Honest Myth:Norse- Heimdallr

Heimdallr is the god of light (his name means he who darts bright beams) and the guardian of the gods and their stronghold Asgard. He is described as one of the Aesir gods (one clan or family of gods) and is ever-vigilant, requiring less sleep than a bird. He is extremely handsome with golden teeth and skin ‘the whitest of the Gods’ because his skin is fair and pale. Heimdallr is attested as possessing foreknowledge, and the keenest eyesight and hearing. He can see a hundred miles around him, by night as well as by day, and his hearing is so accurate that he can even hear the grass grow.

He is sometimes said to be fathered by Odin, but at times he is also said to have no father. He was birthed by nine mothers who were all sisters. It is not certain whether they are the nine daughters of Aegir (the sea jotunn, jotunn being a race of people similar to gods or like titans in greek mythology). The only reason there is uncertainty is because the names do match up between both groups of seven sisters.

Heimdallr and Gjallr by 1895 illustration by Lorenz Frølich

Heimdallr and Gjallar made in 1895 by Lorenz Frølich

Born at the end of the world, he is the watchman of Asgard guarding the Bifrost, the rainbow bridge that leads to Asgard, and the entrance to the gods. His duty is to sound Gjallar, a loud horn that can be heard from heaven to earth and all the way to the lower world, if any intruders try to forcibly enter Asgard. He watches out for the begining of Ragnorak, and warns the gods of the Giant’s approach. He will fight Loki to the death (both will kill each other). He and Loki seem to be enemies, having fought before. Loki represents darkness, and thus it is the conflict of light and dark. They both contrast in their loyalties as well. Heimdallr is extremely loyal and disciplined god that never moves from his watch post. While Loki, who makes fun of Heimdallr lot in life, is only loyal to himself and chaotic. In one story, he retrieves the Brisingamen (necklace of Freyja, a great Vanir, a second clan or family of gods, Goddess) from Loki, who stole it, and battles each other as seals so as to get it.

He lives in Himinbjorg, a fortress located where the Bifrost and heaven meet, and owns a horse named Gulltopr with a golden mane. Heimdall is often associated with the ram.

He has also been called Rig (“ruler”) and created the three races of mankind: the serfs/slaves/Thrall, peasants/freemen/Karl, and warriors/nobleman/Jarl. Rig, disguised as a traveler, approached a lowly dwelling of an old couple, Ai and Edda (great-grandfather and great-grandmother respectively). They gave him coarse food and a place in the bed between them to sleep. He stayed three nights and gave them good advice. Nine months later, Edda bore an ugly son named Thrall. He was black-haired with rough skin, and thick fingers. He had a body of someone who did manual labor with swollen knuckles, short nails, a bent back, and great strength. Thrall married a wife who was equally ugly with crooked legs, sunburned body and a large nose. Together they had many kids including Noisy, Roughneck, Lazy, Fatty, and Beanpole. From them came all the thrall, the oppressed and enslaved laborers. Rig then went to a warm home of an industrious couple, Afi and Amma (grandfather and grandmother respectively). They fed him good food, and he slept between them. They also worked quite a lot, spinning thread and preparing the loom. He stayed three days with them and gave good advice. Nine months later, Amma gave birth to a bright-eyed son named Karl. Karl married a woman named Snor (daughter-in-law), and together they had many children including boys Husbandman, Smith, Prettyface, Maiden, and Capable. From them came all the karl, farmers and free peasants. Lastly, Rig entered a third splendid home of a great couple named Fadir and Modir (father and mother respectively). His wealthy hosts fed him great meals, and he slept between them as well. He stayed three days and gave good advice. Nine months later, Modir gave birth to a handsome son, named Jarl. He was skilled with the bow, spear, and sword. Rig returned once Jarl reached manhood and instructed his chosen son to fight and seize and distribute wealth. he married Erna (lively), a beautiful noblewoman, and they had 12 sons. These sons learned magic and became almost godly. From them came all the jarl, the warriors and noble class.

Hope you all enjoyed!

-Blog Barista

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Edited by Grimal, Pierre. Larousse World Mythology. London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1965, pp. 380-382. Print.

 

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