tervingi was actually recorded by Roman sources in the 4th century.

Svafrlami was the king of Gardariki, and Odin's grandson. He managed to trap the Dwarves Dvalinn and Durin when they had left the rock where they dwelt. Then he forced them to forge a sword with a golden hilt that would never miss a stroke, would never rust and would cut through stone and iron as easily as through clothes.

The Dwarves made the sword, and it shone and gleamed like fire. However, in revenge they cursed it so that it would kill a man every time it was drawn and that it would be the cause of three great evils. They finally cursed it so that it would also kill Svafrlami himself.

When Svafrlami heard the curses he tried to slay Dvalin, but the Dwarf disappeared into the rock and the sword was driven deep into it, though missing its victim.

Svafrlami was killed by the berserker Arngrim who took the sword in his turn. After Arngrim, it was worn by Angantyr and his eleven brothers. They were all slain at Samsø, by the Swedish champion Hjalmar, and his Norwegian sworn brother Orvar-Odd; but Hjalmar, being wounded by Tyrfing, has only time to sing his death-song before he dies, and asks Orvar-Odd to bring his body to Ingeborg, daughter of Yngvi at Uppsala.

Angantyr's daughter, Hervor (by his wife Tófa) is brought up as a bond-maid, in ignorance of her parentage. When at last she learns it, she arms herself as a shieldmaiden, and goes to Munarvoe in Samsø, in quest of the dwarf-cursed weapon. She finds it and marries Hofund. They have two sons, Heidrek and Angantyr. Hervor secretly gave her son the sword Tyrfing. While Angantyr and Heidrek walked, Heidrek wanted to have a look at the sword. Since he had unsheathed it, the curse the Dwarves had put on the sword made Heidrek kill his brother Angantyr.

Heidrek became king of the Goths. During a voyage, Heidrek camped at the Carpathians (Harvaða fjöllum, cf. Grimm's law). He was accompanied by eight mounted thralls, and when Heidrek slept at night, the thralls broke into his tent and took Tyrfing and slew Heidrek. This was the last one of Tyrfing's three evil deeds. Heidrek's son Angantyr caught the thralls, killed them and reclaimed the magic sword, and the curse had ceased.

Angantyr was the next king of the Goths, but his illegitimate half-Hun brother Hlod (or Hlöd, Hlöðr) wanted half of the kingdom. Angantýr refused, and Gizur called Hlod a bastard and his mother a slave-girl. Hlod and 343,200 mounted Huns invade the Goths (See The Battle of the Goths and Huns). The Huns greatly outnumber the Goths. The Goths won because Angantyr used Tyrfing. He killed his brother Hlod on the battle. The bodies of the numerous warriors choke the rivers, causing a flood which filled the valleys with dead men and horses.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


In Norse mythology, Dvalin is a dwarf who appears in several Old Norse tales and kennings. The name translates as "the dormant one" or "the one slumbering" (akin to the Danish and Norwegian "dvale" and Swedish "dvala", meaning "sleep", "unconscious condition" or "hibernation"). Dvalin is listed as one of the four stags of Yggdrasill in both Grímnismál from the Poetic Edda and Gylfaginning from the Prose Edda.

In the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá, Dvalin is mentioned as a name in the listing of dwarves, and again in a later stanza as a leader taking a host of dwarves from the mountains to find a new dwelling place:

"The rocks they left, and through wet lands
They sought a home, in the fields of sand"

In Hávamál, Dvalin is said to have introduced the writing of runes to the dwarves, as Dain had done for the elves and Odin for the gods.

In Alvíssmál, a kenning for the sun is listed as the "deceiver of Dvalin", referring to the sun's power of turning dwarves into stone. In skaldic poetry, "Dvalin's drink" is used as a kenning for poetry, since the mead of poetry was originally created by the dwarves.

In Fáfnismál, during a discussion between Sigurd and Fafnir concerning the minor Norns (apart from the three great Norns), those who govern the lives and destinies of dwarves are also known as "Dvalin's daughters".

In Hervarar saga, Dvalin is one of a pair of dwarves (including Durin) who forged the magic sword Tyrfing.

In the Sörla þáttr, an Icelandic short story written by two Christian Priests in 15th century, Dvalin is the name of one of the four dwarves (including Alfrigg, Berling and Grer) who fashioned a necklace which was later acquired by a woman called Freyja, who is King Odin's concubine, after she agreed to spend a night with each of them.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Svafrlami was in the H and U version of the Hervarar saga the son of Sigrlami, who was the son of Odin. In the R version, Svafrlami is called Sigrlami and his parentage is not given. Svafrlami was the king of Gardariki and the first owner of the magic sword Tyrfing.

One day, he was hunting on his horse and discovered two dwarves near a large stone. He bound them by swinging his sword above them so they could not disappear. The dwarves, who were named Dvalinn and Durin, asked if they could buy themselves free and undertook to make a magic sword. The sword would neither break nor rust and it would cut through iron and stone as easily as through cloth and would always give victory.

When Svafrlami acquired the sword, he saw that it was an exquisite and beautiful weapon and it was named Tyrfing. However, before disappearing into the rock, the dwarves cursed the weapon so that it would never be unsheathed without killing a man, would be the undoing of Svafrlami and cause three evil deeds.

One day, Svafrlami met the Berserker Arngrim. According to the H and U versions, they started to fight. Tyrfing cut through Arngrim's shield and down into the soil, whereupon Arngrim cut off Svafrlami's hand, took Tyrfing and slew him. Arngrim then forced Svafrlami's daughter Eyfura to marry him. According to the R version, Arngrim became the war-chief of the aged king and was given both Tyrfing and Eyfura as rewards.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Heremod (Proto-Norse: *Harimōdaz , Latin form: Heremodius) is a legendary Danish king and a legendary king of the Angles who would have lived in the 2nd century and known through a short account of his exile in the Old English poem Beowulf and from appearances in some genealogies as the father of Scyld. He may be the same as one of the personages named Hermóðr in Old Norse sources. Heremod may also be identical to Lother (Latin Lotherus) in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum (Book 1) or the same history may have been applied to two originally separate figures.

In Beowulf, after Beowulf has defeated Grendel, a bard sings the deeds of Sigmund:

He had of all heroes the highest renown
among races of men, this refuge-of-warriors,
for deeds of daring that decked his name
since the hand and heart of Heremod
grew slack in battle. He, swiftly banished
to join with Jutes at mercy of foes,
to death was betrayed; for torrents of sorrow
had lamed him too long; a load of care
to earls and athelings all he proved.
Oft indeed, in earlier days,
for the warrior's wayfaring wise men mourned,
who had hoped of him help from harm and bale,
and had thought their sovran's son would thrive,
follow his father, his folk protect,
the hoard and the stronghold, heroes' land,
home of Scyldings (Denmark).

It appears that Heremod was banished by his subjects and fled to the Jutes where he was betrayed to his death. After Beowulf has slain Grendel's dam, King Hrothgar speaks again of Heremod:

Was not Heremod thus
to offspring of Ecgwela, Honor-Scyldings,
nor grew for their grace, but for grisly slaughter,
for doom of death to the Danishmen.

He slew, wrath-swollen, his shoulder-comrades,
companions at board! So he passed alone,
chieftain haughty, from human cheer.
Though him the Maker with might endowed,
delights of power, and uplifted high
above all men, yet blood-fierce his mind,
his breast-hoard, grew, no bracelets gave he
to Danes as was due; he endured all joyless
strain of struggle and stress of woe,
long feud with his folk.

In genealogies Heremod appears as son of Itermon son of Hratha son of Hwala or Gwala who may be the same as the Ecgwela mentioned in the passage just cited. Heremod is also the father of Scyld in most of these genealogies. See Sceafa for a fuller treatment.

- Note: Sceafa is not Scyld, but is Seskef/Cespeth/Scef. Scelda/Skjöld/Scyld is a descendent of Sceafa, as noted all lineages referenced on the Sceafa wiki.

The Beowulf poet may have followed the same tradition, knowing a tale in which in the driving out of Heremod, Heremod's young son and heir Scyld somehow ended up placed in a ship which was set adrift.

In the Annales Ryenses and Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum (Book 1) Skjöld, that is Scyld, is preceded by a king named Lother, not one name Heremod. But what we are told of Lother fits closely with what the Beowulf poet says of Heremod. Saxo relates that King Dan left two sons behind, Humbli and Lother. Then:

Humbli was elected king at his father's death, thus winning a novel favour from his country; but by the malice of ensuing fate he fell from a king into a common man. For he was taken by Lother in war, and bought his life by yielding up his crown; such, in truth, were the only terms of escape offered him in his defeat. Forced, therefore, by the injustice of a brother to lay down his sovereignty, he furnished the lesson to mankind, that there is less safety, though more pomp, in the palace than in the cottage. Also, he bore his wrong so meekly that he seemed to rejoice at his loss of title as though it were a blessing; and I think he had a shrewd sense of the quality of a king's estate. But Lother played the king as insupportably as he had played the soldier, inaugurating his reign straightway with arrogance and crime; for he counted it uprightness to strip all the most eminent of life or goods, and to clear his country of its loyal citizens, thinking all his equals in birth his rivals for the crown. He was soon chastised for his wickedness; for he met his end in an insurrection of his country; which had once bestowed on him his kingdom, and now bereft him of his life.

Saxo then turns to Lother's son Skjöld.

That Lother seems in this account to have been killed immediately may be compression of a longer narrative. J. R. R. Tolkien in his Finn and Hengest (p. 58) provides a variant version found in the Scondia Illustrata by Johannes Messenius (Stockholm, 1700) which likely relies on lost sources rather than on Messenius' poor memory. Tolkien translates from Messenius' Latin:

... therefore Lotherus, King of the Danes, bereft of his wealth because of his excessive tyranny, and defeated, fled into Jutia.

