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"Rán" (2004) by Anker Eli Petersen.

In Norse mythology, Rán (Old Norse perhaps "robber"[1]) is a goddess associated with the sea. According to Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál, in his retelling of the Poetic Edda poem Lokasenna, she is married to Ægir and they have nine daughters together. Snorri also reports that she had a net in which she tried to capture men who ventured out on the sea:

"Ran is the name of Ægir's wife, and their daughters are nine, even as we have written before. At this feast all things were self-served, both food and ale, and all implements needful to the feast. Then the Æsir became aware that Rán had that net wherein she was wont to catch all men who go upon the sea."[2]

Her net is also mentioned in Reginsmál and in the Völsunga saga, where she lends it to Loki so that he can capture Andvari.



"Ran" (1901) by Johannes Gehrts.

Poetic EddaEdit

Her willingness to capture sailing men is referred to in this citation from the Eddic poem Helgakviða Hundingsbana I where escaping the perils of the sea is referred to as escaping Rán:

En þeim sjalfum
Sigrún ofan
folkdjörf of barg
ok fari þeira;
snerisk ramliga
Rán ór hendi
gjalfrdýr konungs
at Gnipalundi.[3]
But from above
did Sigrun brave
Aid the men and
all their faring;
Mightily came
from the claws of Rán
The leader's sea-beast[4]
off Gnipalund.[5]

Whether men drowned by her doing or not, she appears to have received those drowned at sea, as exemplified in the section called Hrímgerðarmál in the Eddic poem Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar, where the giantess Hrímgerðr is accused of having wanted to give the king's warriors to Rán, i.e. to drown them:

18. "Þú vart, hála,
fyr hildings skipum
ok látt í fjarðar mynni fyrir;
ræsis rekka
er þú vildir Rán gefa,
ef þér kæmi-t í þverst þvari."[6]
18. "Witch, in front
of the ship thou wast,
And lay before the fjord;
To Rán wouldst have given
the ruler's men,
If a spear had not stuck in thy flesh."[7]

Prose EddaEdit

Rán tugs on a rope connected to a ship's anchor in "Ægir and Rán" (1882) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine.
"Rán and the Wave Girls" (1831) from Alkuna: Nordische und nordslawische Mythologie.

In addition, Snorri says in Skáldskaparmál that "Rán's husband" (verr Ránar) and "land of Rán" (land Ránar) are kennings for the sea.[8][9] Furthermore, her close association with the sea permitted the kenning for gold "brightness of the sea" to be rendered as "brightness of Rán" (gull er kallat eldr eða ljós eða birti Ægis, Ránar eða).[2][8] Not surprisingly, the sea was also referred to as "Rán's road" (Ránar vegr), as in the following stanza by the skald Njáll Þorgeirsson quoted by Snorri:

290. Hrauð í himin upp glóðum
hafs, gekk sær af afli.
Börð, hygg ek, at ský skerðu.
Skaut Ránar vegr mána.[8]
To the sky shot up the Deep's Gledes,
With fearful might the sea surged:
Methinks our stems the clouds cut,-
Rán's Road to the moon soared upward.[10]

Rán was a dangerous goddess and Snorri adds a stanza of poetry by the skald Refr where the voracious sea is called "Ægir's wide mouth" and "Rán's mouth".

87. Færir björn, þar er bára
brestr, undinna festa
oft í Ægis kjafta
úrsvöl Gymis völva.
88. En sægnípu Sleipnir
slítr úrdrifinn hvítrar
Ránar, rauðum steini
runnit, brjóst ór munni.[8]
Gymir's wet-cold Spae-Wife
Wiles the Bear of Twisted Cables
Oft into Ægir's wide jaws,
Where the angry billow breaketh.
And the Sea-Peak's Sleipnir slitteth
The stormy breast rain-driven,
The wave, with red stain running
Out of white Rán's mouth.[9]

In this poem "Gymir's wet-cold Spae-Wife (völva)" is likely a reference to Rán, as Snorri and the skald present Gymir as another name for Ægir.

Friðþjófs saga hins frœknaEdit

In the legendary saga Friðþjófs saga hins frœkna, Friðþjófr and his men find themselves in a violent storm, and the protagonist mourns that he will soon rest in Rán's bed.

Rán with her family by Fredrik Sander (1898)
"Sat ek á bólstri
í Baldrshaga,
kvað, hvat ek kunna,
fyr konungs dóttur.
Nú skal ek Ránar
raunbeð troða,
en annar mun
"On bolster I sat
In Baldur's Mead erst,
And all songs that I could
To the king's daughter sang;
Now on Ran's bed belike
Must I soon be a-lying,
And another shall be
By Ingibiorg's side."[12]

The protagonist then decides that as they are to "go to Rán" (at til Ránar skal fara) they would better do so in style with gold on each man. He divides the gold and talks of her again:

"Nú hefir fjórum
of farit várum
lögr lagsmönnum,
þeim er lifa skyldu,
en Rán gætir
röskum drengjum,
siðlaus kona,
sess ok rekkju."[11]
"The red ring here I hew me
Once owned of Halfdan's father,
The wealthy lord of erewhile,
Or the sea waves undo us,
So on the guests shall gold be,
If we have need of guesting;
Meet so for mighty men-folk
Amid Ran's hall to hold them."[12]


  1. ^ Simek (2007:260).
  2. ^ a b Section XXXIII of Skáldskaparmál in translation by Arthur G. Brodeur (1916, 1923)
  3. ^ Helgakviða Hundingsbana I at Norrøne Tekster og Kvad, Norway.
  4. ^ Ship.
  5. ^ The First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane, Henry A. Bellows' translation (1936), at Sacred Texts.
  6. ^ Hrímgerðarmál at Norrøne Tekster og Kvad, Norway.
  7. ^ Hrímgerðarmál, Henry A. Bellows' translation (1936), at Sacred Texts.
  8. ^ a b c d Skáldskaparmál at Norrøne Tekster og Kvad, Norway.
  9. ^ a b Section XXV of Skáldskaparmál in translation by Arthur G. Brodeur (1916, 1923).
  10. ^ Section LX of Skáldskaparmál in translation by Arthur G. Brodeur (1916, 1923).
  11. ^ a b Friðþjófs saga ins frækna at Norrøne Tekster og Kvad, Norway.
  12. ^ a b "The Story of Frithjof the Bold" in Three Northern Love Stories and Other Tales, in translation by Magnússon and Morris (1901).