Gudmund's Identity With Mimer

: 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

s 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.