Tolkien points out that Beowulf was unknown at the time and so could not have influenced Messenius to imagine Lotherus fleeing to Jutland. The story then becomes quite strange. The king placed on the Danish throne in place of Lotherus is Baldr. Lotherus returns from exile, kills Baldr and then is himself killed by Odin. It looks as though Lother has been confused with Höðr.

Lother might also be identical with the puzzling god Lóðurr. Commentators sometimes suggest Lóðurr is identical to Loki, and of course in the Icelandic texts that have come down to us it is Loki who is Baldr's real slayer, with Höðr/Hother being only a tool in Loki's plot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Sceafa (Old English: scēafa), also spelled Sceaf (scēaf) or Scef (scēf), was an ancient Lombardic king in English legend. According to his story, Sceafa appeared mysteriously as a child, coming out of the sea in an empty boat. The name also appears in the corrupt forms Seskef, Stefius, Strephius, and Stresaeus. Though the name has historically been modernized Shava (and Latinized Scefius), J. R. R. Tolkien used the modern spelling Sheave.

The Old English poem Widsith, line 32, in a listing of famous kings and their countries, has Sceafa Longbeardum, so naming Sceafa as ruler of the Lombards. In Origo Gentis Langobardorum the Lombards' origins are traced to an "island" in the north named Scadan or Scandan ("Scandinavia"). But neither this account or any other mentions Sceafa among their later kings or gives the names of any kings that ruled them in the land of their origin where they were said to have been known as the Winnili.

Other than this, Sceaf is mentioned only in chronicles tracing the lineage of the English kings, although variants are found in similar genealogies for the rulers of the Danes, Norwegians and Icelanders in the sagas. Most such genealogies stop at the god Woden, but some trace the supposed ancestors of Woden up to a certain Geat. The account in the Historia Britonum calls Geat a son of a god. Asser in his Life of Alfred writes instead that the pagans worshipped Geat himself for a long time as a god.

Moderns speculate on whether this Geat is any eponym of the people known as Geats, or whether it may be the name of a god, or whether it is both. The apparent Old Norse cognate form Gautr is a very common byname for Odin. The Icelandic Herrauðssaga speaks of King Hring who ruled East Götaland and was son of Gauti son of Odin. Jordanes in his The origin and deeds of the Goths traces the line of the Amelungs up to Hulmul son of Gapt, purportedly the first Gothic hero of record. This Gapt is felt by many commentators to be an error for Gaut.

A few of these genealogies provide mortal ancestors to Geat, tracing his ancestry to Sceaf and then tell of Sceaf's origin. Æthelweard in his Chronica writes of Sceaf:

This Scef came in a light boat to an island of the ocean which is called Scani, arms around about him, and he was a very young boy, unknown to the dwellers in the land. But he was accepted by them and cared for like one of their own kind, and afterwards they chose him as king, from whose family descended King Æthelwulf.

William of Malmesbury in his Gesta regum anglorum wrote:

.. Sceaf; who, as some affirm, was driven on a certain island in Germany, called Scandza, (of which Jornandes, the historian of the Goths, speaks), a little boy in a skiff, without any attendant, asleep, with a handful of corn at his head, whence he was called Sceaf; and, on account of his singular appearance, being well received by the men of that country, and carefully educated, in his riper age he reigned in a town which was called Slaswic, but at present Haithebi; which country, called old Anglia, whence the Angles came into Britain, is situated between the Saxons and the Goths.

However the genealogy in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle year 855, versions B and C, explains instead that Scef was born in Noah's ark, interpreting Sceaf as a non-Biblical son of Noah, and then continuing with the ancestry of Noah up to Adam as found in Genesis.

Sceaf is unknown outside of English sources except for one mention in Snorri Sturluson's Prologue to the Prose Edda, which is informed by English sources.

Older than these is the Old English poem Beowulf which applies the story of the boy in the boat instead to the Danish who is the eponym of the legendary Danish royal lineage known as the Scyldings or Skjöldings. In the opening lines of Beowulf, Scyld is called Scyld Scefing, which might mean Scyld descendant of Scef, Scyld son of Scef, or Scyld of the Sheaf. The Beowulf poet does not explain. But after relating in general terms the glories of Scyld's reign, the poet describes Scyld's funeral, how his body was laid in a ship surrounded by treasures, the poet explains:

They decked his body no less bountifully
with offerings than those first ones did
who cast him away when he was a child
and launched him alone out over the waves.

No other source relates anything similar about Scyld/Skjöld, so it cannot be known whether this is a case of similar stories being told about two different heroes or whether originally separate figures have been confused with one another.

A connection between sheaf and shield appears in the 13th century Chronicon de Abingdon which relates a dispute over ownership of a river meadow named Beri between the Abbot of Abingdon and the men of Oxfordshire. The dispute was decided by a ritual in which the monks placed a sheaf (sceaf) of wheat on a round shield (scyld) and a wax candle upon the sheaf which they lit. They then floated the shield with sheaf and candle on the Thames river to see where it would go. The shield purportedly kept to the middle of the Thames until it arrived at the disputed field, which was then an island because of flooding, whereupon it changed its course and entirely circled the meadow between the Thames and the Iffley.

Scyld is sometimes son of Sceaf and sometimes son of Heremod and a descendant of Scef. William of Malmesbury combines both versions in making Scyld son of Sceaf and Sceaf son of Heremod, but then traces Heremod's ancestry up to Strephius, son of Noah, born in the ark, who is obviously Sceaf appearing a second time with corrupt name. Asser in his Life of Alfred repeats the listing of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for this section of his genealogy except that he replaces Sceaf altogether with the name Seth and mentions nothing about him being born in the ark. Some modern translations emend Seth to Shem who was son of Noah in the Genesis account.

While some differences between the genealogies are obviously simple omissions, others are more complex. One additional version of the genealogy directly makes Seskef (as found in the Edda) the name of Noah's son.

It is possible that name of Beaw the son of Scyld may be a variant of beow 'barley' and that in part these figures derive from rustic folklore about King Sheaf and his son Barley into which the Shield element has intruded. Perhaps a misunderstanding of Scyld Scefing as Scyld the Scefing instead of Scyld of the Sheaf led to the boat story being transferred to Scyld's supposed father Sceaf when he became misunderstood as the true first king in the dynasty. There may be confusion between Danish traditions about Scyld/Skjöld and Anglic traditions about Sceaf. There is the possibility that Bedwig son of Sceaf is a corruption of Beaw son of Scyld. Scholars disagree.

For the descendants of Sceaf, only Scyld/Skjöld, Beaw, and Heremod are certainly known elsewhere outside these genealogies, though Hwala or Gwala is possibly the Ecgwela who appears in connection with Heremod in the poem Beowulf in the phrase "offspring of Ecgwela", apparently a kenning for Danes.

J. R. R. Tolkien treated Sceaf in a poem "King Sheave" which was published after his death in "The Lost Road" in The Lost Road and Other Writings and very slightly revised and printed as prose in "The Notion Club Papers (Part Two)" in Sauron Defeated.

In Tolkien's treatment, a ship drifts to the land of the Longobards in the north. It beaches itself and the folk of that country enter and found a young and handsome boy with dark hair asleep with a "sheaf of corn" as his pillow and a harp beside him. The boy awoke the following day and sang a song in an unknown tongue which drove away all terror from the hearts of those who heard. They made the boy their king, crowning him with a garland of golden wheat. Tolkien's Sheave fathers seven sons from whence came the Danes, Goths, Swedes, Northmen, Franks, Frisians, Swordmen (Brongdingas), Saxons, Swabes, English, and the Langobards.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


In Norse mythology, Gefjon or Gefjun (with the alternate spelling Gefion) is a goddess associated with ploughing, the Danish island of Zealand, the legendary Swedish king Gylfi, the legendary Danish king Skjöldr, foreknowledge, and virginity. Gefjon is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; in the works of skalds; and appears as a gloss for various Greco-Roman goddesses in some Old Norse translations of Latin works.

The Prose Edda and Heimskringla both report that Gefjon plowed away what is now lake Mälaren, Sweden, and with this land formed the island of Zealand, Denmark. In addition, the Prose Edda describes that not only is Gefjon a virgin herself, but that all who die a virgin become her attendants. Heimskringla records that Gefjon married the legendary Danish king Skjöldr and that the two dwelled in Lejre, Denmark.

Scholars have proposed theories about the etymology the name of the goddess, connections to fertility and ploughing practices, the implications of the references made to her as a virgin, five potential mentions of the goddess in the Old English poem Beowulf, and potential connections between Gefjon and Grendel's Mother and/or the goddesses Freyja and Frigg.

A reoccurring theme in legend and folktale consists of a man or, more often, a woman who is challenged to gain as much land as can be traveled within a limited amount of time. This motif is attested by Livy around 1 CE, 5th century BCE Greek historian Herodotus, and in folktales from Northern Europe. In six tales from Jutland, Denmark and one from Germany a plough is used similarly as in Livy's account, though the conditions are often met by walking or riding.

Hilda Ellis Davidson points out a tale from Iceland that features a female settler "whose husband had died on the voyage out, establishing her claim to a piece of land by driving a young hiefer round it." Davidson notes that in Landnámabók, this is recorded as a recognized method for a woman to claim land, and the work further details that "she might not possess more than she could encircle in this way between sunrise and sunset on a spring day." Davidson comments that "this sounds like a ritual taking over of land rather than a legal requirement, like the custom of men lighting fires when taking new land, and it is possible that the women's custom was linked with the fertility goddess." In addition, Davidson notes that Zealand is the most fertile region of Denmark.

