Auðumbla

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Auðumbla (also spelled Auðumla, Auðhumbla or Auðhumla) is the primeval cow of Norse mythology. She is attested in Gylfaginning, a part of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, in association with Ginnungagap and Ymir.

Normalized text of R Brodeur's translation
Þá mælti Gangleri: "Hvar bygði Ymir, eða við hvat lifði hann?" Then said Gangleri: "Where dwelt Ymir, or wherein did he find sustenance?"
<Hár svarar>: "Næst var þat þá er hrímit draup at þar varð af kýr sú er Auðhumla hét, en fjórar mjólkár runnu ór spenum hennar, ok fœddi hún Ymi." Hárr answered: "Straightway after the rime dripped, there sprang from it the cow called Auðumla; four streams of milk ran from her udders, and she nourished Ymir."
Þá mælti Gangleri: "Við hvat fœddisk kýrin?" Then asked Gangleri: "Wherewithal was the cow nourished?"
Hár svarar: "Hon sleikti hrímsteinana er saltir váru. Ok hinn fyrsta <dag> er hon sleikti steina, kom ór steininum at kveldi manns hár, annan dag manns höfuð, þriðja dag var þar allr maðr. Sá er nefndr Búri[."] And Hárr made answer: "She licked the ice-blocks, which were salty; and the first day that she licked the blocks, there came forth from the blocks in the evening a man's hair; the second day, a man's head; the third day the whole man was there. He is named Búri[."]

Auðumbla is not mentioned again in the Prose Edda and, apart from one mention in Nafnaþulur, her name does not occur in any other ancient source. Nevertheless she is generally accepted by scholars as a genuine part of the Norse mythos and not dismissed as an invention of Snorri Sturluson.

Etymology[edit]

Auðumbla's name appears in different variations in the manuscripts of the Prose Edda. Its meaning is unclear. The auð- prefix can be related to words meaning "wealth", "ease", "fate" or "emptiness", with "wealth" being, perhaps, the most likely candidate. The -um(b)la suffix is unclear but, judging from apparent cognates in other Germanic languages, could mean "polled cow". Other vision says -"thumb" could be the suffix root. Another theory links it with the name Ymir. The name may have been obscure and interpreted differently even in pagan times.

While Ymir suckles at the udder of Auðumbla, Búri is licked out of the ice in this 18th-century painting by Nicolai Abildgaard (1790)

The name can be represented or Anglicized as Audumbla, Audumla, Audhumbla, Audhumla, Authumbla, Authumla, Authhumbla, Authhumla, Audhhumbla or Audhhumla. In Swedish it is also Ödhumla. In this case, the letter i in bird and girl has a pronunciation very similar to au and ö (o with umlaut).

Theories[edit]

The Swedish scholar Viktor Rydberg, writing in the late 19th century, drew a parallel between the Norse creation myths and accounts in Zoroastrian and Vedic mythology, postulating a common Proto-Indo-European origin. While many of Rydberg's theories were dismissed as fanciful by later scholars his work on comparative mythology was sound to a large extent. Zoroastrian mythology does have a primeval ox which is variously said to be male or female and comes into existence in the middle of the earth along with the primeval man.

See also[edit]

References[edit]