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Gudmund's Identity With Mimer


Source: Teutonic Mythology

I dare say the most characteristic figure of Teutonic mythology is
Mimer, the lord of the fountain which bears his name. The liquid
contained in the fountain is the object of Odin's deepest desire. He has
neither authority nor power over it. Nor does he or anyone else of the
gods seek to get control of it by force. Instances are mentioned
showing that Odin, to get a drink from it, must subject himself to great
sufferings and sacrifices (Voeluspa, Cod. Reg., 28, 29; Havamal, 138-140;
Gylfag., 15), and it is as a gift or a loan that he afterwards receives
from Mimer the invigorating and soul-inspiring drink (Havamal, 140,
141). Over the fountain and its territory Mimer, of course, exercises
unlimited control, an authority which the gods never appear to have
disputed. He has a sphere of power which the gods recognize as
inviolable. The domain of his rule belongs to the lower world; it is
situated under one of the roots of the world-tree (Voeluspa, 28, 29;
Gylfag., 15), and when Odin, from the world-tree, asks for the precious
mead of the fountain, he peers downward into the deep, and thence
brings up the runes (nysta ec nithr, nam ec up runar--Havamal,
139). Saxo's account of the adventure of Hotherus (Hist., pp. 113-115,
Mueller's ed.) shows that there was thought to be a descent to Mimer's
land in the form of a mountain cave (specus), and that this descent
was, like the one to Gudmund's domain, to be found in the uttermost
North, where terrible cold reigns.

Though a giant, Mimer is the friend of the order of the world and of the
gods. He, like Urd, guards the sacred ash, the world-tree (Voeluspa, 28),
which accordingly also bears his name and is called Mimer's tree
(Mimameidr--Fjolsvinsm, 20; meidr Mima--Fjolsv., 24). The
intercourse between the Asa-father and him has been of such a nature
that the expression "Mimer's friend" (Mimsvinr--Sonatorrek, 22;
Younger Edda, i. 238, 250, 602) could be used by the skalds as an
epithet of Odin. Of this friendship Ynglingasaga (ch. 4) has preserved a
record. It makes Mimer lose his life in his activity for the good of the
gods, and makes Odin embalm his head, in order that he may always be
able to get wise counsels from its lips. The song about Sigrdrifa (str.
14) represents Odin as listening to the words of truth which come from
Mimer's head. Voeluspa (str. 45) predicts that Odin, when Ragnarok
approaches, shall converse with Mimer's head; and, according to
Gylfaginning (56), he, immediately before the conflagration of the
world, rides to Mimer's fountain to get advice from the deep thinker for
himself and his friends. The firm friendship between Alfather and this
strange giant of the lower world was formed in time's morning while
Odin was still young and undeveloped (Hav., 141), and continued until
the end of the gods and the world.

Mimer is the collector of treasures. The same treasures as Gorm and his
men found in the land which Gudmund let them visit are, according to
mythology, in the care of Mimer. The wonderful horn (Voeluspa, 28), the
sword of victory, and the ring (Saxo, Hist., 113, 114; cp. Nos. 87,
97, 98, 101, 103).

In all these points the Gudmund of the middle-age sagas and Mimer of the
mythology are identical. There still remains an important point. In
Gudmund's domain there is a splendid grove, an enclosed place, from
which weaknesses, age, and death are banished--a Paradise of the
peculiar kind, that it is not intended for the souls of the dead, but
for certain lifandi menn, yet inaccessible to people in general. In
the myth concerning Mimer we also find such a grove.

Next: Mimer's Grove Lif And Leifthraser

Previous: Analysis Of The Sagas Mentioned In Nos 44-48 The Question In Regard To The Identification Of Odainsaker

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