Davidson further links folk customs recorded in the 19th century involving ploughs in Northern and Eastern Europe to practices involving Gefjon from the heathen period. Davidson points out that in eastern Europe, a custom is recorded in Russia where women with loosened hair and clad in white would assemble and drag a plough three times around their village during serious disease outbreaks. In Western Europe, yearly ploughing rituals occurring in England and Denmark in preparation for spring sowing which are, in eastern England, held on Plough Monday after the Christmas break. Gangs of young men dragged round a plough, while taking various names. Davidson states that "Gefjon with her giant sons transformed into oxen seems a fitting patroness of ceremonies of this kind."

Davidson finds similar elements and parallels in non-Germanic traditions, such as a folktale regarding the Lady of the Lake from Wales recorded in the 19th century. In the tale, the Lady brings forth a "a herd of wondrous cattle" from the water after she consents to marrying a local farmer. Years later, he unwittingly breaks conditions that she had laid down. As a result, the Lady returns to her dwelling beneath the lake, and calls for her cattle to accompany her, calling them by name. In one version of the tale, the Lady calls forth four gray oxen who were ploughing in a field six miles away. Responding to her call, the oxen dragged the plough with them, and the gash in the land that the plough produced was said to have once been clearly visible.

A woman was recorded in 1881 as having claimed to recall that people once gathered at the lake on the first Sunday of August, waiting to see whether or not the water would boil up as an indication that the Lady and her oxen would make an appearance. Davidson notes that "here again a supernatural woman is linked both with water and ploughing land."

Davidson states that in Germanic areas of Europe, traditions also exist of supernatural women who travel about the countryside with a plough, examples including Holde and Holle (from the western and central regions of Germany) and Berchte and Perchte in traditions from upper Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Davidson explains that "they were frequently said to travel with a plough around the countryside, in a way reminiscent of the journey of the fertility goddess to bless the land in pre-Christian times, and on these occasions they might be accompanied by a host of tiny children; it was suggested that these children who died unbaptized, or human offspring replaced by changelings, but another possibility is that they were the souls of the unborn." Davidson details that some local tales feature the plough breaking down, the supernatural woman gaining assistance from a helper, and the supernatural woman giving him wooden chips, only for the chips to later to turn to gold.

Regarding the plough and Gefjon, Davidson concludes that "the idea behind the taking of the plough round the countryside seems to be that it brought good fortune and prosperity, gifts of a benevolent goddess. Gefjon and her plough thus fit into a large framework of the cult of a goddess associated with fertility of both land and water."

Mentions of Gefjon may appear in Beowulf in five passages (line 49, line 362, line 515, line 1394, and line 1690). Scholar Frank Battaglia refers to these passages as "the Gefion passages," and asks "Does Beowulf oppose the Earth Goddess of ancient Germanic religion? The possibility of such an interpretation follows upon the discovery that the name Gefion, by which early Danes called their female chthonic deity, may occur in the Old English poem five times." Battaglia further theorizes that:

The five Gefion passages seem to highlight the championing of a new order antagonistic to goddess worship. In light of what appears to be an elaborate thematic statement about patrilineage in the poem, the new order may also have entailed a change in kinship systems. Grendel and his mother may stand as types of earlier, matrilineal tribes. Further the hall which is the object of struggle between Beowulf and the first two monsters may symbolize the consolidation of new hierarchical social organization among the northern Germanic peoples.

Battaglia says that if the passages are taken to represent Gefjon, gēafon mentioned in line 49 refers directly to Gefjon's sadness at Skjöldr's (described as having wed Gefjon in Heimskringla) death, and that here "we may with some confidence conclude that in a poem about Scyld's funeral for an Anglo-Danish audience, the word gēafon could probably not have been used without invoking Gefion."

Battaglia posits translations for line 362 (Geofenes begang) as "Gefion's realm," line 515 (Geofon ȳðum wēol) as "Gefion welled up in waves," line 1394 (nē on Gyfenes grund, gā þær hē wille) as "not (even) in the ground of Gefion, go where he will," and line 1690 (Gifen gēotende gīgante cyn;) as "Gefion gushing, the race of giants."

Scholar Richard North theorizes that Old English geofon and Old Norse Gefjun and Freyja's name Gefn may all descend from a common origin; gabia a Germanic goddess connected with the sea, whose name means "giving"

Gefjon appears prominently as the allegorical mother of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark in the forty-page Swedish Romantic poem Gefion, a Poem in Four Cantos by Eleonora Charlotta d'Albedyhll (1770–1835). A fountain depicting Gefjun driving her oxen sons to pull her plough (The Gefion Fountain, 1908) by Anders Bundgaard stands in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the island of Zealand, as in the myth.[34] The Gefion family, a family of asteroids, and asteroid 1272 Gefion (discovered in 1931 by Karl Wilhelm Reinmuth[36]) both derive their names from that of the goddess.

Monday, April 16, 2012


In Norse mythology, Skaði (sometimes anglicized as Skadi, Skade, or Skathi) is a jötunn and goddess associated with bowhunting, skiing, winter, and mountains. Skaði is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, and in the works of skalds.

In all sources, Skaði is the daughter of the deceased Þjazi, and Skaði married the god Njörðr as part of the compensation provided by the gods for killing her father Þjazi. In Heimskringla, Skaði is described as having split up with Njörðr and as later having married the god Ullr, and that the two produced many children together. In both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Skaði is responsible for placing the serpent that drips venom onto the bound Loki. Skaði is alternately referred to as Öndurguð (Old Norse "ski god") and Öndurdís (Old Norse "ski lady").

The etymology of the name Skaði is uncertain, but may be connected with the original form of Scandinavia. Some place names in Scandinavia, particularly in Sweden, refer to Skaði. Scholars have theorized a potential connection between Skaði and the god Ullr (who is also associated with skiing and appears most frequently in place names in Sweden), a particular relationship with the jötunn Loki, and that Scandinavia may be related to the name Skaði (potentially meaning "Skaði's island") or the name may be connected to an Old Norse noun meaning "harm". Skaði has inspired various works of art.

The Old Norse name Skaði, along with Sca(n)dinavia and Skáney, may be related to Gothic skadus, Old English sceadu, Old Saxon scado, and Old High German scato (meaning "shadow"). Scholar John McKinnell comments that this etymology suggests Skaði may have once been a personification of the geographical region of Scandinavia or associated with the underworld.

Georges Dumézil disagrees with the notion of Scadin-avia as etymologically "the island of the goddess Skaði." Dumézil comments that the first element Scadin must have had—or once had—a connection to "darkness" "or something else we cannot be sure of". Dumézil says that, rather, the name Skaði derives from the name of the geographical region, which was at the time no longer completely understood. In connection, Dumézil points to a parallel in Ériu, a goddess personifying Ireland that appears in some Irish texts, whose name he says comes from Ireland rather than the other way around.

Alternatively, Skaði may be connected with the Old Norse noun skaði ("harm"), whence the Icelandic skaði (“harm, damage”). Skaði is attested in poems found in the Poetic Edda, in two books of the Prose Edda and in one Heimskringla book.

In the Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál, the god Odin (disguised as Grímnir) reveals to the young Agnarr the existence of twelve locations. Odin mentions the location Þrymheimr sixth in a single stanza. In the stanza, Odin details that the jötunn Þjazi once lived there, and that now his daughter Skaði does. Odin describes Þrymheimr as consisting of "ancient courts" and refers to Skaði as "the shining bride of the gods". In the prose introduction to the poem Skírnismál, the god Freyr has become heartsick for a fair girl (the jötunn Gerðr) he has spotted in Jötunheimr. The god Njörðr asks Freyr's servant Skírnir to talk to Freyr, and in the first stanza of the poem, Skaði also tells Skírnir to ask Freyr why he is so upset. Skírnir responds that he expects harsh words from their son Freyr.

In the prose introduction to the poem Lokasenna, Skaði is referred to as the wife of Njörðr and is cited as one of the goddesses attending Ægir's feast. After Loki has an exchange with the god Heimdallr, Skaði interjects. Skaði tells Loki that he is "light-hearted" and that Loki will not be "playing [...] with [his] tail wagging free" for much longer, for soon the gods will bind Loki to a sharp rock with the ice-cold entrails of his son. Loki responds that, even if this is so, he was "first and foremost" at the killing of Þjazi. Skaði responds that, if this is so, "baneful advice" will always flow from her "sanctuaries and plains". Loki responds that Skaði was more friendly in speech when Skaði was in his bed—an accusation he makes to most of the goddesses in the poem and is not attested elsewhere. Loki's flyting then turns to the goddess Sif.

In the prose section at the end of Lokasenna, the gods catch Loki and bind him with the innards of his son Nari, while they turn his son Narfi into a wolf. Skaði places a venomous snake above Loki's face. Venom drips from the snake and Loki's wife Sigyn sits and holds a basin beneath the serpent, catching the venom. When the basin is full, Sigyn must empty it, and during that time the snake venom falls on to Loki's face, causing him to writhe in a tremendous fury, so much so that all earthquakes stem from Loki's writhings.

In the poem Hyndluljóð, the female jötunn Hyndla tells the goddess Freyja various mythological genealogies. In one stanza, Hyndla notes that Þjazi "loved to shoot" and that Skaði was his daughter.

In the Prose Edda, Skaði is attested in two books: Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál.

In chapter 23 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, the enthroned figure of High details that Njörðr's wife is Skaði, that she is the daughter of the jötunn Þjazi, and recounts a tale involving the two. High recalls that Skaði wanted to live in the home once owned by her father called Þrymheimr. However, Njörðr wanted to live nearer to the sea. Subsequently, the two made an agreement that they would spend nine nights in Þrymheimr and then the next three nights in Njörðr's sea-side home Nóatún (or nine winters in Þrymheimr and another nine in Nóatún according to the Codex Regius manuscript). However, when Njörðr returned from the mountains to Nóatún, he said:

"Hateful for me are the mountains,
I was not long there,
only nine nights.
The howling of the wolves
sounded ugly to me
after the song of the swans."

