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The Materials Of The Icelandic Troy Saga


Source: Teutonic Mythology

We trust the facts presented above have convinced the reader that the
saga concerning the immigration of Odin and the Asas to Europe is
throughout a product of the convent learning of the middle ages. That
it was born and developed independently of the traditions of the
Teutonic heathendom shall be made still more apparent by the additional
proofs that are accessible in regard to this subject. It may, however,
be of some interest to first dwell on some of the details in the
Heimskringla and in the Younger Edda and point out their source.

It should be borne in mind that, according to the Younger Edda, it was
Zoroaster who first thought of building the Tower of Babel, and that in
this undertaking he was assisted by seventy-two master-masons. Zoroaster
is, as is well known, another form for the Bactrian or Iranian name
Zarathustra, the name of the prophet and religious reformer who is
praised on every page of Avesta's holy books, and who in a prehistoric
age founded the religion which far down in our own era has been
confessed by the Persians, and is still confessed by their descendants
in India, and is marked by a most serious and moral view of the world.
In the Persian and in the classical literatures this Zoroaster has
naught to do with Babel, still less with the Tower of Babel. But already
in the first century of Christianity, if not earlier, traditions became
current which made Zoroaster the founder of all sorcery, magic, and
astrology (Plinius, Hist. Nat., xxx. 2); and as astrology particularly
was supposed to have had its centre and base in Babylon, it was natural
to assume that Babel had been the scene of Zoroaster's activity. The
Greek-Roman chronicler Ammianus Marcellinus, who lived in the fourth
century after Christ, still knows that Zoroaster was a man from Bactria,
not from Babylon, but he already has formed the opinion that Zoroaster
had gotten much of his wisdom from the writings of the Babylonians. In
the Church fathers the saga is developed in this direction, and from the
Church fathers it got into the Latin chronicles. The Christian historian
Orosius also knows that Zoroaster was from Bactria, but he already
connects Zoroaster with the history of Nineveh and Babylon, and makes
Ninus make war against him and conquer him. Orosius speaks of him as the
inventor of sorcery and the magic arts. Gregorius of Tours told in his
time that Zoroaster was identical with Noah's grandson, with Chus, the
son of Ham, that this Chus went to the Persians, and that the Persians
called him Zoroaster, a name supposed to mean "the living star."
Gregorius also relates that this Zoroaster was the first person who
taught men the arts of sorcery and led them astray into idolatry, and as
he knew the art of making stars and fire fall from heaven, men paid him
divine worship. At that time, Gregorius continues, men desired to build
a tower which should reach to heaven. But God confused their tongues and
brought their project to naught. Nimrod, who was supposed to have built
Babel, was, according to Gregorius, a son of Zoroaster.

If we compare this with what the Foreword of the Younger Edda tells,
then we find that there, too, Zoroaster is a descendant of Noah's son
Cham and the founder of all idolatry, and that he himself was worshipped
as a god. It is evident that the author of the Foreword gathered these
statements from some source related to Gregorius' history. Of the 72
master-masons who were said to have helped Zoroaster in building the
tower, and from whom the 72 languages of the world originated, Gregorius
has nothing to say, but the saga about these builders was current
everywhere during the middle ages. In the earlier Anglo-Saxon literature
there is a very naive little work, very characteristic of its age,
called "A Dialogue between Saturn and Solomon," in which Saturnus tests
Solomon's knowledge and puts to him all sorts of biblical questions,
which Solomon answers partly from the Bible and partly from sagas
connected with the Bible. Among other things Saturnus informs Solomon
that Adam was created out of various elements, weighing altogether eight
pounds, and that when created he was just 116 inches long. Solomon tells
that Shem, Noah's son, had thirty sons, Cham thirty, and Japhet
twelve--making 72 grandsons of Noah; and as there can be no doubt that
it was the author's opinion that all the languages of the world, thought
to be 72, originated at the Tower of Babel, and were spread into the
world by these 72 grandsons of Noah, we here find the key to who those
72 master-masons were who, according to the Edda, assisted Zoroaster in
building the tower. They were accordingly his brothers. Luther's
contemporary, Henricus Cornelius Agrippa, who, in his work De occulta
Philosophia, gathered numerous data in regard to the superstition of
all ages, has a chapter on the power and sacred meaning of various
numbers, and says in speaking of the number 72: "The number 72
corresponds to the 72 languages, the 72 elders in the synagogue, the 72
commentators of the Old Testament, Christ's 72 disciples, God's 72
names, the 72 angels who govern the 72 divisions of the Zodiac, each
division of which corresponds to one of the 72 languages." This
illustrates sufficiently how widespread was the tradition in regard to
the 72 master-masons during the centuries of the middle ages. Even
Nestor's Russian chronicle knows the tradition. It continued to enjoy a
certain authority in the seventeenth century. An edition of Sulpicius
Severus' Opera Omnia, printed in 1647, still considers it necessary to
point out that a certain commentator had doubted whether the number 72
was entirely exact. Among the doubters we find Rudbeck in his

What the Edda tells about king Saturnus and his son, king Jupiter, is
found in a general way, partly in the Church-father Lactantius, partly
in Virgil's commentator Servius, who was known and read during the
middle age. As the Edda claims that Saturnus knew the art of producing
gold from the molten iron, and that no other than gold coins existed in
his time, this must be considered an interpretation of the statement
made in Latin sources that Saturnus' was the golden age--aurea secula,
aurea regna. Among the Romans Saturnus was the guardian of treasures,
and the treasury of the Romans was in the temple of Saturnus in the

The genealogy found in the Edda, according to which the Trojan king
Priam, supposed to be the oldest and the proper Odin, was descended in
the sixth generation from Jupiter, is taken from Latin chronicles.
Herikon of the Edda, grandson of Jupiter, is the Roman-Greek
Erichtonius; the Edda's Lamedon is Laomedon. Then the Edda has the
difficult task of continuing the genealogy through the dark centuries
between the burning of Troy and the younger Odin's immigration to
Europe. Here the Latin sources naturally fail it entirely, and it is
obliged to seek other aid. It first considers the native sources. There
it finds that Thor is also called Lorride, Indride, and Vingthor, and
that he had two sons, Mode and Magne; but it also finds a genealogy made
about the twelfth century, in which these different names of Thor are
applied to different persons, so that Lorride is the son of Thor,
Indride the son of Lorride, Vingthor the son of Indride, &c. This mode
of making genealogies was current in Iceland in the twelfth century, and
before that time among the Christian Anglo-Saxons. Thereupon the Edda
continues its genealogy with the names Bedvig, Atra, Itrman, Heremod,
Skjaldun or Skold, Bjaef, Jat, Gudolf, Fjarlaf or Fridleif, and finally
Odin, that is to say, the younger Odin, who had adopted this name after
his deified progenitor Hermes-Priam. This whole genealogy is taken from
a Saxon source, and can be found in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle name for
name. From Odin the genealogy divides itself into two branches, one from
Odin's son, Veggdegg, and another from Odin's son, Beldegg or Balder.
The one branch has the names Veggdegg, Vitrgils, Ritta, Heingest. These
names are found arranged into a genealogy by the English Church
historian Beda, by the English chronicler Nennius, and in the
Anglo-Saxon chronicle. From one of these three sources the Edda has
taken them, and the only difference is that the Edda must have made a
slip in one place and changed the name Vitta to Ritta. The other branch,
which begins with Balder or Beldegg, embraces eight names, which are
found in precisely the same order in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle.

In regard to Balder, the Edda says that Odin appointed him king in
Westphalia. This statement is based on the tradition that Balder was
known among the heathen Germans and Scandinavians by the name Fal
(Falr, see No. 92), with its variation Fol. In an age when it was
believed that Sweden got its name from a king Sven, Goetaland from a king
Goet, Danmark from a king Dan, Angeln from a king Angul, the Franks from
a duke Francio, it might be expected that Falen (East- and West-Phalia)
had been named after a king Fal. That this name was recognised as
belonging to Balder not only in Germany, but also in Scandinavia, I
shall give further proof of in No. 92.

As already stated, Thor was, according to the Edda, married to Sibil,
that is to say, the Sibylla, and the Edda adds that this Sibil is called
Sif in the North. In the Teutonic mythology Thor's wife is the goddess
Sif. It has already been mentioned that it was believed in the middle
age that the Cumaean or Erythreian Sibylla originally came from Troy, and

it is not, therefore, strange that the author of the Younger Edda, who
speaks of the Trojan descent of Odin and his people, should marry Thor
to the most famous of Trojan women. Still, this marriage is not invented
by the author. The statement has an older foundation, and taking all
circumstances into consideration, may be traced to Germany, where Sif,
in the days of heathendom, was as well known as Thor. To the northern
form Sif corresponds the Gothic form Sibba, the Old English Sib, the
Old Saxon Sibbia, and the Old High German Sibba, and Sibil, Sibilla,
was thought to be still another form of the same name. The belief, based
on the assumed fact that Thor's wife Sif was identical with the Sibylla,
explains a phenomenon not hitherto understood in the saga-world and
church sculpture of the middle age, and on this point I now have a few
remarks to make.

In the Norse mythology several goddesses or dises have, as we know,
feather-guises, with which they fly through space. Freyja has a
falcon-guise; several dises have swan-guises (Volundarkv. Helreid.
Brynh., 6). Among these swan-maids was Sif (see No. 123). Sif could
therefore present herself now in human form, and again in the guise of
the most beautiful swimming bird, the swan.

A legend, the origin of which may be traced to Italy, tells that when
the queen of Saba visited king Solomon, she was in one place to cross a
brook. A tree or beam was thrown across as a bridge. The wise queen
stopped, and would not let her foot touch the beam. She preferred to
wade across the brook, and when she was asked the reason for this, she
answered that in a prophetic vision she had seen that the time would
come when this tree would be made into a cross on which the Saviour of
the world was to suffer.

The legend came also to Germany, but here it appears with the addition
that the queen of Saba was rewarded for this piety, and was freed while
wading across the brook from a bad blemish. One of her feet, so says the
German addition, was of human form, but the other like the foot of a
water-bird up to the moment when she took it out of the brook. Church
sculpture sometimes in the middle age represented the queen of Saba as a
woman well formed, except that she had one foot like that of a
water-bird. How the Germans came to represent her with this blemish,
foreign to the Italian legend, has not heretofore been explained,
although the influence of the Greek-Roman mythology on the legends of
the Romance peoples, and that of the Teutonic mythology on the Teutonic
legends, has been traced in numerous instances.

During the middle ages the queen of Saba was called queen Seba, on
account of the Latin translation of the Bible, where she is styled
Regina Seba, and Seba was thought to be her name. The name suggested
her identity, on the one hand, with Sibba, Sif, whose swan-guise lived
in the traditions; on the other hand, with Sibilla, and the latter
particularly, since queen Seba had proved herself to be in possession of
prophetic inspiration, the chief characteristic of the Sibylla. Seba,
Sibba, and Sibilla were in the popular fancy blended into one. This
explains how queen Seba among the Germans, but not among the Italians,
got the blemish which reminds us of the swan-guise of Thor's wife Sibba.
And having come to the conclusion that Thor was a Trojan, his wife Sif
also ought to be a Trojan woman. And as it was known that the Sibylla
was Trojan, and that queen Seba was a Sibylla, this blending was almost
inevitable. The Latin scholars found further evidence of the correctness
of this identity in a statement drawn originally from Greek sources to
the effect that Jupiter had had a Sibylla, by name Lamia, as mistress,
and had begotten a daughter with her by name Herophile, who was endowed
with her mother's gift of prophecy. As we know, Mercury corresponds to
Odin, and Jupiter to Thor, in the names of the days of the week. It thus
follows that it was Thor who stood in this relation to the Sibylla.

The character of the anthropomorphosed Odin, who is lawgiver and king,
as represented in Heimskringla and the Prose Edda, is only in part based
on native northern traditions concerning the heathen god Odin, the ruler
of heaven. This younger Odin, constructed by Christian authors, has
received his chief features from documents found in the convent
libraries. When the Prose Edda tells that the chief who proceeded from
Asgard to Saxland and Scandinavia did not really bear the name Odin, but
had assumed this name after the elder and deified Odin-Priam of Troy, to
make people believe that he was a god, then this was no new idea.
Virgil's commentator, Servius, remarks that ancient kings very
frequently assumed names which by right belonged only to the gods, and
he blames Virgil for making Saturnus come from the heavenly Olympus to
found a golden age in Italy. This Saturnus, says Servius, was not a god
from above, but a mortal king from Crete who had taken the god Saturnus'
name. The manner in which Saturnus, on his arrival in Italy and the
vicinity of Rome, was received by Janus, the king ruling there, reminds
us of the manner in which Odin, on his arrival in Svithiod, was received
by king Gylfe. Janus is unpretentious enough to leave a portion of his
territory and his royal power to Saturnus, and Gylfe makes the same
concessions to Odin. Saturnus thereupon introduces a higher culture
among the people of Latium, and Odin brings a higher culture to the
inhabitants of Scandinavia. The Church father Lactantius, like Servius,
speaks of kings who tried to appropriate the name and worship of the
gods, and condemns them as foes of truth and violators of the doctrines
of the true God.

In regard to one of them, the Persian Mithra, who, in the middle age,
was confounded with Zoroaster, Tertulianus relates that he (Mithra), who
knew in advance that Christianity would come, resolved to anticipate the
true faith by introducing some of its customs. Thus, for example,
Mithra, according to Tertulianus, introduced the custom of blessing by
laying the hands on the head or the brow of those to whom he wished to
insure prosperity, and he also adopted among his mysteries a practice
resembling the breaking of the bread in the Eucharist. So far as the
blessing by the laying on of hands is concerned, Mithra especially used
it in giving courage to the men whom he sent out as soldiers to war.
With these words of Tertulianus it is interesting to compare the
following passage in regard to Odin in the Heimskringla: "It was his
custom when he sent his men to war, or on some errand, to lay his hands
on their heads and give them bjannak." Bjannak is not a Norse word,
not even Teutonic, and there has been uncertainty in regard to its
significance. The well-known Icelandic philologist, Vigfusson, has, as I
believe, given the correct definition of the word, having referred it to
the Scottish word bannock and the Gaelic banagh, which means bread.
Presumably the author of Heimskringla has chosen this foreign word in
order not to wound the religious feelings of readers with a native term,
for if bjannak really means bread, and if the author of Heimskringla
desired in this way to indicate that Odin, by the aid of sacred usages,
practised in the Christian cult--that is, by the laying on of hands and
the breaking of bread--had given his warriors assurance of victory, then
it lay near at hand to modify, by the aid of a foreign word for bread,
the impression of the disagreeable similarity between the heathen and
Christian usages. But at the same time the complete harmony between what
Tertulianus tells about Mithra and Heimskringla about Odin is manifest.

What Heimskringla tells about Odin, that his spirit could leave the body
and go to far-off regions, and that his body lay in the meantime as if
asleep or dead, is told, in the middle age, of Zoroaster and of

New Platonian works had told much about an originally Egyptian god, whom
they associated with the Greek Hermes and called Hermes-Trismegistus--that
is, the thrice greatest and highest. The name Hermes-Trismegistus became
known through Latin authors even to the scholars in the middle age
convents, and, as a matter of course, those who believed that Odin
was identical with Hermes also regarded him as identical with
Hermes-Trismegistus. When Gylfe sought Odin and his men he came to a
citadel which, according to the statement of the gatekeeper, belonged to
king Odin, but when he had entered the hall he there saw not one
throne, but three thrones, the one above the other, and upon each of the
thrones a chief. When Gylfe asked the names of these chiefs, he received
an answer that indicates that none of the three alone was Odin, but that
Odin the sorcerer, who was able to turn men's vision, was present in
them all. One of the three, says the doorkeeper, is named Har, the
second, Jafnhar, and the one on the highest throne is Thridi. It
seems to me probable that what gave rise to this story was the surname
"the thrice-highest," which in the middle age was ascribed to Mercury,
and, consequently, was regarded as one of the epithets which Odin
assumed. The names Third and High seem to point to the phrase "the
thrice-highest." It was accordingly taken for granted that Odin had
appropriated this name in order to anticipate Christianity with a sort
of idea of trinity, just as Zoroaster, his progenitor, had, under the
name Mithra, in advance imitated the Christian usages.

The rest that Heimskringla and the Younger Edda tell about the king Odin
who immigrated to Europe is mainly taken from the stories embodied in
the mythological songs and traditions in regard to the god Odin who
ruled in the celestial Valhal. Here belongs what is told about the war
of Odin and the Asiatics with the Vans. In the myth, this war was waged
around the walls built by a giant around the heavenly Asgard (Voelusp.,
25). The citadel in which Gylfe finds the triple Odin is decorated in
harmony with the Valhal described by the heathen skalds. The men who
drink and present exercises in arms are the einherjes of the myth. Gylfe
himself is taken from the mythology, but, to all appearances, he did not
play the part of a king, but of a giant, dwelling in Jotunheim. The
Fornmanna sagas make him a descendant of Fornjotr, who, with his sons,
Hler, Logi, and Kari, and his descendants, Joekull, Snaer,
Geitir, &c., doubtless belong to Jotunheim. When Odin and the Asas had
been made immigrants to the North, it was quite natural that the giants
were made a historical people, and as such were regarded as the
aborigines of the North--an hypothesis which, in connection with the
fable about the Asiatic emigration, was accepted for centuries, and
still has its defenders. The story that Odin, when he perceived death
drawing near, marked himself with the point of a spear, has its origin
in the words which a heathen song lays on Odin's lips: "I know that I
hung on the wind-tossed tree nine nights, by my spear wounded, given to
Odin, myself given to myself" (Havam., 138).

Next: The Result Of The Foregoing Investigations

Previous: Why Odin Was Given Antenor's Place As Leader Of The Trojan Emigration

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