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Odin the Wanderer, Father of the North

Updated on December 5, 2014
The Patient Watcher
The Patient Watcher | Source

Odin, Wizard of the North

Odin the Wanderer, Chief of the Viking Gods, is the Wizard of the North who gave up an eye for one sip from the Well of Wisdom.

His domain was over dragons and dwarves, bright elves and werewolves, and trolls which turned into stone. Legend tells us how he made the first man and woman from an ash tree and an elm tree.

For this, he is called All-Father for he is indeed father of all.

If you have read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, you will recognise Odin in Gandalf.

Gandalf is based on Odin
Gandalf is based on Odin

Tolkien's Gandalf is Odin

Odin with his staff, long beard and wide-brimmed floppy hat was the base from which Tolkien drew his Gandalf.

Odin is easily recognised in the early stories of the now familiar wizard who sleeps under hedgerows, enjoys a drink down in Hobbiton, and appreciates a joke.

Gandalf, however, has two eyes while Odin, with his vast store of riddles, runes and after-dinner tales, has only one. And here's why.

One eye, floppy hat, and staff
One eye, floppy hat, and staff | Source

How Odin gave up his eye

In the spot where the sky and ocean meet, the giant Mimer kept guard over his hidden well, in the bottom of which lay such a treasure of wisdom as was to be found nowhere else in the world.

One night, when the sun had set behind the mountains of Midgard, Odin put on his broad-brimmed hat and, with staff in hand, trudged down the long bridge to where it ended by Mimer's secret grotto and asked for a drink. But the giant, recognising his visitor (he was wise from drinking the water) grew crafty and asked for payment.

"Ask your price,"said Odin, "I promise that I will pay it."

"What say you, then, to leaving one of those far-seeing eyes of yours at the bottom of my well?" asked Mimer. "This is the only payment I will take."

Odin didn't hesitate. "I pledge you my eye for a draught to the brim."

Mimer filled his drinking horn from the fountain of wisdom and handed it to Odin. "Drink, then," he said; "drink and grow wise".

Odin seized the horn and emptied it without delay. From that moment he became wiser than any one else in the world (except perhaps Mimer himself).

When Odin went away, he left at the bottom of the dark pool one of his clear blue eyes, which twinkled and winked up through the magic depths like the reflection of a star.

This is how Odin lost his eye, and why from that day he was careful to pull his gray hat low over his face when he wanted to pass unnoticed.

Ravens
Ravens | Source

Odin's Ravens

Odin had two ravens named Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory.

Each morning he would send them forth into the world to see what they could see. Each night they would return and sit on his shoulders to tell him of all they had seen.

In this way Odin always knew everything that went on in the world of men.

(If you see two ravens flying overhead, remember that they will tell Odin what you've been up to).

Odin's Wolves

Odin was accompanied everywhere by the wolves Freki and Geri, both of these names mean Greedy.

It's been said that Odin gave all of his food to the wolves and consumed nothing but wine himself but I find this hard to believe. There are too many tales of a traveller appearing out of the snow at a Chieftan's feast, eating, drinking and telling stories over the meal, beating his staff in time with the singing.

After eating his fill, this traveller, in his cloak and wide floppy hat, would vanish as mysteriously as he had arrived.

Odin's Horse

Sleipnir is Odin's steed, the best of all horses. His eight legs gave him extraordinary speed.

You can buy this beautiful artwork of Odin on Sleipner

Wednesday is for Odin

Most days of the week were named after the Northern Gods, we still use them to to this day.

Our Wednesday is from the Old English Woden's day

In Germanic myths, during the time of Romans, Odin was called Wodan and the classical Roman writers identified him with their god, Mercury. The Latin languages name Wednesday after Mercury.

A handy companion to have at Ragnarok, the end of the world!

Lovely wooden finish statuette of Odin for your home.

Here's Odin, in his floppy hat, showing his staff and sitting with his ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who are whispering into his ears. The two wolves, Freki and Geri, sit at his feet..You can see he has but one eye in this statue, and the ancient carving reads "Take up Runes".

Let the Wanderer have a home in yours.

How Odin became Immortal

Just as we mortals grow old, the gods too, grow old, and like us search for rejuvenation. The Gods of the North ward off ageing by eating the magical Apples of Youth kept by the goddess Idun.

But Odin, in typically male fashion, went about it in a much harder way. He pierced himself with his own spear and hung himself for nine days from the great cosmic tree Yggdrasil.

Hanging suspended like this, he won immortality.

It was here also, that he learned nine powerful songs and eighteen powerful runes, to become the master of the runic inscriptions that can accomplish any mortal purpose, either beneficial or baneful.

Lorenz Frolich

Odin as Psychopomp

Psychopomp is the word which describes an Usher of the Dead, a Guide, a Conductor of Souls to the place of the dead.

Throughout all cultures and belief systems, the Psychopomp has appeared in diverse forms to open the way to the Mysteries of Death and Rebirth.

Most common is the idea of the Dog as Psychopomp but Odin, on his great eight-legged steed, Sleipnir, is the Usher in the North.

Norse Mythology for the Beginner

Are you new to the myths and legends of the North?

When I was growing up my books were all of the ancient Greeks and it took me 20 years to find out about the Scandinavian gods. Now I can't get enough of them.

Get a copy to read to your grandchildren. They will remember the experience forever

Video - Scandinavian Myths

More on the Northern gods

Loki the Trickster from Scandinavian Stories
In the old Scandinavian Mythology you will come across Loki, the Trickster, a puzzling and complex character. You either love him or hate him, it's hard to ...

Children of Loki from Scandinavian Stories
Loki the Trickster had two sons who fought each other so badly they turned into wolves and slaughtered each other. These were the children of loyal Sigurn, w...

© 2008 Susanna Duffy

Carve a Rune for Odin

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    • profile image

      Ask_Me 3 years ago

      Yes, I can see where Gandalf came from now!

    • profile image

      Agapantha 4 years ago

      I believe that there are many places where Odin is still worshipped

    • profile image

      Glendame 4 years ago

      Now that you point it out, it's obvious that Gandalf sed on Odinn

    • profile image

      grannysage 4 years ago

      My Scandinavian blood is pulsing with the song from the video. I had to look up the meaning of the song. "This ballad is known in many different versions and with different melodies to the lyrics. A mountain-troll falls in love with the handsome knight Sir Mannelig, and offers him all kinds of gifts if he will marry her. Sir Mannelig refuses since she is not, after all, a Christian and honourable woman"

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      I did not know how Odin lost his eye nor or his ravens (although I always knew that crows and ravens were the carrier of news). A wonderful read and I truly learned a lot today.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Love Odin and all Scandinavian mythology.

    • phoenix arizona f profile image

      phoenix arizona f 6 years ago

      Amazing story!

    • profile image

      dizzyboy50 6 years ago

      Odin the god of allnations may ur world leave for ever

    • profile image

      dizzyboy50 6 years ago

      Odin the god of allnations may ur world leave for ever

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 6 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I really enjoyed reading about Odin particularly how he regained his youth the hard way. Some people and gods really are their own worst enemy. Blessed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very interesting to read this about Odin.

    • profile image

      celestialelff 6 years ago

      I wrote this poem and made this machinima film to celebrate Odins part in Yuletide

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJLiLa7G5Ig

      bright blessings *

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      G'day just wondering who sings the song attached to this page?

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Excellent lens. Very interesting

    • OldGrampa profile image

      OldGrampa 8 years ago

      Very interesting stuff here. I have always been fascinated by mythology and the beliefs in "gods" by the ancient poeples.