Skaði responded:

"Sleep I could not
on the sea beds
for the screeching of the bird.
That gull wakes me
when from the wide sea
he comes each morning."

The sources for these stanzas are not provided in the Prose Edda or elsewhere. High says that afterward Skaði went back up to the mountains and lived in Þrymheimr, and there Skaði often travels on skis, wields a bow, and shoots wild animals. High notes that Skaði is also referred to as "ski god" (Old Norse Öndurgud) or Öndurdis and the "ski lady" (Öndurdís). In support, the above mentioned stanza from the Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál is cited. In the next chapter (24), High says that "after this", Njörðr "had two children": Freyr and Freyja. The name of the mother of the two children is not provided here.

At the end of chapter 51 of Gylfaginning, High describes how the gods caught and bound Loki. Skaði is described as having taken a venomous snake and fastening it above the bound Loki, so that the venom may dip on to Loki's face. Loki's wife Sigyn sat by his side and held a bowl out. The bowl catches the venom, but when the bowl becomes full Loki writhes in extreme pain, causing the earth the shake and resulting in what we know as an earthquake.

In chapter 56 of the Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál, Bragi recounts to Ægir how the gods killed Þjazi. Þjazi's daughter, Skaði, took a helmet, a coat of mail, and "all weapons of war" and traveled to Asgard, the home of the gods. Upon Skaði's arrival, the gods wished to atone for her loss and offered compensation. Skaði provides them with her terms of settlement, and the gods agree that Skaði may choose a husband from among themselves. However, Skaði must choose this husband by looking solely at their feet. Skaði saw a pair of feet that she found particularly attractive and said "I choose that one; there can be little that is ugly about Baldr." However, the owner of the feet turned out to be Njörðr.

Skaði also included in her terms of settlement that the gods must do something she thought impossible for them to do: make her laugh. To do so, Loki tied one end of a cord around the beard of a nanny goat and the other end around his testicles. The goat and Loki drew one another back and forth, both squealing loudly. Loki dropped into Skaði's lap, and Skaði laughed, completing this part of her atonement. Finally, in compensation to Skaði, Odin took Þjazi's eyes, lunged them into the sky, and from the eyes made two stars.

Further in Skáldskaparmál, a work by the skald Þórðr Sjáreksson is quoted. The poem refers to Skaði as "the wise god-bride" and notes that she "could not love the Van". Prose below the quote clarifies that this is a reference to Skaði's leaving of Njörðr. In chapter 16, names for Loki are given, including "wrangler of Heimdall and Skadi". In chapter 22, Skaði is referenced in the 10th century poem Haustlöng where the skald Þjóðólfr of Hvinir refers to an ox as "bow-string-Var's [Skaði's] whale". In chapter 23, the skald Bragi Boddason refers to Þjazi as the "father of the ski-dis". In chapter 32, Skaði is listed among six goddesses who attend a party held by Ægir. In chapter 75, Skaði is included among a list of 27 ásynjur names.

Another figure by the name of Skaði who appears in the first chapter of Völsunga saga. In the chapter, this Skaði—who is male—is the owner of a thrall by the name of Breði. Another man, Sigi—a son of Odin—went hunting one winter with the thrall. Sigi and the thrall Breði hunted throughout the day until evening, when they compared their kills. Sigi saw that the thrall's kills outdid his own, and so Sigi killed Breði and buried Breði's corpse in a snowdrift.

That night, Sigi returned home and claimed that Breði had ridden out into the forest, that he had lost sight of Breði, and that he furthermore did not know what became of the thrall. Skaði doubted Sigi's explanation, suspected that Sigi was lying, and that Sigi had instead killed Breði. Skaði gathered men together to look for Breði and the group eventually found the corpse of Breði in a snowdrift. Skaði declared that henceforth the snowdrift should be called "Breði's drift," and ever since then people have referred to large snow drifts by that name. The fact that Sigi murdered Breði was evident, and so Sigi was considered an outlaw. Led by Odin, Sigi leaves the land, and Skaði is not mentioned again in the saga.

Scholar Jesse Byock notes that the goddess Skaði is also associated with winter and hunting, and that the episode in Volsunga saga involving the male Skaði, Sigi, and Breði has been theorized as stemming from an otherwise lost myth

Modern works of art depicting Skaði include Skadi und Niurd (illustration, 1883) by K. Ehrenberg and Skadi (1901) by E. Doepler d. J. Skaði also appears in A. Oehlenschläger's poem (1819) Skades Giftermaal. Art deco depictions of both the god Ullr (1928) and Skaði (1929) appear on covers of the Swedish ski annual På Skidor, both skiing and wielding bows. E. John B. Allen notes that the deities are portrayed in a manner that "give[s] historical authority to this most important of Swedish ski journals, which began publication in 1893". A moon of the planet Saturn (Skathi) takes its name from that of the goddess.

Skadi plays a major role in the Marvel comics crossover event Fear Itself, Where she is the incarnation of Sinthea Schmidt, daughter of the Red Skull.

Skadi is a usable minor goddess in Age of Mythology. Her special Myth Unit is a Frost Giant (thurse), and her God Power is a blast of intensely cold air that freezes all units within the blast radius solid for a period of time. She also provides improvements for Throwing Axemen and farming.

Skadi is the main character in a web comic by Katie Rice and Luke Cormican on the weekly webcomic site Dumm Comics. In this web comic entitled "Skadi" Skadi's objective is to hunt and eat the meat of every species. Though the comic often strays from this plot. A book for the web comic is in the works

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Sæmingr was a king of Norway according to Snorri Sturluson's euhemerized accounts. He was said to be the son of Odin or Yngvi-Freyr.

According to the prologue of the Prose Edda, Sæmingr was one of the sons of Odin and the ancestor of the kings of Norway and of the jarls of Hlaðir. Snorri relates that Odin settled in Sweden and:

After that he went into the north, until he was stopped by the sea, which men thought lay around all the lands of the earth; and there he set his son over this kingdom, which is now called Norway. This king was Sæmingr; the kings of Norway trace their lineage from him, and so do also the jarls and the other mighty men, as is said in the Háleygjatal.

—Prologue of the Prose Edda (11) Brodeur's translation

In the Ynglinga saga, Snorri adds that Sæmingr's mother was Skaði:

Njord took a wife called Skade; but she would not live with him and married afterwards Odin, and had many sons by him, of whom one was called Saeming; and about him Eyvind Skaldaspiller sings thus: --

"To Asa's son Queen Skade bore
Saeming, who dyed his shield in gore, --
The giant-queen of rock and snow,
Who loves to dwell on earth below,
The iron pine-tree's daughter, she
Sprung from the rocks that rib the sea,
To Odin bore full many a son,
Heroes of many a battle won."

To Saeming Earl Hakon the Great reckoned back his pedigree.

—The Ynglinga Saga, Laing's translation

Sæmingr is also listed among the sons of Odin in the þulur.

But in the prologue of the Heimskringla Snorri mentions that according to a lost stanza of Eyvindr skáldaspillir's Háleygjatal, Sæmingr was the son of Yngvi-Freyr.

The late Saga of Hálfdan Eysteinsson also reports that Sæmingr was Odin's son. The saga adds that he reigned over Hålogaland. He married Nauma and had a son called Þrándr.

A Swedish king by the name Semingr (likely the very same name as the Norwegian king of Folklore in an alternate rendering) becomes victim to a draugr who wields a legendary sword in The Saga of Hromund Gripsson. A similar name, "Sámr", appears related to characters in both Hrafnkels saga & Njáls saga.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Dan is the name of one or more legendary kings of the Danes in medieval Scandinavian texts. The Chronicle of Lejre (Chronicon Lethrense) written about 1170 introduces a primeval King Ypper of Uppsala whose three sons were Dan, who afterwards ruled Denmark, Nori, who afterwards ruled Norway, and Østen, who afterwards ruled the Swedes. Dan apparently first ruled in Zealand for the Chronicle states that it was when Dan had saved his people from an attack by the Emperor Augustus that the Jutes and the men of Fyn and Scania also accepted him as king, whence the resultant expanded country of Denmark was named after him. Dan's wife was named Dana and his son was named Ro. The Eddic poem Rígsthula, tells how the god Ríg (said to be Heimdall), fathered a mortal son named Jarl 'noble' later known as Ríg-Jarl. Ríg-Jarl had eleven sons, the youngest of which bore the name Kon the Young (Old Norse Konr Ungr), this name understood to be the origin of the title konungr 'king', though the etymology is in fact untenable. One day, as he was hunting and snaring birds in the forest, a crow spoke to him and suggested he would gain more by going after men, and praised the wealth of "Dan and Danp". The poem breaks off incomplete at that point.

According to Arngrímur Jónsson's Latin epitome of the lost Skjöldungasaga made in 1597:

Ríg (Rigus) was a man not the least among the great ones of his time. He married the daughter of a certain Danp [Old Norse Danpr], lord of Danpsted, whose name was Dana; and later, having won the royal title for his province, left as his heir his son by Dana, called Dan or Danum, all of whose subjects were called Danes.

This tradition is close to that of the Rígsthula.

This Dan married Olof the daughter of Wermund and so became brother-in-law to the Offa of Angel mentioned in the Old English poem Beowulf. Dan ruled first in Jutland but then conquered Zealand from King Aleif creating the kingdom of Denmark.

Snorri Sturluson's Ynglinga saga relates of King Dygvi of Sweden:

Dygvi's mother was Drótt, a daughter of King Danp, the son of Ríg, who was first called konungr ['king'] in the Danish tongue [(Old Norse)]. His descendants always afterwards considered the title of konungr the title of highest dignity. Dygvi was the first of his family to be called konungr, for his predecessors had been called dróttinn ['chieftain'], and their wives dróttning, and their court drótt ['war band']. Each of their race was called Yngvi, or Ynguni, and the whole race together Ynglingar. Queen Drótt was a sister of King Dan Mikilláti, from whom Denmark took its name.

