Presentation on theme: "Skirnir’s Journey/For Scirnis Two versions of this myth exist, and Snorri cites the poem in his Edda. Freyr is the center of the poem, though his servant."— Presentation transcript:
Skirnir’s Journey/For Scirnis Two versions of this myth exist, and Snorri cites the poem in his Edda. Freyr is the center of the poem, though his servant Skirnir (“the Shining One”) performs much of the action. Freyr is a male fertility god; like his sister Freyja, he is one of the Vanir. He is the son of Niord and either Niord’s sister or the ice-giantess Skadi (who lives in an ice cave in the mountains). Freyr means “Lord,” while Freyja means “Lady.” He was perhaps once the consort of his wife/sister Freyja.
The God Freyr Freyr was a god of wealth and fertility. Originally one of the Vanir, he came to the Æsir in the exchange of hostages. Freyr ruled over Alfheim, land of the light elves. He owned the ship Skidbladnir, which could sail through the air and be folded up and placed in his pocket. His chariot was drawn by two boars, Gullinbursti (golden-bristled) and Slidrugtanni. Freyr was also known as Yngvi, the legendary progenitor of the Swedish royal family.
Images of Freyr
Niord (Njörð) & Skadi (Skaði) Skadi was a giantess whose father Thiassi was killed by Thor. She journeyed to Asgard and demanded compensation for the death of her father. Thor cast his eyes into the heavens where they shone as stars. She also claimed one of the Æsir as a husband; Odin agreed, but declared that she must choose her husband by looking only at the feet of the gods! Believing the prettiest feet must belong to Baldr, she chose Niord, the sea-god by accident.
Niord and Skadi Skadi and Njord were opposites (Summer and Winter) – for a while the marriage was happy and (according to some accounts) it produced the fertility gods Freyr and Freyja. (Or she is their step-mother). Niord was a god of the sea, of warmth and bounty and life. (Norse counterpart of Germanic Nerthus). Skadi was an giantess who lived in the snow of the mountains, loved to hunt and ski and to listen to the howling wolves on clear winter nights. Eventually, the two separated and divorced.
For Scirnis The poem begins with Freyr sitting in Odin’s high seat Hlidskialf and looking out into the nine worlds. Perhaps as a punishment for assuming Odin’s place, perhaps simply as a danger for one not as wise as Odin, Freyr sees a young giantess walking from her hall to a storehouse and falls madly in love with her. His love becomes a great sickness, so great that his parents Niord and Skadi begin to worry. Freyr’s love for giantess Gerd sometimes compared to hieros gamos, mythical marriage of sky god to earth goddess.
For Scirnis The poem begins with Skadi imploring Skirnir, the servant, to go to the aid of her (step-) son, the love- sick Freyr. Skirnir is afraid to unleash the wrath of Freyr, but obeys. Tell me, Freyr, war-leader of the gods, For I would like to know, Why do you sit alone in the long hall, My lord, day after day? (3)
For Scirnis Freyr is not very forthcoming, but Skirnir persists. In the courts of Gymir I saw walking A girl pleasing to me. Her arms shine and from there All the sea and air catch light. (6) More pleasing to me is the girl than any girl to any man, Young in bygone days; None of the gods and elves wishes that We should be together. (7)
For Scirnis Skirnir volunteers to aid Freyr in his quest for the daughter of the Giant Gymir, but he needs some magical equipment for the journey: Give me that horse which will carry me through the dark, Sure, flickering flame, And that sword which fights by itself Against the Giant race. (8) Freyr gives him the horse and the sword, and Skirnir sets off.
For Scirnis Skirnir travels swiftly to Jotunheim to the court of Gymir, which does not look very friendly. Tell me this, herdsman, as you sit on the mound And watch all the ways, How may I come to talk with the young girl, Past the dogs of Gymir? (11) Are you doomed or are you dead already? Conversation you shall never have With Gymir’s excellent daughter. (12)
For Scirnis Skirnir replies with typical Norse wisdom : The choices are better than simply sobbing, For a man who is eager to advance; For one day all my life was shaped, All my span laid down. (13) Meanwhile, Gerd hears the commotion outside and invites the guest inside: Tell him to come in into our hall And drink the famous mead; Though I am afraid that out here may be My brother’s slayer. (16)
For Scirnis Skirnir begins his wooing of Gerd immediately: I am not of the elves or of the sons of the Æsir, Or of the wise Vanir, Though I come alone over the wild fire To see your company. (18) Eleven apples here I have all of gold, Those I will give you, Gerd, To buy your favor, that you may say that Freyr is The least hateful man alive to you. (19) Extreme understatement a common literary device in Germanic stories, from Beowulf to Icelandic sagas.
For Scirnis Gerd is unimpressed with Skirnir and his measly eleven golden apples (from the goddess Idunn?): Eleven apples I will never accept At any man’s desire, Nor will Freyr and I settle down together As long as our lives last. (20) Skirnir offers the magical golden arm-ring Draupnir: I will not accept a ring, though it was burnt With Odin’s young son; I lack no gold in the courts of Gymir, Sharing out my father’s property. (22)
For Scirnis Skirnir realizes that flattery and gifts will not work on this girl, so he threatens her life: Do you see this sword, girl, slender, inlaid, Which I have here in my hand? Your head I shall cut from your neck Unless you say we are reconciled. (23) Gerd remains unimpressed: Coercion I shall never endure At any man’s desire; Though I reckon this, if you and Gymir meet, Keen fighters, a battle is bound to occur. (24)
For Scirnis Skirnir threatens the life of her father, Gymir. Skirnir the tells of a magic spell he will cast over Gerd and to curse her future life (26-36, pages 65ff.): She will be subject to his will, isolated, made repulsive. Madness, howling, tearing affliction, unbearable desire. No husband but a three-headed giant! No pleasure in men. Cursed by the gods, she’ll live in hell, drink goat’s piss, and be fill with unbearable desire for what she can’t have.
