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Nine Daughters of Ægir and Rán

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The Daughters of Ægir and Rán as depicted in a grayscale version of a painting by Hans Dahl (1849-1937)

In Norse mythology, the goddess Rán and the jötunn Ægir both personify the sea, and together they have nine daughters who personify waves. Each daughter's name reflects poetic terms for waves. The sisters are attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; and in the poetry of skalds. Scholars have theorized that these daughters may be the same figures as the nine mothers of the god Heimdallr.

Contents

NamesEdit

The names of Ægir and Rán's daughters occur commonly in Old Norse sources. Lists of their names appear twice in Skáldskaparmál, a section of the Prose Edda (for detail, see Prose Edda section below).

Name Meaning Notes
Blóðughadda "Bloody-hair"[1] According to scholar John Lindow says, this name "[refers] to reddish foam atop a wave".[1] Scholar Rudolf Simek says that "the name does not appear to be too appropriate for a wave, but perhaps it was supposed to convey the wispy, thread-like appearance of the water streaming from the crest of the wave."[2]
Bylgja "Billow"[3] Employed as a common noun[3]
Dröfn or Bára According to Anthony Faulkes, Dröfn means "comber", whereas Bára translates to "wave"[4] According to Andy Orchard, 'Dröfn means 'foaming sea'.[5] Bára replaces Dröfn in a list of the daughter in Skáldskaparmál.[6] Dröfn also appears as a common noun.[7]
Dúfa "Wave"[1]
Hefring or Hevring "Lifting"[1]
Himinglæva "Transparent-on-top"[1]
Hrönn "Wave"[8] Employed as a common noun[8]
Kólga "Cool-wave"[1]
Uðr or Unn "Wave"[9] Employed as a common noun, also appears as a name for Odin and as the name of a river[9]

AttestationsEdit

 
The neck appears with Ægir's wave daughters in a piece by Swedish painter Nils Blommér, 1850, based on a poem by Arvid August Afzelius.

Poetic EddaEdit

References to the waves as 'Ægir's daughters' appear in the Poetic Edda. The poem Helgakviða Hundingsbana I describes how the hero Helgi's boat crashes through intense seas, in doing so referencing Rán, Ægir, and their daughters as personifications of the sea. For example, two sequential stanzas reference the wave daughters:

Once the longships regrouped, only
Kolga's sisters could be heard crashing.
a sound as if swells and bluffs were bursting.[10]


Helgi had the high sails heightened,
the unfailing crew rallying through
the rollers, Ægir's dreaded daughters trying
to overthrow their stay-bridled sea-steeds.[10]

Prose EddaEdit

The daughters are mentioned several times in the Prose Edda. Section 25 of Skáldskaparmál ("How shall sea be referred to?") collects manners in which poets may refer to the sea, including "husband of Ran" and "land of Ran and of Ægir's daughters", but also "father of Ægir's daughters". The section contains the first of two instances of a list of the wave daughters (for discussion regarding their names, see Name section above).[11]

In chapter 61 of the Nafnaþulur subsection of Skáldskaparmál, the author again recounts the names of the nine daughters with a slight variation (here Dröfn is replaced with Bára).[12]

Scholarly reception and interpretationEdit

 
Heimdallr Lifted by the Nine Wave Maidens by Karl Ehrenberg depicts Heimdallr's mothers as 'wave maidens' (German Wellenjungfrauen), 1882

Some scholars have linked the Nine Daughters of Ægir and Rán with the Nine Mothers of Heimdallr, an identification that would mean that Heimdallr was thus born from the waves of the sea. However, this connection has been questioned on the grounds that the names presented for the Nine Daughters of Ægir and Rán and the Nine Mothers of Heimdallr (as listed in Völuspá hin skamma) do not match.[13] Scholar John Lindow comments that the identification of Heimdallr's mothers as Ægir and Rán's daughters do, however, match on the grounds that Ægir and Rán's daughters, like Heimdallr's mothers, are sisters, and that two separate traditions about Heimdallr's mothers may explain the differences between the two.[14]

See alsoEdit

  • Children of Lir, children of the personified sea in Irish folklore
  • Rhinemaidens, characters from Richard Wagner’s opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f Lindow (2001:49).
  2. ^ Simek (2007 [1993]:38-39).
  3. ^ a b Faulkes (1995 [1989]:232).
  4. ^ Faulkes (1995 [1989]:233, 230).
  5. ^ Orchard (1997:34).
  6. ^ Faulkes (1995 [1989]:231, 141).
  7. ^ Faulkes (1995:233).
  8. ^ a b Faulkes (1995 [1989]:242).
  9. ^ a b Faulkes (1995 [1989]:257).
  10. ^ a b Dodds (2014:129).
  11. ^ Faulkes (1995 [1989]:91).
  12. ^ Faulkes (1995 [1989]:141).
  13. ^ Simek (2007:136).
  14. ^ Lindow (2002:169).

ReferencesEdit

  • Dodds, Jeramy. Trans. 2014. The Poetic Edda. Coach House Books. ISBN 978-1-55245-296-7
  • Faulkes, Anthony. Trans. 1995 [1989]. Edda. Everyman. ISBN 0-460-87616-3
  • Lindow, John. 2002. Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515382-0
  • Orchard, Andy. 1997. Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-34520-2
  • Simek, Rudolf. 2007 [1993]. Translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. ISBN 0-85991-513-1