The Materials Of The Icelandic Troy Saga

: 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 so
e 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).