Sons of Odin
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (August 2014)|
Thor, Baldr, Viðarr and Váli
Four gods, Thor, Baldr, Viðarr and Váli, are explicitly identified as sons of Odin 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.
Other gods called sons of Odin by Snorri Sturluson
For Heimdallr there is no variant account of his 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 Týr, 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 Baldr's brother or Odin's son, though one might expect that to be emphasized. In Saxo's version of the death of Baldr, 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 Baldr'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.
An alternative list of Odin's sons
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:
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.
Týr, 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 Týr. Some manuscripts add additional names of sons of Odin which are otherwise unknown: "Ennelang, Eindride, Bior, Hlodide, Hardveor, Sönnöng, Vinthior, Rymur."
Founders of dynasties
The prologue to Snorri's Edda and the alternative list discussed above both include the following:
- Sigi. He was made the ancestor of the Völsung lineage (see Völsunga saga) who were Burgundian 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 made 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 for him 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 Deira.
- 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 Bernicia and Wessex.
Other Anglo-Saxon genealogies mention:
- Weothulgeot or Whitlæg. According to the genealogies in the Anglian 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 of Angel. 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 made ancestor to the royal house of East Anglia and is thought to represent none other than Julius Caesar.
- Winta. He was made ancestor to the royal house of Lindsey/Lindisfarne. This genealogy is found only in the Anglian collection, not in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
- Seaxnēat. Made ancestor of the kings of Essex. He is mentioned as Saxnôte alongside Uuôden (Wodan) and Thunaer (Thunor) in the Old Dutch/Saxon Baptismal Vow. He was originally at the top of the Essex pedigree, and only later was made son of Woden to harmonize with the other Anglo-Saxon royal pedigrees.
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.
- Variant forms of the alternative list of Odin's sons: