Heimdall: Bridging the Gap
   
The Life and Times of the Guardian of the Gods
©2013 William P. Reaves
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  The Eddas tell us relatively little of Heimdall, the guardian of the gods. In Gylfaginning 27, Snorri Sturluson, author of the Prose Edda, writes:
Heimdallr heitir einn. Hann er kallaðr hvíti áss. Hann er mikill ok heilagr. Hann báru at syni meyjar níu ok allar systr. Hann heitir ok Hallinskíði ok Gullintanni. Tennr hans váru af gulli. Hestr hans heitir Gulltoppr. Hann býr þar, er heita Himinbjörg við Bifröst. Hann er vörðr goða ok sitr þar við himins enda at gæta brúarinnar fyrir bergrisum. Hann þarf minna svefn en fugl. Hann sér jafnt nótt sem dag hundrað rasta frá sér. Hann heyrir ok þat, er gras vex á jörðu eða ull á sauðum, ok allt þat er hæra lætr. Hann hefir lúðr þann, er Gjallarhorn heitir, ok heyrir blástr hans í alla heima.
"Heimdallr is the name of one: he is called the White God. He is great and holy; nine maids, all sisters, bore him for a son. He is also called Hallinskídi and Gullintanni; his teeth were of gold, and his horse is called Gold-top (Gulltop). He dwells in the place called Himinbjörg, hard by Bifröst: he is the watchman of the gods, and sits there by heaven's end to guard the bridge from the Hill-Giants. He needs less sleep than a bird; he sees equally well night and day a hundred leagues about him, and hears grass grow on the earth and wool on sheep, and everything that makes a louder sound. He has that trumpet which is called Gjallar-Horn, and its blast is heard throughout all worlds.

—After Arthur Broeder's translation (1916)

Quoting Grímnismál 13, Snorri goes on to say:
Himinbjörg heita,
en þar Heimdall
kveða valda véum;
þar vörðr goða
drekkr í væru ranni
glaðr inn góða mjöð.
Heavenly-hills the eighth,
where Heimdall
they say rules the shrines;
there the watchman of the gods
drinks good mead,
happy in a homely hall.
—Andy Orchard translation, 2011
 

Quoting a lost poem called Heimdallargaldr*, Snorri further informs us that Heimdall is the son of nine mothers:

Níu em ek mæðra mögr,
níu em ek systra sonr.
I am the child of nine mothers ,
Of nine sisters  I am the son.

*"Heimdall's Galdur" or "Heimdall's Incantation." Wouldn't you like to know what that one said?!
   
        

Birth of Heimdall by Karl Ehrenberg (1886)
    
 
 
 
The poem Hyndluljóð reveals more details concerning his birth:
Vard einn borin
i aardaga
rammaukin miok
raugna kindar.
niu baaru þann
nadbaufgann mann
iotna meyiar
vid iardar þraum.
One was born
in ancient days,
much imbued with strength
of the race of the gods,
nine bore him,
a spear-glorious man,
giant maids,
on the edge of the earth.
Mart segium þer
(ok munum fleira
vörumz at viti sua
villtu enn leingra.)
 
We're telling you much,
and will tell more,
we think this should be known:
do you want to know more?
Hann Gialp vm bar
hann Greip vm bar.
bar hann Eistla
ok Eyrgiafa
hann bar Vlfrun
ok Angeyia
Jmdr ok Atla
ok Jamsaxa.
Gjalp bore him,
Greip bore him,
Eistla bore him,
and Eyrgjafa,
Ulfrun bore him,
and Angeyja,
Imd and Atla,
and Jarnsaxa
—Andy Orchard translation, 2011 
 
 
The poem goes on to say that at birth, he was "embued with the strength of the earth and of the cool-cold sea," (Sa var aukinn/ iardar megni/ sualkaulldum sæ). Heimdall’s nine mothers are usually identified with the nine waves, the daughters of Aegir. Heimdall is said to be born “at the world’s edge” or “at earth’s margin”.  Midgard, the home of men,  is surrounded by a "river" which rings the world. There dwells the Midgard serpent, lying in a circle around the earth, biting its own tail. A skaldic verse, preserved by Snorri, also places nine giant maidens there. They turn the great mill under the sea that grinds the flesh of the primeval giants and causes the waves. According to the skald Snaebjorn, quoted in Skáldskaparmál:


Hvatt kveða hroera Grotta
hergrimmastan skerja
út fyr jarðar skauti
eylúðrs níu brúðir,
"They say the nine brides [waves] of the island-mill vigorously turn a most cruel Grotti [mill] of the skerries, out at the rim of the earth"

In Gylfaginning, Snorri makes no mention of Heimdall's father. In Skáldskaparmál 15, Snorri adds that Heimdall is the son of Odin. This cannot be confirmed in any other source. The surviving Eddaic poems are silent on the matter.

Born at sea, the next time we hear of Heimdall, he is walking along a sea-shore as a wanderer named Rig. In this role, he walks among the houses of early man, spending three nights in each home, of increasingly luxury. After nine months a child is born in each one of the homes, who becomes the eponymous founder of each of the three ancient Germanic castes:  Thrall, Karl and Jarl, progenitors of the thralls, freemen, and earls. The tale is told in the poem Rigsþula (abridged below): 

[Forty-eight stanzas of this incomplete poem survive on two sides of a single vellum leaf inserted into Codex Wormianus. Various scribal errors, omissions and scholarly perceptions about the 'correct' ordering of the verses have created differing arrangements of the poem in translation.  The following are excerpts from the Andy Orchard translation (2011):



Heimdall
1854 Constanin Hansen
Svá segja menn í fornum sögum, at einnhverr af ásum, sá er Heimdallr hét, fór ferðar sinnar ok fram með sjóvarströndu nökkurri, kom at einum húsabæ ok nefndist Rígr. Eftir þeiri sögu er kvæði þetta:
 

 

People say that in the ancient tales one of the Æsir, who was called Heimdall, went in his travels along a certain sea-shore; he came to a farmstead and called himself Rig. About that story this poem was made:

Ár kváðu ganga
grænar brautir
öflgan ok aldinn
ás kunnigan,
ramman ok röskvan
Ríg stíganda.

 1. In ancient times,
they said, there wandered
on green paths
a mighty and ancient
and much-crafty god,
vigorous and vibrant,
Rig, striding along.
Gekk hann meir at þat
miðrar brautar;
kom hann at húsi,
hurð var á gætti;
inn nam at ganga,
eldr var á golfi;
hjón sátu þar
hár at arni,
Ái ok Edda,
aldinfalda.

