The Valkyries had often inspired poets
as women-warriors. Their name means, "Chooser of the Slain", and were often
called battle-maidens, shield-maidens, swan-maidens, wish-maidens and
mead-maidens. As these names suggest, they had various functions. Their main
duty was to select the slain warriors, who had fallen in battle or other combat,
such as quest or killing dragon, etc.
These slain warriors were known as the Einherjar (Einheriar), and were chosen to fight alongside with the Aesir gods at
Ragnarok. The Einherjar waited for Ragnarok, in Odin's hall, called Valhalla.
They were sometimes called "Swan-maiden", because they wore garments made of
swan feathers that allowed them to fly, carrying off the slain warriors to the
hall called Valhalla. Their other duties included serving mead or ales in
drinking-horns or mugs to the Einherjar in Valhalla. Three Valkyries appeared in the Volsunga
Saga. Sigrun ("victory-rune") married the hero Helgi, the son of Sigmund. The
other two Valkyries were Brynhild ("bright battle") and Gudrun ("battle-rune"),
and these two were associated with the hero Sigurd, another son of Sigmund.
Gudrun had also been associated with Helgi in other sources, as the hero's first
wife.Brynhild was the most famous of all the Valkyries. In the Volsunga Saga,
Odin punished Brynhild, for assigning the wrong king to die in battle. Odin
condemned her to marry a mortal. Brynhild vowed that she would only marry the
bravest of warriors, so she slept in the Ring of Fire, until the bravest hero
could ride through the flame. Sigurd had rode through the flame, twice. The
second time, she was duped into marrying Gunnar, the brother of Gudrun, while
her hero married Gudrun. In the end she caused Sigurd's death. Brynhild overcome
with grief, died in Sigurd's funeral pyre. See Volsunga Saga for the whole tale
about Brynhild. Brynhild goes by a different name in the one of the poems of
Poetic Edda. In Sigrdrifumal ("Lay of Sigrdrifa"), Brynhild was known as
Sigrdrifa ("victory-urger"), where she taught the hero runic magic...
A casual reading of the surviving sources paints a rather unflattering picture of Loki. He is presented as a thief, a liar, a father to monsters and murderer of the Sun god Balder. But he's also the source of many of the items most treasured by the Norse gods: Thor's hammer, Odin's horse, Sif's golden hair.All of these things were brought to Asgard through Loki's efforts. Upon closer consideration, a more nuanced picture of Loki emerges. By exploring Loki's role among the gods and among men, we can learn more about this not-so-merry prankster and the society that described him in so many stories.Although Loki made his home with the gods, he was achild of the Jotuns.
Snorri Sturlsson, the 12th century author of the Eddas, wrote...
numbered among the Æsir is he whom some call the mischief-monger of the
Æsir, and the first father of falsehoods, and blemish of all gods and
men: He is named Loki or Loptr, son of Fárbauti the giant; his mother
was Laufey or Nál; his brothers are Byleistr and Helblindi."
Interestingly, Helblindi ("One Who Blinds With Death") is one of the kennings or poetic titles awarded to Odin.
In another poem -- the Lokasenna -- Loki said,
"Remember, Othin, in olden days
That we both our blood have mixed;
Then didst thou promise no ale topour,
Unless it were brought for us both."
Other sources claim Odin
was the child of the giants Bor and Besla. These sources name his
brothers as Vili and Ve, or as Hønir and Lothur (variants include Lodur
or Lodhur). The Völuspá saga describes how these three created man:
"Then from the host three came,
Great, merciful, from the God's home:
Ash and Elm on earth they found,
Faint, feeble, with no fate assigned them
Breath they had not, nor blood nor senses,
Nor language possessed, nor life-hue:
Odhinn gave them breath, Haenirsen......
NORSE MYTHOLOGY, pre-Christian religious beliefs of the Norse
people. The Norse legends and myths about ancient heroes, gods, and the creation
and destruction of the universe developed out of the original common mythology
of the Germanic peoples and constitute the primary source of knowledge about
ancient German mythology. Because Norse mythology was transmitted and altered by
medieval Christian historians, the original pagan religious beliefs, attitudes,
and practices cannot be determined with certainty. Clearly, however, Norse
mythology developed slowly, and the relative importance of different gods and
heroes varied at different times and places. Thus, the cult of Odin, chief of
the gods, may have spread from western Germany to Scandinavia not long before
the myths were recorded; minor gods including Ull, the fertility god Njord, and
Heimdallmay represent older deities who lost strength and popularity as Odin
became more important. Odin, a god of war, was also associated with learning,
wisdom, poetry, and magic.
Most information about Norse mythology is preserved in the Old Norse literature,
in the Eddas and later sagas; other material appears in commentaries by the
Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus and the German writer Adam of Bremen (fl.
about 1075). Fragments of legends are sometimes preserved in old inscriptions
and in later folklore.Gods and Heroes. Besides Odin, the major deities of Norse
mythology were his wife, Frigg, goddess of the home; Thor, god of thunder, who
protected humans and the other gods from the giants and who was especially
popular among the Norse peasantry; Frey, a god of prosperity; and Freya, sister
of Frey, a fertility goddess. Other, lesser gods were Balder, Hermod, Tyr, Bragi,
and Forseti; Idun, Nanna, and Sif were among the goddesses. The principle of
evil among the gods was represented by the trickster Loki. Many of these deities
do not seem to have had special functions; they merely appear as characters in
Many ancient mythological heroes, some of whom may have been derived from real
persons, were believed to be descendants of the gods; among them were Sigurd the
Dragon-slayer; Helgi Thrice-Born, Harald Wartooth, Hadding, Starkad, and the
Valkyries. The Valkyries, a band of warrior-maidens that included Svava and
Brunhild, served Odin as choosers of slain warriors, who were taken to reside in
Valhalla. There the warriors would spend their days fighting and nights feasting
until Ragnarok, the day of the final world battle, in which the old gods would
perish and a new reign of peace and love would be instituted. Ordinary
individuals were received after death by the goddess Hel in a cheerless
Virtually every western religion or mythos has an
end of the world story, an episode in which all the evil of the world comes
against all the good, and man and god alike often suffer and even die.
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all have an end of the world story, and a
story of restoration afterwards. Greek mythology and Roman mythology both
also contained end of the world stories. The world's end does not set Ragnarok, the Norse
version of the world's final days, apart from other belief systems but the
dark language of this event in this Norse legend, the same tone taken in
many of the Norse myths, along with the way in which the world does end, are
among several factors that do tend to make Norse mythology appear much more
pessimistic than its counterparts.
Norse myths are known for the dark tone of voice,
and the constant pointing towards Ragnarok and the destruction of the world.
H.A. Guerber, in Myths of the Northern Lands, comments on the unique aspects
of Norse mythology by saying: "The most distinctive traits of the Northern
mythology are a peculiar grim humor which is found in the religion of no
other race, and a dark thread of tragedy which runs through the whole" (5).
In this paper I will study the theology of the Norse, and attempt to help
shed light on what exactly gives their religion the darker and more
pessimistic reputation it holds. One strategy to bring a stronger sense of
understanding to Norse mythology is to understand the culture it comes from
and compare it to a more familiar belief system. In the Book of Genesis,
there is one God who simply speaks the world into existence. There is a
void, and God's mere words fill it, and build it. Man is made from the sand,
and woman is made from the rib of man, but with no negative consequences to
that man. The Norse explanation of how the world came to be, by contrast, is
filled with violence, blood shed, and the beginning of a war that will last
through all of time until the final confrontation at Ragnarok...