"Hear the deep sound from the North
Baldur's fold in childhood's day;
The war-trumpet, Heimdall's horn,
At Bragi's silver-harps play!
Hear the lullaby that Norn's
Once sang for the nation's ear
And a Nordic youth's spirit
Still delights to hear!"
—Quoted in 'Our Fathers' Godsaga'
'Towards the interpretation of the North's oldest runic inscriptions'
in Svenska Fornminnesföreningens
Heimdall the Culture-Bringer
Opened in 1907, the assembly hall of the University of Goteborg is adorned with a monumental fresco by Nils Asplund (1874-1958). In it, the god Heimdall blesses man with the tools of culture and agriculture. Above his throne, engraved with Eddic verse, the ash Yggdrasill rises. The scene is derived from the mythological works of Swedish poet and polymath Viktor Rydberg (1828-1895).
What makes Viktor Rydberg's interpretation of
Germanic mythology unique is twofold:
1. He demonstrates that the events spoken of in the Icelandic mythological poems are linked together in an epic chain of events arranged in chronological order from the creation of the world through to Ragnarok. The mythology is in effect, a history of the gods and their interactions with man. This ancient epic originated in Proto Indo-European times and afterwards developed independently in the Germanic region until the conversion to Christianity.
2. Using passages from the Eddic poems themselves, Rydberg shows that the genuine heathen conception of the cosmos places Yggdrasill's three roots in the underworld, and its branches in the heavens. The underworld consists of a warm green land called Hel in the south, and a cold dismal realm called Niflhel in the north. The Bifröst bridge connects the underworld with Asgard, passing outside of the rim of the Midgard plane.
"I feel a certain tranquility when I now see that the results of these investigations worked on over many years were not for nothing, but are condensed into a book that on library shelves will be accessible to future researchers in the field. As far as my Scandinavian contemporaries are concerned, being that they are the 'professionals' in the field, I expect no recognition from them. If I get any recognition at all, it shall make me happier still. But of prime importance is that my work be published in one of these three languages: English, German, or French."
Viktor's Site by Tore Lund