Here Ríg is father of Danp the father of Dan. The title Mikilláti can be translated 'Magnificent' or 'Proud'.

Snorri does not relate here whether this Dan is also descended from King Fridfrodi or Peace-Fróði whom Snorri presented as ruling in Zealand as a contemporary of Fjölnir son of Frey six generations before King Dygvi. Snorri writes further:

In the time when the kings we have been speaking of were in Uppsala, Denmark had been ruled over by Dan Mikilláti, who lived to a very great age; then by his son, Fróði Mikilláti, or the Peace-loving, who was succeeded by his sons Halfdan and Fridleif, who were great warriors.

This peaceful Fróði seems a duplicate of the earlier Fróði.

In his preface to the Heimskringla (which includes the Ynglinga saga), Snorri writes:

The Age of Cairns began properly in Denmark after Dan Mikilláti had raised for himself a burial cairn, and ordered that he should be buried in it on his death, with his royal ornaments and armour, his horse and saddle-furniture, and other valuable goods; and many of his descendants followed his example. But the burning of the dead continued, long after that time, to be the custom of the Swedes and Northmen.

The 12th century historian Sven Aagesen mentions Danu Elatus 'the Proud' presumably, Dan Mikilláti, and makes him the successor to Uffi, that is to Offa son of Wermund, so agreeing with the Skjöldungasaga. He said that this Dan was so powerful a king that he had another king as his page and two nobles to hold his horse.

Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum presents three different Danish monarchs named Dan, either splitting up a single monarch into many, or properly keeping separate what others have confused.

Saxo begins his history with two brothers named Dan and Angul, sons of one Humbli, who were made rulers by the consent of the people because of their bravery. They were not however called "kings", as that usage was not then common.

Angul is the eponym of the region of Angul and from his people eventually came the English who gave their name to England. Dan fathered two sons, Humblus and Lotherus, by his wife Grytha.

Neither one is otherwise known, though a king named Humli is a leader of Huns in the Old Norse Battle of the Goths and Huns. Lotherus might have some relation to the Norse god Lóðurr or to the exiled king Heremod mentioned in Beowulf or to both. According to Saxo, Lotherus is father of the famous hero Skioldus.

The second king called Dan appears much later in Book 4, as the son of Uffi son of Vermund, (that is Offa of Angel son of Wermund). But Saxo passes over him in a few lines as a warlike king who scorned his subjects and wasted his wealth, much degenerated from his ancestors.

He is followed by King Huglek, then Fróði the Active, who is then followed by the third Dan. Apparently this Dan is the son of Fróði the Active, though Saxo does not specifically give the parentage of any of these kings. Of this Dan, Saxo relates only an anecdote that when Dan was twelve years old, tired of the arrogance of Saxon ambassadors who demanded tribute on pain of war, he bridged the river Elbe with ships, crossed over, and won a great victory.

This Dan is father of Fridlef father of Frothi, in whom one recognizes Fridleif and his son Fróði mentioned often in Norse sources, the latter being, at least by parentage, the Peace-Fróði whom Snorri introduced in the early in the Ynglinga saga.

It was once seen as a valuable source for Migration Period history, but is now regarded as inauthentic fakelore created during the 16th century.

The Song of Eric deals with Eric, the first king of Geatland (fyrsti konunger i Götalandinu vidha). He sent a troop of Geats southward to a country named Vetala, where no one had yet cultivated the land. In their company was a wise man who was to uphold the law. Finally, a king named Humli set his son Dan to rule the settlers, and after Dan, Vetala was named Denmark.

The song was first published in a Latin translation in Johannes Magnus' Historia de omnibus gothorum sueonumque regibus (1554). He states that the original song was widely sung in Sweden at the time.

Friday, April 13, 2012


Skjöldr (Latinized as Skioldus, sometimes Anglicized as Skjold or Skiold) was among the first legendary Danish kings. He is mentioned in the Prose Edda, in Ynglinga saga, in Chronicon Lethrense, in Sven Aggesen's history, in Arngrímur Jónsson's Latin abstract of the lost Skjöldunga saga and in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum. Under the name Scyld he also appears in the Old English poem Beowulf. The various accounts have little in common.

In the Skjöldunga and the Ynglinga sagas, Odin came from Asia and conquered Northern Europe. He gave Sweden to his son Yngvi and Denmark to his son Skjöldr. Since then the kings of Sweden were called Ynglings and those of Denmark Skjöldungs (Scyldings).

Scyld Scefing is the legendary ancestor of the Danish royal lineage known as the Scyldings. He is the counterpart of the Skioldus or Skjöldr of Danish and Icelandic sources.

He appears in the opening lines of Beowulf, where he is referred to as Scyld Scefing, indicating he is a descendant of Scef, Scyld son of Scef, or Scyld of the Sheaf. The Beowulf poet places him in a boat which is seen in other stories about Scef as a child in a boat. After relating in general terms the glories of Scyld's reign, the poet describes Scyld's funeral, his body was laid in a ship surrounded by treasures:

They decked his body no less bountifully
with offerings than those first ones did
who cast him away when he was a child
and launched him alone out over the waves.

William of Malmesbury's 12th century Chronicle tells the story of a Sceaf, as a sleeping child in a boat without oars, with a sheaf of corn at his head. Whether William included the reference because of prior knowledge of the epic Beowulf or from some other source is not known.

Axel Olrik in 1910 suggested a parallel "barley-figure" in Finnish Pekko, in turn connected by Fulk (1989) with Eddaic Bergelmir

Thursday, April 12, 2012


In the Völsung cycle, Sigi is the ancestor of the Völsung lineage. In the Völsunga saga, he is said to be one of the sons of Odin. He is also listed among Odin's sons in the Nafnaþulur. He had a son called Rerir.

He was outlawed for murdering a slave who had outdone him in hunting. With the help of Odin, Sigi fled from the land and led successful raids, so much so that he became king of Húnaland, a country name referring both to the territories of the Franks, also known as the Hugones or Hugas, and the territories of the Huns. In his old age, he was killed by his wife's brothers who seized his kingdom. His son Rerir avenged him.

Sigi (or Siggi) is also mentioned in the prologue of the Prose Edda, where he is said to have ruled over Frakland (land of the Franks): "Odin's third son is named Sigi, his son Rerir. These the forefathers ruled over what is now called Frankland; and thence is descended the house known as Völsungs."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sons of Odin

Various gods and men appear as Sons of Odin or Sons of Wodan/Wotan or Sons of Woden in old Old Norse and Old High German and Old English texts.

Only four gods, Thor, Baldur, Váli/Bous, and the Carl of Denmark are identified as sons of Odin, and ergo (inherently) Metal Gods, in the Eddic poems, in the skaldic poems, in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum, and in the Gylfaginning section of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda. But silence on the matter does not indicate that other gods whose parentage is not mentioned in these works might not also be sons of Odin. Carl, for example, is never explicitly identified as a god in these works, but his godhood is undeniable; his legendary skill with his 'stringed' axe could only suggest divinity.

According to all skaldic poems, Eddic poems, and Snorri Sturluson's Edda, Thor's mother is Jörd, a giantess representing the earth.

Baldur is son of Odin by his wife Frigg, attested by an excerpt from the Eddic poem Lokasenna in which Frigg says to Loki:

If I still had a son, sitting here,
As brave as Baldur was,
You would not escape unscathed from the hall,
Before you fought with him.

If any of the other gods present at the banquet are her sons, this would be a taunt to them, but that does not seem to be the case. Snorri also presents Baldur as a son of Odin and Frigg in his Edda. In the Gylfaginning section Snorri calls Baldur "the second son of Odin".

In Saxo's Gesta Danorum (Book 3), however, Baldur is "a demigod, sprung secretly from celestial seed", that is, a son of Odin by a mortal woman (though Saxo considers all these gods to have been in reality human beings and apologizes in this section for not carrying this through consistently).

Váli, the avenger of Baldur in Norse tradition, is mentioned in several Norse texts as the son of Odin by Rind, of whom Snorri says in the Gylfaginning: "Thor's mother Jörd and Váli's mother Rind are reckoned among the Ásynjur." In Saxo's account Váli is named Bous (sometimes Anglicized as Boe) and is fathered by Odin with Rinda, "daughter of the King of the Ruthenians".

In the Skáldskaparmál Snorri calls Vidar a son of Odin by the giantess Gríd. In various kennings Snorri also describes Heimdall, Bragi, Tyr and Höd as sons of Odin, information that appears nowhere else in the Edda.

For Heimdall and Vidar there is no variant account of their father. The same may not be true for Bragi if Bragi is taken to be the skaldic poet Bragi Boddason made into a god. But Tyr, according to the Eddic poem Hymiskvida, was son of the giant Hymir rather than a son of Odin. As to Höd, outside of the single statement in the kennings, Snorri makes no mention that Höd is Baldur's brother or Odin's son, though one might expect that to be emphasized. In Saxo's version of the death of Baldur, Höd, whom Saxo calls Høtherus, is a mortal and in no way related to Saxo's demi-god Baldur.

Hermód appears in Snorri's Gylfaginning as the messenger sent by Odin to Hel to seek to bargain for Balder's release. He is called "son" of Odin in most manuscripts, but in the Codex Regius version—the Codex Regius is normally considered the best manuscript—Hermód is called sveinn Óðins 'Odin's boy', which might mean Odin's son but in the context is as likely to mean Odin's servant. However when Hermód arrives in Hel's hall, Snorri calls Baldur his brother. To confuse matters other texts know of a mortal hero named Hermód or Heremod.

