Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 93

He was supposed to occasion and quiet the great tempests which swept over the deep, and was generally represented as a gaunt old man, with long white beard and hair, and clawlike fingers ever clutching convulsively, as though he longed to have all things within his grasp. Whenever he appeared above the waves, it was only to pursue and overturn vessels, and to greedily drag them to the bottom of the sea, a vocation in which he was thought to take fiendish delight. [186]

The Goddess Ran

Ægir was mated with his sister, the goddess Ran, whose name means “robber,” and who was as cruel, greedy, and insatiable as her husband. Her favourite pastime was to lurk near dangerous rocks, whither she enticed mariners, and there spread her net, her most prized possession, when, having entangled the men in its meshes and broken their vessels on the jagged cliffs, she would calmly draw them down into her cheerless realm.

“In the deep sea caves

By the sounding shore,

In the dashing waves

When the wild storms roar,

In her cold green bowers

In the Northern fiords,

She lurks and she glowers,

She grasps and she hoards,

And she spreads her strong net for her prey.”

Story of Siegfried (Baldwin).



J. P. Molin

Ran was considered the goddess of death for all who perished at sea, and the Northern nations fancied that she entertained the drowned in her coral caves, where her couches were spread to receive them, and where the mead flowed freely as in Valhalla. The goddess was further supposed to have a great affection for gold, which was called the “flame of the sea,” and was used to illuminate her halls. This belief originated with the sailors, and sprang from the striking phosphorescent gleam of the waves. To win Ran’s good graces, the Northmen were careful to hide some gold about them whenever any special danger threatened them on the sea.

“Gold, on sweetheart ramblings,

Pow’rful is and pleasant;

[187]Who goes empty-handed

Down to sea-blue Ran,

Cold her kisses strike, and

Fleeting her embrace is—

But we ocean’s bride be-

Troth with purest gold.”

Viking Tales of the North (R. B. Anderson).

The Waves

Ægir and Ran had nine beautiful daughters, the Waves, or billow-maidens, whose snowy arms and bosoms, long golden hair, deep-blue eyes, and willowy, sensuous forms were fascinating in the extreme. These maidens delighted in sporting over the surface of their father’s vast domain, clad lightly in transparent blue, white, or green veils. They were very moody and capricious, however, varying from playful to sullen and apathetic moods, and at times exciting one another almost to madness, tearing their hair and veils, flinging themselves recklessly upon their hard beds, the rocks, chasing one another with frantic haste, and shrieking aloud with joy or despair. But they seldom came out to play unless their brother, the Wind, were abroad, and according to his mood they were gentle and playful, or rough and boisterous.