For Scirnis Skirnir’s vivid portrayal of her future life – if she should reject Freyr’s advances – finally convinces Gerd to accept his proposal: Be welcome now, lad, and receive the crystal cup, Full of ancient mead; Though I had never thought that I should ever love One of the Vanir well. (37) Before Skirnir leaves, Gerd promises to meet Freyr: Barri is the name, as we both know, Of a peaceful grove; And after nine nights, there to the son of Niord Gerd shall grant love. (39)
For Scirnis Skirnir returns to Freyr in Asgard and reports that he has fulfilled his mission, and that Gerd will meet him in the Grove of Barri in nine days time. The poem ends with Freyr expressing his longing for Gerd and his frustration with the “lengthy” delay: Long is one night, long are two, How shall I bear three? Often a month to me has seemed less Than half one of these pre-marital nights. (42)
For Scirnis From Snorri, in the Ynglingasaga, we know that Freyr and Gerd did in fact get married, and that they produced a son, Fiolnir, who was the progenitor of the Yngling dynasty of the early Swedish kings. Skirnir’s threatened curses reflect the mythological territory of Freyr: sexual attraction, beauty, longing, desire, love and marriage, pleasure and reproduction. Gerd fears the loss or perversion of these attributes more than the loss of her life. Finally, because Freyr gave his magic sword to Skirnir, he will be weaponless at Ragnarok, where the fire-giant Surt will slay him.
The Song of Hyndla The Hyndluliod consists of two separate poems, a frame tale which concerns Freyja’s interview with the Giantess Hyndla on behalf of her protégé Ottar the Foolish, and a short prophesy recounted by Hyndla, often called the “Short Prophesy” (Voluspa in skamma). Much of the information recounted in the poem is otherwise unknown. The poem begins with the goddess Freyja in the cave of Hyndla, where she flatters the giantess, calling her “sister” and begging her to come to Valhall and visit Odin. Freyja promises her good fortune with Odin and with Thor.
Hyndluliod The giantess Hyndla sees through Freyja’s enticements: Deceitful you are, Freyja, when you question me, When you look at me that way, When you’re taking your lover on the way to Vallhall, Yound Ottar, son of Innstein.” (6) Freyja pretends not to understand: You’re confused, Hyndla, you must be dreaming, When you say my lover is on the road to Valhall; There my boar is glowing with his golden bristles, Battleswine, whom those skillful dwarfs, Dain and Nabbi, made for me. (7)
Hyndluliod Background: Ottar the Foolish, the young lover and favorite of Freyja, is involved in a dispute with Angantyr over inheritance, and he needs to know his exact ancestry to prove his case. Freyja has transformed Ottar into a boar (“Battleswine”: an animal sacred to both Freyr and Freyja—symbol of sexual potency?), so that he can secretly listen in on what the giant prophetess knows about him. Freyja convinces Hyndla to dismount from her wolf and converse about the two mortals and their ancestry.
Hyndluliod Hyndla knows that “Battleswine” is really Ottar, and she is ready to recount his ancestry. Ottar is related to many famous families, the Skioldungs, the Skifings, the Odlings and Ylfings, among others. Family heritage immensely important in the Norse culture. No family names (still none today in Iceland), but one’s family relationships determined one’s place in society. It is not unusual for Icelanders to be able to trace their family line back 1000 years. Some of the names mentioned are legendary, others, like Aud the deep-minded, are historical.
Hyndluliod Verse 25 refers to Iormunrekk and Sigurd. The former was a Burgundian chieftain from the fifth century C.E., and the latter is the famous dragon slayer Siegfried. The next two verses list other famous names from the Volsungasaga. By acquiring such proof of ancestry, Ottar is linking his life to that of powerful legendary figures, in effect establishing an official patent of paternity that will legitimate his claim to the inheritance.
Hyndluliod At Verse 29 there is a break in the genealogical narration. Hyndla continues with a description of the Æsir, who are also part of Ottar’s kin. The giantess mentions Baldr, Vali, Odin, Freyr and Gerd, among others less well known. More legitimation. Verse 33 provides an interesting insertion: All the seeresses are descended from Vidolf, All the wizards from Vilmeid, And the seid-practicers from Svarthofdi, All the giants from Ymir.
Hyndluliod Seid was a form of magic associated with the Vanir. It is usually practiced by women, but Odin knew its secrets. Verses are unclear; they might refer to Heimdall or to an unknown god. Verse 40 introduces Loki, and lists some of his more unusual affairs – he transformed himself into a mare to mate with Svadilfari and give birth to Sleipnir, and he slept with the giantess Angrboda to father the three most famous Norse monsters. Lopt is another name for Loki, but the reference is unclear. Verses 43f. refer to “One was born greater than all,” which may be a Christian reference in the poem.
Hyndluliod Verse 45 returns to the frame tale with Freyja: Give some memory-ale to my boar, So that he can hold fast to all these words From this conversation on the third morning, When he and Angantyr reckon up their lineage. (45) “Memory-ale” is a magic potion that would enable Ottar to remember everything exactly as it was spoken here. Hyndla concludes with a few insults directed at Freyja: You ran to Œdi, always full of desire, Many have thrust themselves up the front of your skirt; Gallop away, noble lady, out into the night, As Heidrun runs in heat among the he-goats. (47)
Hyndluliod The poem concludes with the curse by Hyndla, but Freyja blesses her lover and worshipper: Your curse will have no effect, Bride of the giant, you intend to call down evil; He shall drink the precious liquid, I pray that Ottar may thrive in all good things. (50)