Some manuscripts of the Skáldskaparmál give, along with other material, a list of the sons of Odin, which does not altogether fit with what Snorri writes elsewhere and so is usually thought to be a later addition. As such it is omitted from some editions and translations, but it does appear in Anthony Faulkes' translation. If not by Snorri, the list is all the more valuable in that it represents an independent tradition. The text reads:

Sons of Óðinn Baldr and Meili
Víðarr and Nepr Váli, Áli
Þórr and Hildólfr Hermóðr, Sigi
Skjöldr, Yngvi-Freyr and Ítreksjóð
Heimdallr, Sæmingr Höðr and Bragi

Sigi is ancestor of the Volsungs. Skjöld is ancestor of the Skjölding dynasty in Denmark. Yngvi is ancestor of a legendary Swedish Ynglings. Sæming is ancestor of a line of Norwegian kings. All appear in Snorri's pseudo-historical Prologue to the Prose Edda as sons of Odin and founders of these various lineages, perhaps all thought to be sons of Odin begotten on mortal women. See Yngvi for discussions of this personage who is mostly identical with Frey in extant texts, even though in almost all sources Frey (often called Yngvi-Frey) is instead the son of Njörd. But a Faroese ballad recorded in 1840 names Odin's son as Veraldur, this Veraldur being understood as another name of Frö, that is of Frey. See Frey for details.

Hildolf and Itreksjod are otherwise unknown as sons of Odin. The name Hildolf appears in the eddic poem Hárbardsljód applied by the ferryman Harbard to his supposed master, but Harbard is actually Odin in disguise and there is no clear reference here to a son of Odin. Hildolf and Itreksjod may have been legendary founders of families purportedly descended from Odin in traditions that have not survived.

Meili also appears in the eddic poem Hárbardsljód where Thor calls himself Odin's son, Meili's brother and Magni's father. In Snorri's Gylfaginning Ali is only another name for Vali and Nep is the father of Baldur's wife Nanna. If this list is correct in giving Odin a son named Nep, and if that Nep is identical to the father of Nanna mentioned by Snorri, then Nanna would also be Baldur's niece. But marriage between uncle and niece, though common in many cultures, does not normally appear in old Scandinavian literature.

Tyr, Höd, and Bragi are conspicuously absent from this list, one reason to believe it is not from Snorri's hand.

Some manuscripts have a variant version of the list which adds Höd and Bragi to the end and replaces Yngvi-Frey with an otherwise unknown Ölldner or Ölner. This may be an attempt to bring the list into accord with Snorri, even though it still lacks Tyr. Some manuscripts add additional names of sons of Odin which are otherwise unknown: "Ennelang, Eindride, Bior, Hlodide, Hardveor, Sönnöng, Vinthior, Rymur."

The prologue to Snorri's Edda and the alternative list discussed above both include the following:

* Sigi. He was the ancestor of the Völsung lineage (see Völsunga saga) who were Frankish kings according to Snorri.
* Skjöld. In Snorri's Ynglinga Saga in the Heimskringla, Skjöld's wife is the goddess Gefjön and the same account occurs in most, but not all, manuscripts of the Edda. But Saxo makes Skjöld the son of Lother son of Dan. And in English tradition Skjöld (called Scyld or Sceldwa) is son of Sceafa or of Heremod when a father is named.
* Yngvi. A son of Odin in the prologue to the Edda but identified with Frey son of Njörd in the Ynglinga Saga. In both accounts this figure is ancestor of the Yngling dynasty in Sweden (from which later kings of Norway also traced their descent).
* Sæming. Snorri's Ynglinga Saga relates that after the giantess Skaði broke off her marriage with Njörd, she "married afterwards Odin, and had many sons by him, of whom one was called Sæming" from whom Jarl Hákon claimed descent. Snorri then quotes a relevant verse by the poet Eyvindr skáldaspillir. However in his preface to the Heimskringla Snorri says that Eyvindr's Háleygjatal which reckoned up the ancestors of Jarl Hákon brought in Sæming as son of Yngvi-Frey. Snorri may have slipped here, thinking of the Ynglings. As to the many sons, it is possible that some of the otherwise unknown sons in the previous section may be sons purportedly born by Skadi.

According to Herrauds saga:

* Gauti. Gauti's son Hring ruled Östergötland (East Götaland), so Gauti appears to be the eponym of the Geatas in Beowulf. Some versions of the English royal line of Wessex add names above that of Woden, purportedly giving Woden's ancestry, though the names are now usually thought be in fact another royal lineage that has been at some stage erroneously pasted onto the top of the standard genealogy. Some of these genealogies end in Geat, whom it is reasonable to think might be Gauti. The account in the Historia Britonum calls Geat a son of a god which fits. But Asser in his Life of Alfred writes instead that the pagans worshipped this Geat himself for a long time as a god. In Old Norse texts Gaut is itself a very common byname for Odin. Jordanes in The origin and deeds of the Goths traces the line of the Amelungs up to Hulmul son of Gapt, purportedly the first Gothic hero of record. This Gapt is felt by many commentators to be an error for Gaut or Gauti.

According to Hervarar saga ok Heidreks konungs ("The Saga of Hervor and King Heidrek") versions H and U:

* Sigrlami. He was son of Odin and king of Gardariki. His son Svafrlami succeeded him. Svafrlami forced the dwarves Dvalinn and Durin to forge himself a superb sword, Tyrfing. They did so and cursed it. In version R Sigrlami takes on the role of Svafrlami and his parentage is not given.

In the prologue to the Edda Snorri also mentions sons of Odin who ruled among the continental Angles and Saxons and provides information about their descendants that is identical or very close to traditions recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Snorri may here be dependent on English traditions. The sons mentioned by both Snorri and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle are:

* Vegdagr/Wægdæg/Wecta. According to Snorri Vegdeg ruled East Saxony. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does not make it clear that Wægdæg and Wecta are identical (or perhaps it is Snorri or a source who has wrongly conflated Wecta with Wægdæg). In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle the Wecta form of the name heads the lineage of the kings of Kent (of whom Hengest is traditionally the first) and the Wægdæg form of the name heads the lineage of the kings of Bernicia.
* Beldeg. According to Snorri's prologue Beldeg was identical to Baldur and ruled in Westphalia. There is no independent evidence of the identification of Beldeg with Baldur. From Beldeg the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle traces the kings of Deira and Wessex.

Other Anglo-Saxon genealogies mention:

* Weothulgeot or Whitlæg. According to the genealogies in the Angian collection, Weothulgeot was ancestor to the royal house of Mercia and the father of Whitlæg. According to the Historia Brittonum, Weothulgeot was father of Weaga who was father of Whitlæg. But the two Anglo-Saxon Chronicle versions of this genealogy include neither Weothulgeot nor Weaga but make Whitlæg himself the son of Woden. In all versions Whitlæg is father of Wermund father of Offa. According to the Old English poem Widsith Offa ruled over the continental Angels. Saxo, though not mentioning Whitlæg's parentage, introduces Whitlæg as a Danish king named Wiglek who was the slayer of Amleth (Hamlet).
* Casere. He was ancestor to the royal house of East Anglia.
* Winta. He was ancestor to the royal house of Lindsey/Lindisfarne. This genealogy is found only in the Anglian collection, not in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum (Book 4) speaks of Froger, the King of Norway, who was a great champion. Saxo relates:

According to some, he was the son of Odin, and when he begged the immortal gods to grant him a boon, received the privilege that no man should conquer him, save he who at the time of the conflict could catch up in his hand the dust lying beneath Froger's feet.

King Fródi the Active of Denmark, still a young man, learning of the charm, begged Froger to give him lessons in fighting. When the fighting court had been marked off, Fródi entered with glorious gold-hilted sword and clad in a golden breastplate and helmet. Fródi then begged a boon from Froger, that they might change positions and arms. Froger agreed. After the exchange, Fródi caught up some dust from where Froger had been standing and then quickly defeated Froger in battle and slew him.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hermóðr the Brave

Hermóðr the Brave (Old Norse "war-spirit") is a figure in Norse mythology, the son of god Odin.

Hermóðr appears distinctly in section 49 of the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning. There, it is described that the gods were speechless and devastated at the death of Baldr, unable to react due to their grief. After the gods gathered their wits from the immense shock and grief of Baldr's death, Frigg asked the Æsir who amongst them wished "to gain all of her love and favor" by riding the road to Hel. Whoever agreed was to offer Hel a ransom in exchange for Baldr's return to Asgard. Hermóðr agrees to this and set off with Sleipnir to Hel.

Hermóðr rode Odin's horse Sleipnir for nine nights through deep and dark valleys to the Gjöll bridge covered with shining gold, the bridge being guarded by the maiden Móðguðr 'Battle-frenzy' or 'Battle-tired'. Móðguðr told Hermóðr that Baldr had already crossed the bridge and that Hermóðr should ride downwards and northwards.

Upon coming to Hel's gate, Hermóðr dismounted, tightened Sleipnir's girth, mounted again, and spurred Sleipnir so that Sleipnir leapt entirely over the gate. So at last Hermóðr came to Hel's hall and saw Baldr seated in the most honorable seat. Hermóðr begged Hel to release Baldr, citing the great weeping for Baldr among the Æsir. Thereupon Hel announced that Baldr would only be released if all things, dead and alive, wept for him.

Baldr gave Hermóðr the ring Draupnir which had been burned with him on his pyre, to take back to Odin. Nanna gave a linen robe for Frigg along with other gifts and a finger-ring for Fulla. Thereupon Hermóðr returned with his message.

Hermóðr is called "son" of Odin in most manuscripts, while in the Codex Regius version—normally considered the best manuscript—Hermóðr is called sveinn Óðins 'Odin's boy', which in the context is as likely to mean 'Odin's servant'. However Hermóðr in a later passage is called Baldr's brother and also appears as son of Odin in a list of Odin's sons.