2. Next thing, he wandered
in the middle of the path;
he came to a building,
with its door on the latch,
and stepped right in:
there was a fire on the floor;
a couple sat there,
grey-haired at the hearth,
Great-grandpa and Great-grandma,
with her old
head-dress.

Rígr kunni þeim
ráð at segja;
meir settisk hann
miðra fletja,
en á hlið hvára
hjón salkynna.
3. Rig was able to
give them advice;
next thing, he sat in
the middle of the bench,
and on either side
the household couple.
Rígr kunni þeim
ráð at segja;
reis hann upp þaðan,
réðsk at sofna;
meir lagðisk hann
miðrar rekkju,
en á hlið hvára
hjón salkynna.
5.  Rig was able to
give them advice;
next thing, he laid
in the middle of the bed,
and on either side
the household couple.
Þar var hann at þat
þríar nætr saman,
gekk hann meir at þat
miðrar brautar;
liðu meir at þat
mánuðr níu.


6. There he continued
three nights together,
then departed
on the mid-way.
Nine months then
passed away.

Jóð ól Edda
jósu vatni,
hörvi svartan,
hétu Þræl.

7.  Great-grandma had a child;
they sprinkled it with water,
the swarthy boy they called Slave [Thrall].
 
Gekk Rígr at þat
réttar brautir,
kom hann at höllu,
hurð var á skíði,
inn nam at ganga,
eldr var á golfi,
hjón sátu þar,
heldu á sýslu.
14. Rig then wandered
by straight paths;
he came to a house,
with its door ajar,
and stepped right in:
there was a fire on the floor;
a couple sat there, and kept on working.
Sat þar kona,
sveigði rokk,
breiddi faðm,
bjó til váðar;
sveigr var á höfði,
smokkr var á bringu,
dúkr var á halsi,
dvergar á öxlum.
Afi ok Amma áttu hús.

 

17. sat the woman,
twirling her spindle,
spreading her arms,
ready to make cloth.
On her head a head-dress,
a smock over her bosom,
       
around her neck a kerchief,
dwarf-pins* on each shoulder:                                                         

Grandpa and Grandma [Afi and Amma]
owned that house.
 
 *brooch ornaments?




1895 Lorenz Frølich



Rígr kunni þeim
ráð at segja;
[meir settisk hann
miðra fletja,
en á hlið hvára
hjón salkynna].
17. Rig was able to
give them advice;
next thing, he laid
in the middle of the bed,
and on either side
the household couple.
Þar var hann at þat
þríar nætr saman;
liðu meir at þat
mánuðr níu.
20. He was there for
three nights together:
[next thing, he wandered
in the middle of the path;]
next thing, nine months passed.

Jóð ól Amma
jósu vatni,
kölluðu Karl,
kona sveip rifti,
rauðan ok rjóðan,
riðuðu augu.

 

21. Grandma had a child;
they sprinkled it with water,
called him Carl [Freeman];
the woman wrapped him in linen
red-haired and ruddy,
with roaming eyes

Gekk Rígr þaðan
réttar brautir;
kom hann at sal,
suðr horfðu dyrr,
var hurð hnigin,
hringr var í gætti.

26. Rig then wandered
along straight paths;
he came to a hall,
with its doors facing south,
the door was half-open,
with a ring on the latch
Gekk hann inn at þat,
golf var stráat;
sátu hjón,
sáusk í augu,
Faðir ok Móðir,
fingrum at leika.
27.    He stepped in at that:
the floor was spread with straw;
a couple were sitting,
gazing softly at each other,
Father and Mother [Fadir and Modir],
with fingers entwined.
Rígr kunni þeim
ráð at segja;
meir settisk hann
miðra fletja,
en á hlið hvára
hjón salkynna.

30.    Rig was able to
give them advice;
next thing, he sat
in the middle of the bench,
and on either side
the household couple.
Rígr kunni þeim
ráð at segja;
reis hann at þat,
rekkju gerði.
Þar var hann at þat
þríar nætr saman;
gekk hann meir at þat
miðrar brautar;
liðu meir at þat
mánuðr níu.
33.    Rig was able
to give them advice;
then Rig rose, and
got ready for bed;
he was there for
three nights together:
next thing, he wandered
in the middle of the path;
next thing,
nine months passed.
Svein ól Móðir,
silki vafði,
jósu vatni,
Jarl létu heita;
bleikt var hár,
bjartir vangar,
ötul váru augu
sem yrmlingi.
34.    Mother had a boy;
she wrapped him in silk,
sprinkled him with water,
had him named Earl;
blond was his hair,
bright his cheeks,
fierce were his eyes
like a little snake's.



Modir and Jarl
Albert Edelfelt




Upp óx þar
Jarl á fletjum;
lind nam at skelfa,
leggja strengi,
alm at beygja,
örvar skefta,
flein at fleygja,
frökkur dýja,
hestum ríða,
hundum verpa,
sverðum bregða,
sund at fremja.
35. There at home
Jarl grew up,
learned the shield to shake,
to fix the string,
the bow to bend,
arrows to shaft,
javelins to hurl,
spears to brandish,
horses to ride,
dogs to let slip,
swords to draw,
swimming to practice.
Kom þar ór runni
Rígr gangandi,
Rígr gangandi,
rúnar kendi;
sitt gaf heiti,
son kveðsk eiga;
þann bað hann eignask
óðalvöllu,
óðalvöllu,

aldnar byggðir.


36. There came from the thicket
Rig wandering,
Rig wandering
taught them runes,
gave him his own name,
said he had a son,
told him to obtain
ancestral property,
ancestral property,
ancient estates.



Heimdall by Louis Moe

As the offspring of the nine giantesses who turn the great world-mill, churning beneath the sea, Heimdall represents the holy fire, created by friction. As such, he acts as the spark of life, commonly generated by the rubbing together of two pieces of wood. The first humans, Askur and Embla, themselves were created from driftwood washed up on shore. The process of rubbing a hard wood into a softer wood generates friction-fire, considered sacred among many ancient peoples.  This process is replicated in the act of human reproduction. [See Ursula Dronke, The Poetic Edda, Vol. II. p. 123] The name Rígr itself is a pun, a borrowing of the Old Irish rígr ('king'), and a play on the native rígr ('stiffness') referring to an erection. [ibid. p. 123, cf. p. 215]. Thus Heimdall places himself between the man and wife of each household.

Although Snorri did not know the story of Rig*, which is contained in a poem not found in the Codex Regius manuscript  nor quoted in either Gylfaginning or Skáldskaparmál, the myth is confirmed in part by a völva, speaking in Völuspá 1, when she asks for a "hearing" (hljóð) from "all holy races, high and low, the sons of Heimdall." (The same word, hljóð, is also used of Heimdall's remarkable hearing in Völuspá 27).  Even though Snorri knew Völuspá well and quoted it extensively in Gylfaginning, he does not cite this verse or the story to which it alludes.

*If he did he doesn't mention or refer to it.
 
 
What occurred in the time between Heimdall's birth and the time he walked among men as Rig, establishing the Germanic caste system? Unfortunately, this information has been lost in the Eddaic record.

 However, a widespread myth  of an ancient king named Scef may shed some light on Heimdall's missing years. His name is mentioned in Icelandic, Danish, and Anglo-Saxon stories, often as a son of Odin. He is alternately known as Scef, Skjöld, and Scyld Scefing ('Shield, son of Scef'). The numerous and varied sources which mention him, have long been recognized, and were most recently catalogued by Bruce M. Alexander in Scyld and Scef: Expanding the Analogues (2002).  This boy-king figure is frequently listed as a son or descendant of Odin. In Danish sources, however, Skjöld is the son of Lothurus, most likely a historicized version of Odin's brother Loður, who assisted his siblings in the creation of the world and of man. This is all the more significant, because Saxo wrote his Danish history, based on Old Icelandic material,  a generation before Snorri's composed his Edda.

  Interlude:
Odin's Brothers

Borr's sons slay Ymir by Giovanni Casselli (1977)
  
 
 

Odin's brothers are mysterious figures, rarely seen or mentioned in the surviving sources.  From this, we should not infer that they were similarly unknown to the ancient Norsemen. According to Gylfaginning 6, Odin's father, Borr had three sons.
"Næst var þat, þá er hrímit draup, at þar varð af kýr sú, er Auðhumla hét, en fjórar mjólkár runnu ór spenum hennar, ok fæddi hon Ymi." Þá mælti Gangleri: "Við hvat fæddist kýrin?" Hárr svarar: "Hon sleikði hrímsteinana, er saltir váru, ok inn fyrsta dag, er hon sleikði steinana, kom ór steininum at kveldi manns hár, annan dag manns höfuð, þriðja dag var þar allr maðr. Sá er nefndr Búri. Hann var fagr álitum, mikill ok máttugr. Hann gat son þann, er Borr hét, hann fekk þeirar konu, er Bestla hét, dóttir Bölþorns jötuns, ok fengu þau þrjá sonu. Hét einn Óðinn, annarr Vili, þriði Vé, ok þat er mín trúa, at sá Óðinn ok hans bræðr munu vera stýrandi himins ok jarðar.
 
"Straightaway after the rime dripped, there sprang from it the cow called Audhumla; four streams of milk ran from her udders, and she nourished Ymir." Then asked Gangleri: "Wherewithal was the cow nourished?" And Hárr answered: "She licked the ice-blocks, which were salty; and the first day that she licked the blocks, there came forth from the blocks in the evening a man's hair; the second day, a man's head; the third day the whole man was there. He is named Búri: he was fair of feature, great and mighty. He begat a son called Borr, who wedded the woman named Bestla, daughter of Bölthorn (Ymir) the giant; and they had three sons: one was Odin, the second Vili, the third Vé. And this is my belief, that he, Odin, with his brothers, must be ruler of heaven and earth."
That Odin had two brothers named Vili and Ve is confirmed by Lokasenna 26:
"Þegi þú, Frigg,
þú ert Fjörgyns mær
ok hefr æ vergjörn verit,
er þá Véa ok Vilja
léztu þér, Viðris kvæn,
báða i baðm of tekit."
 
"Hold your tongue, Frigg,
you are Fjörgynn's daughter
and have always been eager for men,
for Véi and Vili
you—Viðrir's wife— had
both embraced in your bosom."
—Ursula Dronke translation (1997)

 

Here the three brothers are called by alliterative names: Vidrir (Odin), Vili and Ve. Snorri, who knew Lokasenna, may have gotten the names of Odin's brothers here.
In Gylfaginning 8, Snorri states that Odin's two brothers helped him slay Ymir. The three brothers use the giant's corpse to create the heavens and the earth. Afterwards, they examine their creation. Gylfaginning 9 reads:  
Þá mælti Gangleri: "Mikit þótti mér þeir hafa þá snúit til leiðar, er jörð ok himinn var gert ok sól ok himintungl váru sett ok skipt dægrum, ok hvaðan kómu mennirnir, þeir er heim byggja?"
Þá mælti Hárr: "Þá er þeir gengu með sævarströndu Borssynir, fundu þeir tré tvau ok tóku upp trén ok sköpuðu af menn. Gaf inn fyrsti önd ok líf, annarr vit ok hræring, þriði ásjónu, mál ok heyrn ok sjón, gáfu þeim klæði ok nöfn. Hét karlmaðrinn Askr, en konan Embla, ok ólst þaðan af mannkindin, sú er byggðin var gefinn undir Miðgarði.
 
Then said Gangleri: "Much indeed they had accomplished then, methinks, when earth and heaven were made, and the sun and the constellations of heaven were fixed, and division was made of days; now whence come the men that people the world?" And Hárr answered: 'When the sons of Borr were walking along the sea-strand, they found two trees, and took up the trees and shaped men of them: the first gave them spirit and life; the second, wit and feeling; the third, form, speech, hearing, and sight. They gave them clothing and names: the male was called Askur, and the female Embla, and of them was mankind begotten, which received a dwelling-place under Midgard.
Völuspá 17 and 18, a poem well-known to Snorri and one he quotes extensively, says that Askur and Embla were created not by Odin, Vili and Ve but rather by Odin, Hoenir and Lodur:
Unz þrír kvámu
ór því liði
öflgir ok ástkir
æsir at húsi,
fundu á landi
lítt megandi
Ask ok Emblu
örlöglausa.
17. Until three came
out of the company
mighty and loving
Æsir to the house.
They found on land,
little capable,
Ash and Embla,
without destiny.
Önd þau né áttu,
óð þau né höfðu,
lá né læti
né litu góða;
önd gaf Óðinn,
óð gaf Hænir,
lá gaf Lóðurr
ok litu góða.
18. Breath they had not,
spirit they had not,
no film of flesh nor cry of voice,
nor comely hues.
Breath Óðinn gave,
spirit Hoenir have,
film of flesh Lóðurr gave,
and comely hues.

—Ursula Dronke translation (1997)

Snorri tells us that Odin had 49 names in all, some of which are dramatically revealed in Grímnismál 48-50. In our sources, Thor is known as Hlorridi, Veorr and Asabragi. Likewise Freyja is known as Gefn, Mardöll and Sýr among others. There is no reason to believe that Odin's brothers, like himself, did not have alternate names. Most all mythic characters do. Thus when Völuspá says that Odin, in the creation of man, was assisted by Hoenir and Lodur, and when the Prose Edda (Gylfaginning 9) says that, on this occasion, he was joined by his brothers, who just before (Gylfaginning 6) were called Ve and Vili, then these are only different names of the same powers. Hoenir and Lodur are Ve and Vili. If the triad of brothers Zeus, Posideon and Hades in Greek mythology are any indication, it would be a mistake to believe that Odin's brothers were mythical ghosts without characteristic qualities, and without prominent parts in the mythological events after the creation of the world and of man, in which we know they took an active part (Völuspá 4, 17, 18). The assumption that this was the case depends simply upon the fact that they have not been found mentioned among the Aesir, and that our fragmentary records, when not investigated thoroughly and with an eye for alternate names, so common in Eddaic poetry, seem to have so little to say concerning them.
In Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon geneologies, Scef is often said to be the son or descendent of Odin. Danish genealogies, however, including Saxo's, which go back further than Skjöld (Scef) make him the son of King Lotherus. There is no doubt that Lotherus, like his descendants, Skjöld (Scef), Halfdan, and Hadding, was taken from the Germanic myth and legend. Saxo Grammaticus, in particular, is well-known for having based his Gesta Dancorum largely on Icelandic mythology. Saxo commonly Latinizes the names and epithets of well-known mythic players. In our mythic records there is only one name of which Lotherus can be a Latinized form, and that name is Lóðurr.
Germanic mythology knows of three divine races: the Aesir, the Vanir and the Alfar (elves). Germanic theogony, as far as we can know, mentions only two progenitors of all the mythological races — the primeval giant Ymir and Buri, the man licked out of the ice by Audumbla. According to Vafþrúdnismál 33, two very different races of giants, spring from Ymir: the offspring of his arms and that of his feet — in other words, the noble race of jötuns to which the Norns, Mimir and Bestla belong, and the treacherous race founded by the six-headed Thrudgelmir. As we have seen, Buri gives rise to Borr, who in turn, by the giantess Bestla, fathers three sons — Odin, Ve, and Vili.  Odin is the father and ruler of the Aesir clan.  Unless Buri had more sons, the Vanir and Alfar (elf) clans can have no other source than Borr. To this must be added the important observation that Ve and Vili, though brothers of Odin, are never counted among the Aesir proper, and have no halls in Asgard. Odin is the founder of the clan he rules, for this very reason, his brothers cannot be included in his clan, except through adoption. There is every reason to suppose that they, like him, were clan-founders; and as we find two other divine clans besides the Aesir, it stands to reason that Odin's two brothers were their progenitors and clan-chieftains. In other words, Odin's brothers Vili and Ve, also known as Lodur and Hoenir, founded the Vanir and Alfar (elf) clans. Unfortunately, the surviving evidence is too scant to definitively determine which was which.
To complicate the matter, we sometimes find the jötun Loki, identified as Odin's brother in scholarly writing. It should be noted that in the existing source material that Odin's brother Lodur (Vili) is a biological son of his parents Borr and Bestla, whereas Loki is not. By all accounts, Loki is said to be of giant-birth, the son of the giants Farbauti and Laufey or Nál. Lokasenna 9, however,  informs us that Odin and Loki had become blood-brothers:
"Mantu þat, Óðinn,
er vit í árdaga
blendum blóði saman?
Ölvi bergja
lézktu eigi mundu,
nema okkr væri báðum borit."
 
"Do you recall, Óðinn,
when we two in the old days
blended our blood together?
Taste ale
you told me you would not,
unless it was brought to us both?"
—Ursula Dronke translation (1997)
 The blood-brother ritual involves walking together beneath a raised piece of turf, mixing blood  into the earth beneath the strip, and swearing an oath of fidelity.  Fóstbræðra saga, ch. 2 describes the ritual in this manner: 

Hafði sú siðvenja verið höfð frægra manna, þeirra er það lögmál settu sín í milli, að sá skyldi annars hefna er lengur lifði. Þá skyldu þeir ganga undir þrjú jarðarmen og var það eiður þeirra. Sá leikur var á þá lund að rista skyldi þrjár torfur úr jörðu langar. Þeirra endar skyldu allir fastir í jörðu og heimta upp lykkjurnar svo að menn mættu ganga undir. 

"It had been a tradition among men of renown to become bound to each other by a law which stated that whoever outlived the other would undertake to avenge his death. They had to walk underneath a triple arch of raised turf, and this signified their oath. The arch was made by scoring out three lengths of turf and leaving them attached to the ground at both ends, then raising them to a height whereby it was possible to walk underneath them."

—Martin S. Regal translation (1997)
 
 Gísli Saga, ch. 6, adds additional details:
Svá at báðir endar váru fastir í jörðu, ok settu þar undir málaspjót,þat er maðr mátti taka hendi sinni til geirnagla. Þeir skyldu þar fjórir undir ganga, Þorgrímr, Gísli, Þorkell ok Vésteinn. Ok nú vekja þeir sér blóð ok láta renna saman dreyra sinn í þeiri moldu, er upp var skorin undan jarðarmeninu, ok hræra saman allt, moldina ok blóðit. En. síðan fellu þeir allir á kné ok sverja þann eið, at hverr skal annars hefna sem bróður síns, ok nefna öll goðin í vitni.
 
"Then they propped up the arch of raised turf with a damascened spear so long-shafted that a man could stretch out his arms and touch the rivets. [After walking under it] ...they drew blood and let it drip down onto the soil beneath the turf strip and stirred it together—the soil and the blood. Then they fell to their knees and swore an oath that each would avenge the other as if they were brothers, and they called on all the gods as their witnesses."
—Martin S. Regal translation (1997)
As we have seen in Gylfaginning and in Völuspá, Odin is sometimes accompanied by his biological brothers Lodur and Hoenir, also known as Vili and Ve. They take part with him in the slaying of Ymir, the creation of the heaven and earth, and in the creation of man.  However, in some sources, Loki replaces Lodur in the triad, such as in the poem Haustlöng, when Loki accompanies Odin and Hoenir to Thrymheim, the home of the giant Thjazi, and in Skáldskaparmál, when the same trio pays a visit to the dwarf Andvari. I would suggest that Loki's special status as Odin's blood-brother allows him to functionally assume the position of Odin's actual brother, Lodur-Vili, and thus, on occassion, also appear as Odin's traveling companion, alongside Odin's own brother Hoenir-Ve.
 

