Review Of The Svipdag Myth And Its Points Of Connection With The Myth About Halfdan
Category: THE MYTH CONCERNING THE EARLIEST PERIOD AND THE EMIGRATIONS FROM THE NORTH.
Source: Teutonic Mythology
When Halfdan secured Groa, she was already the bride of Orvandel the
brave, and the first son she bore in Halfdan's house was not his, but
Orvandel's. The son's name is Svipdag. He develops into a hero who, like
Halfdan himself, is the most brilliant and most beloved of those
celebrated in Teutonic songs. We have devoted a special part of this
work to him (see Nos. 96-107). There we have given proofs of various
mythological facts, which I now already must incorporate with the
following series of events in order that the epic thread may not be
(a) Groa bears with Halfdan the son Guthorm (Saxo, Hist., Dan.,
(b) Groa is rejected by Halfdan (Saxo, Hist. Dan., 33). She returns
to Orvandel, and brings with her her own and his son Svipdag.
(c) Halfdan marries Signe-Alveig (Hyndluljod, 15; Prose Edda, i. 516;
Saxo Hist., 33), and with her becomes the father of the son Hadding
(Saxo, Hist. Dan., 34).
(d) Groa dies, and Orvandel marries again (Grogaldr, 3). Before her
death Groa has told her son that if he needs her help he must go to her
grave and invoke her (Grogaldr, 1).
(e) It is Svipdag's duty to revenge on Halfdan the disgrace done to
his mother and the murder of his mother's father Sigtrygg. But his
stepmother bids Svipdag seek Menglad, "the one loving ornaments"
(f) Under the weight of these tasks Svipdag goes to his mother's
grave, bids her awake from her sleep of death, and from her he receives
protecting incantations (Grogaldr, 1).
(g) Before Svipdag enters upon the adventurous expedition to find
Menglad, he undertakes, at the head of the giants, the allies of the
Ivaldesons (see Fjoelsvinsm, 1, where Svipdag is called thursathjodar
sjolr), a war of revenge against Halfdan (Saxo, 33 ff., 325; cp. Nos.
102, 103). The host of giants is defeated, and Svipdag, who has entered
into a duel with his stepfather, is overcome by the latter. Halfdan
offers to spare his life and adopt him as his son. But Svipdag refuses
to accept life as a gift from him, and answers a defiant no to the
proffered father-hand. Then Halfdan binds him to a tree and leaves him
to his fate (Saxo, Hist., 325; cp. No. 103).
(h) Svipdag is freed from his bonds through one of the incantations
sung over him by his mother (Grogaldr, 10).
(i) Svipdag wanders about sorrowing in the land of the giants.
Gevarr-Noekkve, god of the moon (see Nos. 90, 91), tells him how he is to
find an irresistible sword, which is always attended by victory (see No.
101). The Sword is forged by Thjasse, who intended to destroy the world
of the gods with it; but just at the moment when the smith had finished
his weapon he was surprised in his sleep by Mimer, who put him in chains
and took the sword. The latter is now concealed in the lower world (see
Nos. 98, 101, 103).
(j) Following Gevarr-Noekkve's directions, Svipdag goes to the
northernmost edge of the world, and finds there a descent to the lower
world; he conquers the guard of the gates of Hades, sees the wonderful
regions down there, and succeeds in securing the sword of victory (see
Nos. 53, 97, 98, 101, 103, 112).
(k) Svipdag begins a new war with Halfdan. Thor fights on his son's
side, but the irresistible sword cleaves the hammer Mjolner; the Asa-god
himself must yield. The war ends with Halfdan's defeat. He dies of the
wounds he has received in the battle (see Nos. 101, 103; cp. Saxo,
(l) Svipdag seeks and finds Menglad, who is Freyja who was robbed by
the giants. He liberates her and sends her pure and undefiled to Asgard
(see Nos. 96, 98, 100, 102).
(m) Idun is brought back to Asgard by Loke. Thjasse, who is freed from
his prison at Mimer's, pursues, in the guise of an eagle, Loke to the
walls of Asgard, where he is slain by the gods (see the Eddas).
(n) Svipdag, armed with the sword of victory, goes to Asgard, is
received joyfully by Freyja, becomes her husband, and presents his sword
of victory to Frey. Reconciliation between the gods and the Ivalde race.
Njord marries Thjasse's daughter Skade. Orvandel's second son Ull,
Svipdag's half-brother (see No. 102), is adopted in Valhal. A sister of
Svipdag is married to Forsete (Hyndluljod, 20). The gods honour the
memory of Thjasse by connecting his name with certain stars
(Harbardsljod, 19). A similar honour had already been paid to his
brother Orvandel (Prose Edda).
From this series of events we find that, although the Teutonic patriarch
finally succumbs in the war which he waged against the Thjasse-race and
the frost-powers led by Thjasse's kinsmen, still the results of his work
are permanent. When the crisis had reached its culminating point; when
the giant hosts of the fimbul-winter had received as their leader the
son of Orvandel, armed with the irresistible sword; when Halfdan's fate
is settled; when Thor himself, Midgard's veorr (Voelusp.), the mighty
protector of earth and the human race, must retreat with his lightning
hammer broken into pieces, then the power of love suddenly prevails and
saves the world. Svipdag, who, under the spell of his deceased mother's
incantations from the grave, obeyed the command of his stepmother to
find and rescue Freyja from the power of the giants, thereby wins her
heart and earns the gratitude of the gods. He has himself learned to
love her, and is at last compelled by his longing to seek her in Asgard.
The end of the power of the fimbul-winter is marked by Freyja's and
Idun's return to the gods, by Thjasse's death, by the presentation of
the invincible sword to the god of harvests (Frey), by the adoption of
Thjasse's kinsmen, Svipdag, Ull, and Skade in Asgard, and by several
marriage ties celebrated in commemoration of the reconciliation between
Asgard's gods and the kinsmen of the great artist of antiquity.
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