In the Old English poem Beowulf, Heremod is a Danish king who was driven into exile and in Old English genealogies Heremod appears appropriately as one of the descendants of Sceafa and usually as the father of Scyld.

In the skaldic poem Hákonarmál (stanza 14) Hermóðr and Bragi appear in Valhalla receiving Hákon the Good. It is not certain that either Hermóðr or Bragi is intended to be a god in this poem.

Monday, April 9, 2012


In Norse mythology, Heimdallr is a god who possesses the resounding horn Gjallarhorn, owns the golden-maned horse Gulltoppr, has gold teeth, and is the son of Nine Mothers. Heimdallr is attested as possessing foreknowledge, keen eyesight and hearing, is described as "the whitest of the gods", and keeps watch for the onset of Ragnarök while drinking fine mead in his dwelling Himinbjörg, located where the burning rainbow bridge Bifröst meets heaven. Heimdallr is said to be the originator of social classes among mankind, once regained Freyja's treasured possession Brísingamen while doing battle in the shape of a seal with Loki, and Heimdallr and Loki are foretold to kill one another during the events of Ragnarök. Heimdallr is additionally referred to as Hallinskiði, Gullintanni, and Vindlér or Vindhlér.

Heimdallr is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional material; in the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, both written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; in the poetry of skalds; and on an Old Norse runic inscription found in England. Two lines of an otherwise lost poem about the god, Heimdalargaldr, survive. Due to the problematic and enigmatic nature of these attestations, scholars have produced various theories about the nature of the god, including his apparent relation to rams, that he may be a personification of or connected to the world tree Yggdrasil, and potential Indo-European cognates.

A lead spindle whorl bearing an Old Norse Younger Futhark inscription that mentions Heimdallr was discovered in Saltfleetby, England on September 1, 2010. The spindle whorl itself is dated from the year 1000 to 1100 AD. On the inscription, the god Heimdallr is mentioned alongside the god Odin and Þjálfi, a name of one of the god Thor's servants. Regarding the inscription reading, John Hines of Cardiff University comments that there is "quite an essay to be written over the uncertainties of translation and identification here; what are clear, and very important, are the names of two of the Norse gods on the side, Odin and Heimdallr, while Þjalfi (masculine, not the feminine in -a) is the recorded name of a servant of the god Thor."

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Yngvi, Yngvin, Ingwine, Inguin are names that relate to an older theonym Ing and which appears to have been the older name for the god Freyr (originally an epithet, meaning "lord").

Proto-Germanic *Ingwaz was one of the three sons of Mannus and the legendary ancestor of the Ingaevones and is also the reconstructed name of the Elder Futhark ŋ rune.

A torc, the "Ring of Pietroassa", part of a late third- to fourth-century Gothic hoard discovered in Romania, is inscribed in much-damaged runes, one reading of which is gutanī [i(ng)]wi[n] hailag ", "to Ingwi of the Goths. Holy"

The Old Norse name Yngvi is a hypocoristic form of an older and rarer Yngvin (OHG: Inguin, OE: Ingwine), which is derived from the theonym Ing- and means "worshiper or friend of Ing". The theonym would originally have been Proto-Germanic *Inguz, and it appears in Old Norse Ingvifreyr and Ingunarfreyr, as well as in OE fréa inguina, and which mean "Lord of the Inguins", i.e. the god Freyr. The name appears also in Ingvaeones which was an alliance of people surrounding a common cult. Other names that retain the theonym are Inguiomerus/Ingemar and Yngling, the name of an old Scandinavian dynasty.

In Scandinavian mythology, Yngvi, alternatively Yngve, was the progenitor of the Yngling lineage, a legendary dynasty of Swedish kings from whom the earliest historical Norwegian kings in turn claimed to be descended, see also Freyr.

Information on Yngvi varies in different traditions as follows:

* Yngvi is a name of the god Freyr, perhaps intended as Freyr's true name while Frey 'Lord' is his common title. In the Ynglinga saga and in Gesta Danorum, Frey is euhemerized as a king of Sweden. In the Ynglinga saga, Yngvi-Frey reigned in succession to his father Njörd who in turn succeeded Odin. Yngvi-Frey's descendants were the Ynglings.
* In the Íslendingabók Yngvi Tyrkja konungr 'Yngvi king of Turkey' appears as father of Njörd who in turn is the father of Yngvi-Freyr, the ancestor of the Ynglings.
* In the Skjöldunga saga Odin came from Asia and conquered Northern Europe. He gave Sweden to his son Yngvi and Denmark to his son Skjöldr. Since then the kings of Sweden were called Ynglings and those of Denmark Skjöldungs (Scyldings).
* In Historia Norwegiæ, Ingui is the first king of Sweden, and the father of Njord, the father of Freyr: Rex itaque Ingui, quem primum Swethiæ monarchiam rexisse plurimi astruunt, genuit Neorth, qui vero genuit Froy; hos ambos tota illorum posteritas per longa sæcula ut deos venerati sunt. Froyr vero genuit Fiolni, qui in dolio medonis dimersus est,[...].
* In the introduction to Snorri Sturluson's Edda Snorri claims again that Odin reigned in Sweden and relates: "Odin had with him one of his sons called Yngvi, who was king in Sweden after him; and those houses come from him that are named Ynglings." Snorri here does not identify Yngvi and Frey though Frey occasionally appears elsewhere as a son of Odin instead of a son of Njörd. See Sons of Odin.
* In the Skáldskaparmál section of Snorri Sturluson's Edda Snorri brings in the ancient king Halfdan the Old who is the father of nine sons whose names are all words meaning 'king' or 'lord' in Old Norse and nine other sons who are the forefathers of various royal lineages, including "Yngvi, from whom the Ynglings are descended". But rather oddly Snorri immediately follows this with information on what should be four other personages who were not sons of Halfdan but who also fathered dynasties and names the first of these as "Yngvi, from whom the Ynglings are descended". In the related account in the Ættartolur ('Genealogies') attached to Hversu Noregr byggdist, the name Skelfir appears instead of Yngvi in the list of Halfdan's sons. For more details see Scylfing

(The Yngling Saga section of Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla also introduces a second Yngvi son of Alrek who is a descendant of Yngvi-Frey and who shared the Swedish kingship with his brother Álf. See Yngvi and Alf.)

Friday, April 6, 2012


Freyr (sometimes anglicized Frey, from *frawjaz "lord") is one of the most important gods of Norse paganism. Freyr was highly associated with farming, weather, and as a phallic fertility god, Freyr "bestows peace and pleasure on mortals". Freyr, sometimes referred to as Yngvi-Freyr, was especially associated with Sweden and seen as an ancestor of the Swedish royal house.

In the Icelandic books the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Freyr is presented as one of the Vanir, the son of the sea god Njörðr, brother of the goddess Freyja. The gods gave him Álfheimr, the realm of the Elves, as a teething present. He rides the shining dwarf-made boar Gullinbursti and possesses the ship Skíðblaðnir which always has a favorable breeze and can be folded together and carried in a pouch when it is not being used. He has the servants Skírnir, Byggvir, and Beyla.

The most extensive surviving Freyr myth relates Freyr's falling in love with the female jötunn Gerðr. Eventually, she becomes his wife but first Freyr has to give away his magic sword which fights on its own "if wise be he who wields it". Although deprived of this weapon, Freyr defeats the jötunn Beli with an antler. However, lacking his sword, Freyr will be killed by the fire jötunn Surtr during the events of Ragnarök.

Written around 1080, one of the oldest written sources on pre-Christian Scandinavian religious practices is Adam of Bremen's Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum. Adam claimed to have access to first-hand accounts on pagan practices in Sweden. He refers to Freyr with the Latinized name Fricco and mentions that an image of him at Skara was destroyed by a Christian missionary. His description of the Temple at Uppsala gives some details on the god.

In hoc templo, quod totum ex auro paratum est, statuas trium deorum veneratur populus, ita ut potentissimus eorum Thor in medio solium habeat triclinio; hinc et inde locum possident Wodan et Fricco. Quorum significationes eiusmodi sunt: 'Thor', inquiunt, 'praesidet in aere, qui tonitrus et fulmina, ventos ymbresque, serena et fruges gubernat. Alter Wodan, id est furor, bella gerit, hominique ministrat virtutem contra inimicos. Tertius est Fricco, pacem voluptatemque largiens mortalibus'. Cuius etiam simulacrum fingunt cum ingenti priapo.

Gesta Hammaburgensis 26, Waitz' edition

In this temple, entirely decked out in gold, the people worship the statues of three gods in such wise that the mightiest of them, Thor, occupies a throne in the middle of the chamber; Woden and Frikko have places on either side. The significance of these gods is as follows: Thor, they say, presides over the air, which governs the thunder and lightning, the winds and rains, fair weather and crops. The other, Woden—that is, the Furious—carries on war and imparts to man strength against his enemies. The third is Frikko, who bestows peace and pleasure on mortals. His likeness, too, they fashion with an immense phallus.

Gesta Hammaburgensis 26, Tschan's translation

Later in the account Adam states that when a marriage is performed a libation is made to the image of Fricco.

Historians are divided on the reliability of Adam's account. While he is close in time to the events he describes he has a clear agenda to emphasize the role of the Archbishopric of Hamburg-Bremen in the Christianization of Scandinavia. His timeframe for the Christianization of Sweden conflicts with other sources, such as runic inscriptions, and archaeological evidence does not confirm the presence of a large temple at Uppsala. On the other hand, the existence of phallic idols was confirmed in 1904 with a find at Rällinge in Södermanland.

When Snorri Sturluson was writing in 13th century Iceland the indigenous Germanic gods were still remembered though they had not been openly worshiped for more than two centuries.