 
1905 Scef (here called Ing) by Carl Emil Doepler, Jr.
Scef: The Baby in the Boat

 
 
Scef's story, best known from Anglo-Saxon sources, describes the arrival of an ancient Scandinavian king, who first appears among men as an infant in a ship, laden with the tools and treasures of culture and agriculture. He sleeps with a sheaf of grain beneath his head. Before his arrival, the people led simple lives. By the time of his departure, culture has taken hold among them. The sources, as far as they go, agree that Scef arrived on the shores of Scandia, the southern strand of the Scandinavian penninsula.  The Old English poem Widsith, in its list of ancient kings and peoples, identifies Scef as the ruler of the Lombards (Sceafa Longbeardum, l. 32).

Concerning Scef, Æthelweard's Chronicon Æthelwardi, composed in the late 10th or early 11th century, records the following in Book 3, concerning the year 855:

'Ipse Scef cum uno dromone aduectus est in insula oceani que dicitur Scani, armis circundatus, eratque ualde recens puer, et ab incolis illius terræ ignotus. Attamen ab eis suscipitur, et ut familiarem diligenti animo eum custodierunt, et post in regem eligunt; de cuius ordinem trahit Aðulf rex.'
    
 "And this Scef arrived with one light ship in the island of the ocean which is called Skani, with arms all round him. He was a very young boy, and unknown to the people of that land, but he was received by them, and they guarded him with diligent attention as one who belonged to them, and elected him King. From his family King Æþelwulf derived his descent."

The 12th century historian William of Malmesbury in his De Gestis Regum Anglorum describes the same scene this way:
Iste (Sceaf) ut fertur, in quandam insulam Germaniae Scandzam, de qua Jordanes, historiographus Gothorum, loquitur, appulsus navi sine remige puerulus, posito ad caput frumenti manipulo, ideoque Sceaf nuncupatus, ab hominibus regionis illius pro miraculo exceptus, et sedulo nutritus, adulta aetate regnavit in oppido quod tunc Slasvic, nunc vera Haitheby appellatur: est autem regio ilia Anglia vetus dicta, unde Angli veneruntin Britanniam, inter Saxones et Gothos constituta."
    
"This Sceaf, they say, landed on an island in Germany called Scandza mentioned by Jordanes the historian of the Goths, as a small child in a ship without a crew, sleeping with a sheaf of wheat laid by his head, and hence was called Sheaf. The men of that country welcomed him as something miraculous and brought him up carefully, and on reaching manhood he ruled a town then called Slaswic but now Hedeby. The name of the region is Old Anglia, and it was from there that the Angles came to Britian; it lies between the Saxons ands the Goths."
 
 
The Old English poem Beowulf, which turns the heathen tale into a Christian legend, tells the story this way. The facing text translation is that of
Benjamin Slade (2012):

Beowulf (ll. 1-52) 

Hwæt! Wé Gárdena in géardagum


Listen! We --of the Spear-Danes in the days of yore,
þéodcyninga þrym gefrúnon·

of those clan-kings-- heard of their glory.
hú ðá æþelingas ellen fremedon.

how those nobles performed courageous deeds.
Oft Scyld Scéfing sceaþena þréatum

Often Scyld, Scef's son, from enemy hosts
monegum maégþum meodosetla oftéah·

5

from many peoples seized mead-benches;
egsode Eorle syððan aérest wearð

and terrorised the fearsome Heruli after first he was
féasceaft funden hé þæs frófre gebád·

found helpless and destitute, he then knew recompense for that:-
wéox under wolcnum· weorðmyndum þáh

he waxed under the clouds, throve in honours,
oð þæt him aéghwylc þára ymbsittendra

until to him each of the bordering tribes
ofer hronráde hýran scolde,

10

beyond the whale-road had to submit,
gomban gyldan· þæt wæs gód cyning.

and yield tribute:- that was a good king!
Ðaém eafera wæs æfter cenned

To him a heir was born then
geong in geardum þone god sende

young in the yards, God sent him
folce tó frófre· fyrenðearfe ongeat·

to comfort the people; He had seen the dire distress
þæt híe aér drugon aldorléase

15

that they suffered before, leader-less
lange hwíle· him þæs líffréä

a long while; them for that the Life-Lord,
wuldres wealdend woroldáre forgeaf:

Ruler of Glory, granted honour on earth:
Béowulf wæs bréme --blaéd wíde sprang--

Beowulf (Beaw) was famed --his renown spread wide--
Scyldes eafera Scedelandum in.

Scyld's heir, in Northern lands.
Swá sceal geong guma góde gewyrcean

20

So ought a young man by good deeds deserve,
fromum feohgiftum on fæder bearme

(and) by fine treasure-gifts, while in his father's keeping,
þæt hine on ylde eft gewunigen

that him in old age shall again stand by,
wilgesíþas þonne wíg cume·

willing companions, when war comes,
léode gelaésten: lofdaédum sceal

people serve him: by glorious deeds must,
in maégþa gehwaére man geþéön.

