ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Norse Mythology: The War Between the Aesir and the Vanir

Updated on February 10, 2020

In Norse myth and legend, there were two separate tribes of gods, each representing different facets of life and of the natural world. The Aesir, who made their home in Asgard, were gods of war who were also said to rule the sky. The Vanir, on the other hand, represented wealth and prosperity, as well as fertility, and were believed to be gods of the land and sea.

While the line between these two very different tribes would eventually blur, as the Aesir and the Vanir began to merge into a single pantheon, there are stories which hint at a period of tension which preceded this peaceful co-existence. In one particular instance, this tension even escalated into an all-out war between the two tribes. The story of this conflict can be found in fragments, in a variety of sources. It is a story which can be found referenced in both The Poetic Edda and The Prose Edda, as well as Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla. By putting the pieces together, though, it is possible to present these fragments as a complete story.

Said to the the world's first war, the catalyst for this conflict was a mysterious woman named Gullveig—a practitioner of a form of magic known as seidr who had a strong association with the Vanir goddess, Freyja (or, who may even have been an identity assumed by the goddess, herself. This is something left open to interpretation). Gullveig had taken to traveling the land, offering her services to whoever may have needed them—and, her efforts eventually drew the attention of the Aesir. Rather than being impressed, though, the Aesir found Gullveig's magical abilities to be offensive to their sensibilities.

The exact reasons for this may have varied, somewhat. Some among the Aesir may have feared Gullveig's magic, believing it to be a corruptive influence. In Odin's case, though, it seems just as likely that he was offended by the idea of someone possessing power and knowledge that he did not.

Whatever their reasoning may have been, the Aesir quickly resolved to have Gullveig killed. Stabbing at her with their spears, they cast her body onto a fire to let it be consumed by the flame. Moments later, though, Gullveig was reborn—returned to life and entirely unharmed by the Aesir's efforts. The Aesir, themselves, were understandably shocked by this development. They cast her body into the flames once more, only for Gullveig to be restored to life a second time.

Not quite ready to give up, the Aesir made one final attempt on Gullveig's life. Though, at this point, they were likely more resigned than shocked when Gullveig emerged from the flames once more, entirely unharmed.

'Odin Throws His Spear at the Vanir Host', Lorenz Frølich, 1895.
'Odin Throws His Spear at the Vanir Host', Lorenz Frølich, 1895. | Source

At this point, the Aesir were forced to accept that killing Gullveig was entirely beyond their power. Admitting defeat, they resolved to let her go. But, the Vanir were not so willing to forgive and forget when they heard of this attempt on the life of a woman who may actually have been one of their own. Believing that the Aesir should be forced to answer for their crime, the Vanir demanded that the Aesir should offer some form of tribute. Odin's response came in the form of a spear flung at the Vanir, and war was officially declared.

The war between the two tribes of gods was a long and brutal one. It was also a war in which neither side was ever truly able to gain the upper hand over the other. The Vanir were able to breach the massive wall that protected Asgard, but the Aesir were able to drive them back. As gods of war, the Aesir were naturally well-suited to direct conflict. But, the Vanir were able to counter with more subtle tactics, and the use of magic (Freyja was, after all, also believed to have been the one to teach the magic of seidr to mortals). As this stalemate continued, both the Aesir and the Vanir began to grow weary with a conflict that seemed to have no end in sight. Eventually, the two tribes felt compelled to call a truce.

In order to preserve this tentative peace, the Aesir and the Vanir also agreed to an exchange of hostages. The Vanir sent Njord, the Vanir god of the sea, along with his two children, Frey and Freyja. In return, the Aesir sent Hoenir, a god about whom little is known (though, in a poem found in The Poetic Edda, he is stated to be one of the gods who helped Odin create the first humans), and Mimir, who was believed to possess great knowledge and wisdom.

For the Aesir, this proved to be a positive exchange. Odin, in particular, benefited a great deal when he was finally given the opportunity to learn the secrets of seidr for himself, with Freyja as his tutor. The Vanir, meanwhile, were left feeling as though they had been slighted. For all the talk of Hoenir's value, it quickly became apparent that he was actually rather slow-witted, and that he was completely incapable of offering any valuable advice without Mimir to guide him.

In retaliation for this perceived insult, the Vanir cut Mimir's head from his body, which they then sent back to Odin. Odin responded by embalming the severed head of Mimir and speaking charms that restored the head to life, so that Mimir could continue to provide wisdom and insight. While this rather overt act of aggression could have very easily been enough to spark a second war between the Aesir and the Vanir, both tribes were still too weary from the first conflict. So, the truce between the two tribes held.

© 2019 Dallas Matier

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://corp.maven.io/privacy-policy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)