Laufey or Nál is a figure in Norse mythology and the mother of Loki. The latter is frequently mentioned by the matronymic Loki Laufeyjarson (Old Norse 'Loki Laufey's son') in Eddic poetry, rather than the expected traditional patronymic Loki Fárbautason ('son of Fárbauti'), in a mythology where kinship is ideally reckoned through male ancestry.
The meaning of the Old Norse name Laufey is unclear, but it is generally taken to be related to lauf ('leaves, foliage'), perhaps attached to the suffix -ey (found in female personal names like Bjargey, Þórey), or deriving from an hypothetical tree-goddess named *lauf-awiaz ('the leafy').[note 1]
Since the name of her spouse Fárbauti means "dangerous hitter", a possible natural mythological interpretation has been proposed by some scholars, with lightning hitting the leaves, or needles of a tree to give rise to fire.
In Gylfaginning ('The Beguiling of Gylfi'), High introduces Loki as the son of Fárbauti, that "Laufey or Nál" is his mother, and that his brothers are Býleistr and Helblindi. Elsewhere in the same poem, Loki is referred to by the matronymic Laufeyjarson ('Laufey's son'). This occurs twice more in Gylfaginning and once in Skádskaparmál.
In the poem Sörla tháttr, Nál and Laufey are portrayed as the same person: "She was both slender and weak, and for that reason she was called Nál [Needle]." According to scholar John Lindow, however, "the late date of the text makes this piece of information suspect."
- de Vries 1957, p. 263 n. 1 and de Vries 1962, p. 347 also indicate that Hugo Gering interpreted Nál as "killer" and Laufey as "member of a distinguished clan", comparing the name with the Gothic ga-laufs ('valuable, costly') and the Old High German ga-loub ('inspiring trust'). Lindow 2001, p. 208 states that "her name looks as though it should mean 'Leaf-island', but that would be a strange name."
- Simek 1996, pp. 186–187.
- Lindow 2001, pp. 207–208.
- de Vries 1962, p. 347.
- Axel Kock, "Etymologisch-mythologische Untersuchungen", Indogermanische Forschungen 10 (1899) 90-111; summary in Jahresbericht über die Erscheinungen auf dem Gebiete der germanischen Philologie 21 (1899) p. 37 (in German)
- Simek 1996, p. 78, but p. 227 he doubts that Nál is the same person as Laufey, and considers relating the latter name to death, as in Naglfar.
- Faulkes 1987, p. 26.
- Faulkes 1987, p. 35.
- Faulkes 1987, pp. 48, 50, & 96.
- Faulkes 1987, p. 76.
- Lindow 2001, p. 208.
- Faulkes 1987, pp. 26, 76.
- bæði mjó ok auðþreiflig, ed. Carl Christian Rafn, Fornaldar Sögur Norðrlanda Volume 1, Copenhagen, 1829, p. 392.
- de Vries, Jan (1957). Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte. 2 (1970 ed.). Walter De Gruyter.
- de Vries, Jan (1962). Altnordisches Etymologisches Worterbuch (1977 ed.). Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-05436-3.
- Faulkes, Anthony, trans. (1987). Edda (1995 ed.). Everyman. ISBN 0-460-87616-3.
- Lindow, John (2001). Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-983969-8.
- Simek, Rudolf (1996). Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. ISBN 978-0-85991-513-7.