25

amongst his people, everywhere, one prosper.
Him ðá Scyld gewát tó gescæphwíle

Then Scyld departed at the destined time,
felahrór féran on fréan waére·

still in his full-strength, to fare in the protection of the Lord Frea;
hí hyne þá ætbaéron tó brimes faroðe

he they carried to the sea's surf,
swaése gesíþas swá hé selfa bæd

his dear comrades, as he himself had bid,
þenden wordum wéold wine Scyldinga

30

when he yet wielded words, that friend of the Scyldings,
léof landfruma lange áhte·

beloved ruler of the land, had ruled for a long time;
þaér æt hýðe stód hringedstefna

there at the harbour stood with a ringed-prow,
ísig ond útfús æþelinges fær

icy and keen to sail, a hero's vessel;
álédon þá léofne þéoden

they then laid down the beloved prince,
béaga bryttan on bearm scipes

35

the giver of rings and treasure, in the bosom of the boat,
maérne be mæste· þaér wæs mádma fela

the mighty by the mast; many riches were there,
of feorwegum frætwa gelaéded·

from far-off lands ornate armour and baubles were brought;
ne hýrde ic cýmlícor céol gegyrwan

I have not heard of a comelier keel adorned
hildewaépnum ond heaðowaédum

with weapons of battle and war-dress,
billum ond byrnum· him on bearme læg

40

bill-blades and byrnies; there lay on his breast
mádma mænigo þá him mid scoldon

many treasures, which with him must,
on flódes aéht feor gewítan·

in the power of the waves, drift far off;
nalæs hí hine laéssan lácum téodan

in no way had they upon him fewer gifts bestowed
þéodgestréonum þonne þá dydon

with the wealth of a nation, than those did
þe hine æt frumsceafte forð onsendon

45

who him in the beginning had sent forth
aénne ofer ýðe umborwesende·

alone upon the waves being but a child;
þá gýt híe him ásetton segen gyldenne

yet then they set up the standard of gold,
héah ofer héafod· léton holm beran·

high over head; they let the sea bear,
géafon on gársecg· him wæs geómor sefa

gave to the ocean, in them were troubled hearts,
murnende mód· men ne cunnon

50

mourning minds; men cannot
secgan tó sóðe seleraédenne

say for certain, (neither) court-counsellors
hæleð under heofenum hwá þaém hlæste onféng.

(nor) heroes under heaven, who received that cargo.


And these are just a few of the many references to the boy-king. The translator remarks: "Scyld is well known in the Scandinavian tradition as Skjoldr, the ancestor of the Skjoldungar. He is, as in Beowulf, shrouded in mystery: he is sent by unknown persons from an unknown place and when his work is complete he returns thence." He appears in Icelandic, Danish, and Anglo-Saxon sources.

In the Beowulf account, Scef is sent by God himself. In other words, Scef's origin is divine in nature.
Because the Angles and the Saxons migrated to the British Isles from the European continent, we have reason to believe that they brought this ancient myth with them. The tale is found in the oldest English literature, being referenced in Widsith, and told more fully in Beowulf and other Anglo-Saxon sources (only some of which will be mentioned below). Scef also appears in several Anglo-Saxon royal geneologies, prior to the Norman invasion in 1066, making his legend a contemporary of the Eddic poems. As Scef and Skjöld he also appears in Danish and Icelandic geneologies, which also include other mythic characters such as Odin and Balder. Thus, Scef too may hail from ancient Germanic myth.

The probability that he did, greatly increases when we consider the details of the Heimdall myth. What is told of King Scef precisely fills the gap left between Heimdall's birth and his arrival among men as Rig. Heimdall is born at sea, a child of the wave-maidens. When next we find him, he is walking in a seaside country visiting homes as Rig, sanctifying the ancient Germanic social castes.
     
 
 
1905 Heimdall by Carl Emil Doepler, Jr.

So Who Sent Scef?
 
  In the mythic sources, the only gods positively identifed as Vanir are Njörd and his children Frey and Freyja. Because they led a successful war against the Aesir, we have the idea they were a large and powerful tribe. Njörd is sent as a hostage to the Aesir, as part of a peace-pact after the war, according to Snorri in Gylfaginning 23 and in more detail in Heimskringla, Ynglingasaga 4.  Loki also makes mention of this in Lokasenna 34. 

Njörd, however, did not take up residence in Asgard. Gylfaginning 23 informs us that Njörd's hall is located near the sea, if it wasn't already apparent by the name of the place— Noatun, which means "shipyard." His wife Skadi cannot stand the sound of sea-fowl every morning, while Njörd himself would rather hear the swan song there, than the howling wolves in Skadi's odal home, Thrymheim. 

Vafþrúðnismál 39 informs us that before Ragnarök, Njörd will return home to Vanaheim. At Ragnarök, the giants arrive from the east, while Surt's men arrive from the south. During the battle, the earth burns and the sky is rent. Flames reach heaven itself. The sea alone survives. In time, a new world rises from it.  Thus, Vanaheim, the home of the Vanir gods, was probably conceived of as located in the west, across the great western ocean (i.e. the Atlantic ocean in relation to Scandinavia. This begs the question, when Vikings sailed west, did they expect to find Vanaheim?).  Similarly,  in Baldrs Draumr 11,  Odin's son Vali is said to be born in "western halls," before arriving in Asgard to avenge his brother Baldur. Thus, his mother Rind may herself be a Vana-goddess. 

In Gylfaginning (23, 24 and elsewhere), the Vanir divinities, Njörd, and his children Frey and Freyja, are all identifed as Aesir, despite their birth as Vanir. Loki, a jötun by birth, is called an Ás as well, demonstrating that clan designations can be applied equally to those adopted into the clan.  Although Snorri identifies Heimdall as one of the Aesir, the Eddaic poem Thrymskvida (15/1-4), suggests that Heimdall too was originally of the Vanir race:

 ...Heimdallr,
hvítastr ása,
vissi hann vel fram
sem vanir aðrir:
 
...Heimdall,
the whitest of the Aesir,
he saw far ahead,
like the other Vanir;

 
Heimdall by Lorenz Frølich (1895)
 


Heimdall is also closely associated with the Vanir, protecting Freyja's necklace Brisingamen, from being stolen by Loki, in a lost myth refered to by the skald Ulf Uggasson, describing the decorative carvings on a newly-constructed longhall at Hjardarholt:


Ráðgenginn bregðr ragna
rein at Singasteini
frægr við firnaslægjan
Fárbauta mög vári;
móðöflugr ræðr mæðra
mögr hafnýra fögru,
kynni ek, áðr ok einnar
átta, mærðar þáttum.
 

Renowned defender [Heimdall] of the powers' way [Bifrost], kind of counsel, competes with Farbauti's terribly sly son [Loki] at Singasteinn. Son of eight mothers plus one [Heimdall], mighty of mood, is first to get hold of the beautiful sea-kidney [jewel, Brisingamen]. I announce it in strands of praise.