In the Gylfaginning section of his Prose Edda, Snorri introduces Freyr as one of the major gods.

Njörðr í Nóatúnum gat síðan tvau börn, hét sonr Freyr en dóttir Freyja. Þau váru fögr álitum ok máttug. Freyr er hinn ágætasti af ásum. Hann ræðr fyrir regni ok skini sólar, ok þar með ávexti jarðar, ok á hann er gott at heita til árs ok friðar. Hann ræðr ok fésælu manna. Gylfaginning 24, EB's edition

Njördr in Nóatún begot afterward two children: the son was called Freyr, and the daughter Freyja; they were fair of face and mighty. Freyr is the most renowned of the Æsir; he rules over the rain and the shining of the sun, and therewithal the fruit of the earth; and it is good to call on him for fruitful seasons and peace. He governs also the prosperity of men. Gylfaginning XXIV, Brodeur's translation

Seated on Odin's throne Hliðskjálf, the god Freyr sits in contemplation in an illustration (1908) by Frederic Lawrence

This description has similarities to the older account by Adam of Bremen but the differences are interesting. Adam assigns control of the weather and produce of the fields to Thor but Snorri says that Freyr rules over those areas. Snorri also omits any explicitly sexual references in Freyr's description. Those discrepancies can be explained in several ways. It is possible that the Norse gods did not have exactly the same roles in Icelandic and Swedish paganism but it must also be remembered that Adam and Snorri were writing with different goals in mind. Either Snorri or Adam may also have had distorted information.

The only extended myth related about Freyr in the Prose Edda is the story of his marriage.

Þat var einn dag er Freyr hafði gengit í Hliðskjálf ok sá of heima alla. En er hann leit í norðrætt, þá sá hann á einum bœ mikit hús ok fagrt, ok til þess húss gekk kona, ok er hon tók upp höndum ok lauk hurð fyrir sér þá lýsti af höndum hennar bæði í lopt ok á lög, ok allir heimar birtusk af henni. Gylfaginning 37, EB's edition

It chanced one day that Freyr had gone to Hlidskjálf, and gazed over all the world; but when he looked over into the northern region, he saw on an estate a house great and fair. And toward this house went a woman; when she raised her hands and opened the door before her, brightness gleamed from her hands, both over sky and sea, and all the worlds were illumined of her. Gylfaginning XXXVII, Brodeur's translation

The woman is Gerðr, a beautiful giantess. Freyr immediately falls in love with her and becomes depressed and taciturn. After a period of brooding, he consents to talk to Skírnir, his foot-page. He tells Skírnir that he has fallen in love with a beautiful woman and thinks he will die if he cannot have her. He asks Skírnir to go and woo her for him.

Þá svarar Skírnir, sagði svá at hann skal fara sendiferð en Freyr skal fá honum sverð sitt. Þat var svá gott sverð at sjálft vásk. En Freyr lét eigi þat til skorta ok gaf honum sverðit. Þá fór Skírnir ok bað honum konunnar ok fekk heitit hennar, ok níu nóttum síðar skyldi hon þar koma er Barey heitir ok ganga þá at brullaupinu með Frey. Gylfaginning 37, EB's edition

Then Skírnir answered thus: he would go on his errand, but Freyr should give him his own sword-which is so good that it fights of itself;- and Freyr did not refuse, but gave him the sword. Then Skírnir went forth and wooed the woman for him, and received her promise; and nine nights later she was to come to the place called Barrey, and then go to the bridal with Freyr. Gylfaginning XXXVII, Brodeur's translation

The loss of Freyr's sword has consequences. According to the Prose Edda, Freyr had to fight Beli without his sword and slew him with an antler. But the result at Ragnarök, the end of the world, will be much more serious. Freyr is fated to fight the fire-giant Surtr and since he does not have his sword he will be defeated.
The final battle between Freyr and Surtr, illustration by Lorenz Frølich

Even after the loss of his weapon Freyr still has two magical artifacts, both of them dwarf-made. One is the ship Skíðblaðnir, which will have favoring breeze wherever its owner wants to go and can also be folded together like a napkin and carried in a pouch. The other is the boar Gullinbursti whose mane glows to illuminate the way for his owner. No myths involving Skíðblaðnir have come down to us but Snorri relates that Freyr rode to Baldr's funeral in a wagon pulled by Gullinbursti.

Skaldic poetry

Freyr is referred to several times in skaldic poetry. In Húsdrápa, partially preserved in the Prose Edda, he is said to ride a boar to Baldr's funeral.

Ríðr á börg til borgar
böðfróðr sonar Óðins
Freyr ok folkum stýrir
fyrstr enum golli byrsta. Húsdrápa 7, FJ's edition

The battle-bold Freyr rideth
First on the golden-bristled
Barrow-boar to the bale-fire
Of Baldr, and leads the people. Húsdrápa 7, Brodeur's translation

In a poem by Egill Skalla-Grímsson, Freyr is called upon along with Njörðr to drive Eric Bloodaxe from Norway. The same skald mentions in Arinbjarnarkviða that his friend has been blessed by the two gods.

[E]n Grjótbjörn
of gæddan hefr
Freyr ok Njörðr
at féar afli. Arinbjarnarkviða 17, FJ's edition

Frey and Njord
have endowed
with wealth's force. Arinbjarnarkviða 17, Scudder's translation


In Nafnaþulur Freyr is said to ride the horse Blóðughófi (Bloody Hoof).

The 14th century Icelandic Ögmundar þáttr dytts contains a tradition of how Freyr was transported in a wagon and administered by a priestess, in Sweden. Freyr's role as a fertility god needed a female counterpart in a divine couple (McKinnell's translation 1987
“ Great heathen sacrifices were held there at that time, and for a long while Frey had been the god who was worshipped most there — and so much power had been gained by Frey’s statue that the devil used to speak to people out of the mouth of the idol, and a young and beautiful woman had been obtained to serve Frey. It was the faith of the local people that Frey was alive, as seemed to some extent to be the case, and they thought he would need to have a sexual relationship with his wife; along with Frey she was to have complete control over the temple settlement and all that belonged to it. ”

In this short story, a man named Gunnar was suspected of manslaughter and escaped to Sweden, where Gunnar became acquainted with this young priestess. He helped her drive Freyr's wagon with the god effigy in it, but the god did not appreciate Gunnar and so attacked him and would have killed Gunnar if he had not promised himself to return to the Christian faith if he would make it back to Norway. When Gunnar had promised this, a demon jumped out off the god effigy and so Freyr was nothing but a piece of wood. Gunnar destroyed the wooden idol and dressed himself as Freyr, and then Gunnar and the priestess travelled across Sweden where people were happy to see the god visiting them. After a while he made the priestess pregnant, but this was seen by the Swedes as confirmation that Freyr was truly a fertility god and not a scam. Finally, Gunnar had to flee back to Norway with his young bride and had her baptized at the court of Olaf Tryggvason.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Forseti (Old Norse "the presiding one," actually "president" in Modern Icelandic and Faroese) is an Æsir god of justice and reconciliation in Norse mythology. He is generally identified with Fosite, a god of the Frisians. Jacob Grimm noted that if, as Adam of Bremen states, Fosite's sacred island was Heligoland, that would make him an ideal candidate for a deity known to both Frisians and Scandinavians, but that it is surprising he is never mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus.

Grimm took Forseti, "praeses", to be the older form of the name, first postulating an unattested Old High German equivalent *forasizo (cf. modern German Vorsitzender "one who presides"). but later preferring a derivation from fors, a 'whirling stream' or 'cataract', connected to the spring and the god's veneration by seagoing peoples. However, in other Old Norse words, for example forboð, 'forbidding, ban', the prefix for- has a pejorative sense. So it is more plausible that Fosite is the older name and Forseti a folk etymology.

According to Snorri Sturluson in the Prose Edda, Forseti is the son of Baldr and Nanna. His home is Glitnir, its name, meaning "shining," referring to its silver ceiling and golden pillars, which radiated light that could be seen from a great distance. His is the best of courts; all those who come before him leave reconciled. This suggests skill in mediation and is in contrast to his fellow god Týr, who "is not called a reconciler of men." However, as de Vries points out, the only basis for associating Forseti with justice seems to have been his name; there is no corroborating evidence in Norse mythology. 'Puts to sleep all suits' or 'stills all strifes' may have been a late addition to the strophe Snorri cites, from which he derives the information.

The first element in the name Forsetlund (Old Norse Forsetalundr), a farm in the parish of Onsøy ('Odins island'), in eastern Norway, seems to be the genitive case of Forseti, offering evidence he was worshipped there.

According to Alcuin's Life of St. Willebrord, the saint visited an island between Frisia and Denmark that was sacred to Fosite and was called Fositesland after the god worshipped there. There was a sacred spring from which water had to be drawn in silence, it was so holy. Willebrord defiled the spring by baptizing people in it and killing a cow there. Altfrid tells the same story of St. Liudger. Adam of Bremen retells the story and adds that the island was Heiligland, i.e., Heligoland.

There is also a legend of the origins of the Lex Frisionum, the written Frisian law. Wishing to assemble written lawcodes for all his subject peoples, Charlemagne summoned twelve representatives of the Frisian people, the Āsegas ('law-speakers'), and demanded they recite their people's laws. When they could not do so after several days, he let them choose between death, slavery, or being set adrift in a rudderless boat. They chose the last and prayed for help, whereupon a thirteenth man appeared, with a golden axe on his shoulder. He steered the boat to land with the axe, then threw it ashore; a spring appeared where it landed. He taught them laws and then disappeared. The stranger and the spring are identified with Fosite and the sacred spring of Fositesland.

Fosite has been suggested to be a loan of Greek Poseidon into pre-Proto-Germanic, perhaps via Greeks purchasing amber (Pytheas is known to have visited the area of Heligoland in search of amber)