Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 184

The Fimbul-winter has been compared to the long preliminary fight under the walls of Troy, and Ragnarok, the grand closing drama of Northern mythology, to the burning of that famous city. “Thor is Hector; the Fenris wolf, Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, who slew Priam (Odin); and Vidar, who survives in Ragnarok, is Æneas.” The destruction of Priam’s palace is the type of the ruin of the gods’ golden halls; and the devouring wolves Hati, Sköll, and Managarm, the fiends of darkness, are prototypes of Paris and all the other demons of darkness, who bear away or devour the sun-maiden Helen.

Ragnarok and the Deluge

According to another interpretation, however, Ragnarok and the consequent submersion of the world is [362]but a Northern version of the Deluge. The survivors, Lif and Lifthrasir, like Deucalion and Pyrrha, were destined to repeople the world; and just as the shrine of Delphi alone resisted the destructive power of the great cataclysm, so Gimli stood radiant to receive the surviving gods.

Giants and Titans

We have already seen how closely the Northern giants resembled the Titans. It only remains to mention that while the Greeks imagined that Atlas was changed into a mountain, so the Northmen believed that the Riesengebirge, in Germany, were formed from giants, and that the avalanches which descended from their lofty heights were the burdens of snow which these giants impatiently shook from their crests as they changed their cramped positions. The apparition, in the shape of a bull, of one of the water giants, who came to woo the queen of the Franks, has its parallel in the story of Jupiter’s wooing of Europa, and Meroveus is evidently the exact counterpart of Sarpedon. A faint resemblance can be traced between the giant ship Mannigfual and the Argo, for while the one is supposed to have cruised through the Ægean and Euxine Seas, and to have made many places memorable by the dangers it encountered there, so the Northern vessel sailed about the North and Baltic Seas, and is mentioned in connection with the Island of Bornholm and the cliffs of Dover.

While the Greeks imagined that Nightmares were the evil dreams which escaped from the Cave of Somnus, the Northern race fancied they were female dwarfs or trolls, who crept out of the dark recesses of the earth to torment them. All magic weapons in the North were said to be the work of the dwarfs, the underground smiths, while those of the Greeks were [363]manufactured by Vulcan and the Cyclopes, under Mount Ætna, or on the Island of Lemnos.

The Volsunga Saga

In the Sigurd myth we find Odin one-eyed like the Cyclopes, who, like him, are personifications of the sun. Sigurd is instructed by Gripir, the horse-trainer, who is reminiscent of Chiron, the centaur. He is not only able to teach a young hero all he need know, and to give him good advice concerning his future conduct, but is also possessed of the gift of prophecy.