—Anthony Faulkes translation, 1988


His name Heimdall, "light of the world", is a reflex of Freyja's name Märdoll, which refers to light glittering on the surface of the water. Besides being named Hallinskídi, "the ram," Gullintanni, "golden teeth" (Gylfaginning 27), Heimdall is also known as Vindlér (Wind-protector, wind-shelter) or Vindhlér (Skáldskaparmál 15, see A. Faulkes, Skáldskaparmál 2, p. 519). The latter may refer to Hlér, an alternate name for Aegir. As guardian of the atmosphere, from his watchpost on Bifröst, Heimdall is Wind-Hlér, the Hlér of the Winds, i.e. the Aegir of the Winds, watching over the bowl of the sky as Aegir watches over the bowl of the sea. Here the sky and sea are seen as reflections of one another, a natural image for a seafaring people. Similarly, Thor the thunderer, hoists Hymir's kettle above his head, when he leaves the giant's home.  As Hymir's kettle becomes Aegir's brewing vessel, it functions as a symbol of the sea itself. Placed on Thor's head, it becomes a symbol of the sky, the natural home of thunder. The same kind of metaphor is found in Old Norse kennings for the earth, where the sky is depicted as a "vat of winds":

  botn vindkers (víðr) "base of wind-vat" (Egill: Arinbjarnarkviða 18)  
víðbotn varðkeri glyggs (gjálfri leygðr) "wide base of storm-container" (Sigvatr: Flokkr 4 = HkrII.123)  
botn élkers (gjálfri kringðr) "base of storm-vat" (Markús Skeggjason: Eiríksdrápa 3 = Sks.111)  
botn vindkers (víðr, gjálfri kringðr) "base of wind-vat" (Sturla: Hákonarkviða 6)


In Lokasenna 47, Heimdall defends himself from Loki's verbal attacks, just after Frey's servant, Byggvir, whom Loki says "chatters under the millstone" (a reference to the great mill grinding in the sea)  and before Njörd's wife, Skadi, have spoken, perhaps indicating his seating assignment at the feast of the gods. If this has any significance at all, Heimdall is placed squarely among the Vanir, particularly those associated with the sea. Byggvir is a servant at the great mill grinding in the ocean, which grinds the flesh of the ancient giants into fertiloe soil for the fields. Thus Loki says that he "never knew how to distribute food among men", meaning that the fertility of the fields varies from place to place, depending on the quality of the soil. And Skadi is Njörd's wife, who like Heimdall, has a home high in the mountains. Heimdall himself lives on Himinbjörg, "Heaven's mountain."

As previously mentioned, Danish sources list Scef as the son of Lotherus, who is most likely a historical version of Odin's brother Lodur, the probable founder of either the Vanir or Alfar tribe. Saxo says that Lotherus usurped the throne of his brother Humble, who may be a cognate of Hoenir. If so, then Lodur has ruled both the Vanir and the Alfar. If Scef is a byname of Heimdall, this opens up the real possibility that Heimdall is actually the son of Odin's brother Lodur. Lodur, whose name means "the blazing" is an appropriate father for Heimdall, the hvitastr ás, "the whitest (or "brightest") of the gods."

In regard to Njörd,  Vafþrúðnismál 39 says that "wise powers" created him in Vanaheim. Might the same be said of Heimdall? Could they be brothers?



Heimdall by Dorothy Hardy (1907)
The Living Daylights

Speaking of the earliest generations of divine beings in Gylfaginning 10, Snorri says:

Nörfi eða Narfi hét jötunn, er byggði í Jötunheimum. Hann átti dóttur, er Nótt hét. Hon var svört ok dökk, sem hon átti ætt til. Hon var gift þeim manni, er Naglfari hét. Þeira sonr hét Auðr. Því næst var hon gift þeim, er Ánarr hét. Jörð hét þeira dóttir. Síðast átti hana Dellingr, ok var hann ása ættar. Var þeira sonr Dagr. Var hann ljóss ok fagr eftir faðerni sínu. Þá tók Alföðr Nótt ok Dag, son hennar, ok gaf þeim tvá hesta ok tvær kerrur ok sendi þau upp á himin, at þau skulu ríða á hverjum tveim dægrum umhverfis jörðina. Ríðr Nótt fyrri þeim hesti, er kallaðr er Hrímfaxi, ok at morgni hverjum döggvir hann jörðina af méldropum sínum. Sá hestr, er Dagr á, heitir Skinfaxi, ok lýsir allt loft ok jörðina af faxi hans."
 
"Nörfi or Narfi is the name of a giant that dwelt in Jötunheim: he had a daughter called Night; she was swarthy and dark, as befitted her race. She was given to the man named Naglfari; their son was Audr. Afterward she was wedded to him that was called Annarr; Jörd was their daughter. Last of all Delling had her, and he was of the race of the Æsir; their son was Day: he was radiant and fair like his father. Then Allfather took Night, and her son Day, and gave to them two horses and two chariots, and sent them up into the heavens, to ride round about the earth every twelve hours (half-days). Night rides before with the horse named Hrimfaxi, and on each morning he bedews the earth with the foam from his bit. The horse that Day has is called Skinfaxi, and he illumines all the air and the earth from his mane."

The passage is mysterious and hard to decipher. Snorri may be citing some lost source here. Among the many names found in this passage, only Jörð (Earth), Nótt (Night), Delling (Dawn), and Dag (Day) are found as independent characters elsewhere in the lore.  In this passage, Jörd, Auðr, and Dag are siblings, offspring of the giantess Nótt, Mistress of the Night.  Her children are Earth, Auðr, and Day, respectively.  Because their mother is a giantess, it does not mean that they are also giants. Odin for instance has a giant mother, Bestla, and himself is no jötun. Similarly, Jörd, as the mother of Thor, is named among the goddesses. The fathers of Night's offspring, Auðr, Jörd and Dag are Naglfari,  Annar, and Delling. Naglfari and Annar are unknown elsewhere, and thus may be alternate names for better known figures. Like Borr's sons, Night's lovers are three in number and, since this passage speaks of the earliest times, we might suspect they are alterate names for Odin and his brothers. Although the information is too slight to draw an conclusions, I would simply note that in the previous chapter, when speaking of Odin, Snorri  makes the curious statement that "Jörð (the Earth) was his daughter and his wife" (Jörðin var dóttir hans ok kona hans, Gylfaginning 9). If this is the case, then Naglari and Delling are most likely alternate names of Odin's brothers, Vili-Lodur and Ve-Hoenir.

Day and Night
 by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1875)

Here, Snorri informs us that Jörd's brother is named Auðr, which means "wealth." As a mythic personality, Auðr is otherwise unknown. However, in a proverb from Vatsdaela Saga 47, a wealthy man is said to be “as rich as Njörd.” The same word, auðr, is used there as the adjective, auðigur:

Þá mælti Þróttólfr: “Eigi skiptir þat högum til, at Húnrøðr, góðr drengr, skal vera félauss orðinn ok hlotit þat mest af okkr, en þræll hans, Skúmr, skal orðinn auðigr sem Njörðr."
 
