Every day, it seems, one of your friends is forwarding another of those irritating Norse myths to your inbox. How can you tell which stories are true, and which are traditional tales once used by the Nordic people to explain practices, beliefs, or natural phenomena? The Norse Legends Reference Pages are dedicated to separating faktum from fiksjon, and getting the straight dope from the mouths of people who know.
MYTH #1: In Valhalla, the valkyries served mead, which poured in unending quantities from Odin’s goat, Heidrun. They also served the warriors meat from the boar Saehrimnir, which the cook Andhrimnir would prepare by boiling it in the cauldron Eldhrimnir. The boar magically came back to life to be eaten again at the next meal.
FACT: “Oh wow, I’d forgotten about that,” laughs former valkyrie Hldissfrigg. “Some of the so-called ‘warriors’ were actually getting squeamish about Andhrimner slaughtering a pig every night — the squealing was really loud, I’ll admit — so Odin came up with this tall one about an immortal ‘magic boar,’ and half those moron grunts totally bought it. I mean the pigs didn’t even look the same: one would have a big black spot, the next a little white one, or maybe he’d be pink instead of brown. It cracked us valkyries up. I mean, if your boar was, in fact, magical — like maybe he could fly or pull a boat large enough to carry all the gods — would you really want to butcher, boil, and eat him over and over? Eventually you’re gonna have a pissed-off magic hog all up in your face.”
MYTH #2: The son of Odin and a member of the Aesir, Thor was the god of thunder and the main enemy of the giants. He would smash their heads with his mighty hammer Mjollnir. To wield this awesome weapon he needed iron gloves and a belt of strength. Mjollnir would return to Thor’s hand after being thrown and was symbolic of lightning.
FACT: According to Heindall, who used to watch the Rainbow Bridge for the coming of the Frost Giants: “Well, his hammer was supposed to return to his hand after it was thrown, but that particular feature never really worked properly, and Thor wasted a lot of prime giant-killing time chasing the stupid thing up and down Middle Earth. I’ve heard some of the old-timers say Thor could have smashed the heads of about 30 or 40 more giants, lifetime, if he only had a hammer with a decent return mechanism. I also asked him once about Mjollnir being symbolic of lightning and he rolled his eyes. ‘I had a college girl tell me she did her thesis on how it was supposed to be some kind of penis,’ he said. ‘Sometimes a hammer is just a frigging hammer.’”
MYTH #3: Son of the giantess Rind, Valli was born for the sole purpose of avenging Balder’s death, since the gods could not kill one of their own. When he was only one day old, he killed Hodur. He will be one of the seven Aesir to survive the Ragnarok.
FACT: “One day old? Are you shitting me? Who told you that?” asks Tyr, ex god of war and the inspiration for Tuesday. “God, that’ s hysterical. I mean, Hodur was blind, and maybe not the ripest grape on the vine, but he was Odin’s kid. I’m pretty sure he could have fended off a newborn baby. Anyway, Valli’d been out of junior college for at least six years when he killed Hodur. He dropped out, but he blew off one summer on a Eurorail pass, and waited tables down in Cabo for a while. He had to have been at least 23 or 24. Geez. One day old? That’s rich. When Loki hears that, he’ll piss his pants.”
MYTH #4: Hljod and Volsung had ten sons, the eldest named Sigmund, and one daughter named Signy. Volsung had a palace built around the tree called Branstock so that the massive trunk grew inside the palace walls. At Signy’s wedding banquet, Odin arrived in his usual disguise — as an elderly man wearing a cape and hood. He stuck a sword in the tree and said whichever man pulled out the sword could keep it. All tried but only Sigmund prevailed.
FACT: “In the first place, everyone knew it was Odin,” says Njord, a guest at the banquet who, at the time, was god of the wind and sea. “He was always walking around in these disguises, but it was so obvious, even when he wore a wig and tried to cover up that gnarly empty socket. I mean, a crazy old man with one eye crashes your wedding and wants to show you a sword trick? — who else is it going to be? Anyway, Odin was all like ‘Whosoever can pull this broadsword from the tree Branstock, may possess it!’ but he was so weak he could barely shove it in there and the crappy old thing fell out by itself at least a half-dozen times. The blade was all rusted out and no one wanted it, so Sigmund said to me, ’I’ll pull the dumb sword out and make Odin happy if you catch the garter. I hate all this wedding crap.’”
MYTH #5: After Sigmund went into hiding, Signy exchanged shapes with a beautiful sorceress and went to her brother. The two slept together and Signy later had Sigmund’s son, Sinfjotli.
FACT: According to Signy, “For the last time, I DID NOT SLEEP WITH MY BROTHER! Gross! But even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t need to exchange shapes with any skank sorceress to do it. Sigmund was always trying to get me in bed. Lots of brothers and sisters were doing it back then because they thought the Ragnarok was coming, but I told him to go to Hel, so he keeps spreading this story that we knocked boots and he knows I won’t defend myself and reveal the name of Sinfjotli’s real father because the guy’s married and weighing a run for county assessor. Sigmund is such a cock.”