“Then Throttolf said, “It is not as it should be that Hunrod, a good man, should have become penniless, mostly on our account, while his slave Skum grows as rich as Njörd.”

Snorri informs us that Njörd rules over the wind and moderates the sea and fire. Men pray to him for good voyages and fishing. He is so rich and wealthy that he can grant wealth of land or possessions to those that pray to him (Gylfaginning 23). In addition, the Codex Regius manuscript of Snorri's Gylfaginning 23, 5 contains a meaningful variant. There the name Auðr reads Uðr, a proper name equivalent to Unnr, meaning “wave,” [Cleasby/Vigfusson Dictionary, s.v. Uðr; Egilsson's Lexicon Poeticum s.v. Uðr]. Thus the name of Jörd's brother may be interpreted as “wealth” or “wave”, names which equally apply to Njörd as a god of rich coastal harbors. Thus Earth and Sea are siblings. Their brother is Dag, or Day. We are told that he rides a horse with a shining mane, named Skinfaxi, ascending into the sky every day to shed light over the world.  Dag rides his horse Skinfaxi across the sky each day, accompanying Sol (the sun) on her journey. The sources tell us very little else of him or his father. Hávamál 160 tells us that "Þjóðrerir the dwarf chanted before Delling's door, he chanted strength to the Aesir, success to the elves, wisdom to Hroftatý."

Heimdall's name has been variously translated. Rudolf Simek renders it as "the one who illuminates the world," (1984). Andy Orchard (1997) understands it as "World-brightener." Its prefix, Heim-, simply means "home, or world." Its suffix -dall is often related to the name Delling, which means "the shining" (John Lindow, 2001).  Heimdall rides a horse named Gulltop ('Gold-top'), which suggests a luminous mane. In kennings, gold is known as a luminous material, and often referred to as the "fire of the sea." As watchman of the gods, Heimdall is not as stationary as one might suppose. As shown above, he once fought Loki for Freyja's necklace, at sea in the guise of a seal. In Gylfaginning 49 (based on Ulf Uggasson's Húsdrapa), he rides his horse to Balder's sea-side funeral. Similarly, when the gods attend feasts at Aegir's ocean palace, Heimdall is in attendance.
 
1978 Giovanni Casselli
 

Grímnismál 30, informs us that the gods ride across Bifröst daily to sit in judgment at Urd's well, naming the horses they ride. Among them, we find Gulltop, Heimdall's horse.  And in Hrafnagaldur Óðins, Odin sends Heimdall, Loki and Bragi as envoys to the underworld to gather information about the fate of the world, after Idunn falls from Yggdrassil. Heimdall returns to heaven and reports to the gods  gathered there.  In the same poem, stanza 24, the poet states:

Dýrum settan
Dellings mögur
 jó fram keyrði
jarknasteinum;
mars of Manheim
mön af glóar,
dró leik Dvalins
drösull í reið.

24. Delling's son (Dag)
urged on his horse (Skinfaxi)
well adorned
with precious stones;
the horse's mane glows
above Man-world,
the steed in his chariot
drew Dvalin's playmate (the sun).

Jörmungrundar
í jódyr nyrðra
und rót yztu 
aðalþollar
gengu til rekkju
gýgjur og þursar
náir, dvergar
og dökkálfar

 
25. At Jörmungrund's
northern border
under the outermost root
of the noble tree,
went to their couches,
giantesses and giants,
dead men, dwarves,
and dark-elves.


Risu raknar,
rann álfröðull
norður að Niflheim
njóla sótti;
upp nam Árgjöll
Úlfrúnar niður
hornþytvaldur
Himinbjarga.

 
26. The gods arose
álfröðull (Sol) ran,
njóla (Night) advanced
north towards Niflheim;
Úlfrún's son (Heimdall)
lifted up Árgjöll ('Early-alarm', i.e. the Gjallarhorn),
the mighty hornblower
in Himinbjörg.
    

Heimdall by J.Th. Lundbye (1837)
 

The imagery here is mythological, describing the advent of day and the passing of night. As Delling's son, Day, drives his horse heavenward, Night (njóla, v. 26) advances to the underworld (norður að Niflheim). When it is day on earth, it is night in the underworld, and visa versa. Both Night and Day cannot be in the sky at once, although we sometimes see that the sun and moon do appear together. Thus, daylight is seen as independant of the Sun, just as Night is independent of the Moon. Giants, dwarves and dark-elves driven off by the sunrise, go to their beds. Then Heimdall, Ulfrun's son, blows the Gjallarhorn, signaling the new day, like a rooster at dawn. Heimdall, who is called the "whitest of the Aesir" in Thrymskvida 15, may thus be Day, who rides the horse with the shining mane (Skinfaxi).  As Heimdall can see for 100 miles around in all directions, Hávamál 82 says that "Day has many eyes." His role as an envoy for Odin, leading an expedition to Hel, suggests the rising and seting of daylight, seen as independent from the warmth of the sun— a natural development in the far northern latitudes, where daylight lasts far longer in the summer, and the sun can appear to circle the horizon. 
   
If any of this rings true, as a member of the Vanir race, Heimdall was sent to mankind from their western halls, crossing the Atlantic ocean to arrive in Scandinavia among the immediate descendants of Askur and Embla. He is seen as the bringer of culture. His ship, traveling without oars or rudder, was laden with weapons, grain for planting and other tools useful to man. When he arrived, the budding human populance took him in and cared for him tenderly. He grew to manhood in their midst. They began using the tools and treasures he brought, probably under his guidance. When he reached maturity, he traveled among them to see how well culture had taken root in their homes. His journey, as Rig, is well documented in the poem Rigþula. In it, Heimdall sanctifies the three classes of men, leaving an heir in each home he visits. He later returns to the home of Jarl, the first nobleman, to instruct his youngest son, Kon ungr, "Kon the young" (a play on the word konungr, "king") who becomes the first monarch among mankind. Kon is simultaneously the son of the noble Jarl and Heimdall, the brightest of the Aesir.  As the messenger of the gods to mankind, he is the cultivator of the human race.
 
     
 
Heimdall the Culture Bringer by Nils Asplund (1907)
Mural at the Gotesbörg University, Sweden
 
 

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Further Insight: When is a Fish a Bridge?