Sif

Sif ("In-law-relationship"Lindow (2001:266).] ) is a goddess in Norse mythology. Sif appears is attested in the "Poetic Edda", compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the "Prose Edda", written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In these sources, she is known for her golden hair, as the wife of the major god Thor and, in the euhemerized prologue of the Prose Edda, as the most beautiful of women.Byock (2006:6).]

In surviving tales, Sif is the mother of Þrúðr, by Thor, and mother of the seemingly once major god Ullr by a father unrecorded in surviving sources. However, the source lists Thor as his stepfather without further explanation. This is accounted for in chapter 31 of "Gylfaginning", a book of the "Prose Edda".] Sif Mons, a mons of the planet Venus, is named after Sif. There are theories linking Sif to wheat and with rowan.

"Poetic Edda"

In the "Poetic Edda", Sif appears in or is mentioned in the poems "Hárbarðsljóð", "Hymiskviða" (where Thor is referred to three times as the "Husband of Sif"), "Lokasenna", and "Þrymskviða" (where the "Husband of Sif" kenning appears once more).

"Hárbarðsljóð"

In stanza 48 of the "Poetic Edda" poem "Hárbarðsljóð", Odin (in the disguise of Hárbarðr) meets his son Thor at an inlet of a gulf. The two engage in flyting and Hárbarðr refuses to ferry Thor across the bay. Amongst numerous other insults, Hárbarðr claims that Sif has a lover at home. However, Thor responds that Hárbarðr is speaking carelessly and lying.

"Lokasenna"

In stanzas 53 and 54 of the late poem "Lokasenna", after pouring Loki a crystal cup of mead during his series of insults towards the gods, Sif states that there is nothing Loki can say only in regard to her. In response, Loki claims that Sif has had an affair with him. Mountains shake and Thor arrives. After some initial exchanges between Thor and Loki, prose references are made to events described in "Völuspá" and the "Prose Edda". The exchange involving Sif reads as follows:Modern scholars such as Lee Hollander explain that "Lokasenna" was intended to be humorous and that the accusations thrown by Loki in the poem are not necessarily to be taken as "generally accepted lore" at the time it was composed. Rather they are charges that are easy for Loki to make and difficult for his targets to disprove, or which they do not care to refute.Hollander (1990:90).]

"Prose Edda"

In the "Prose Edda", Sif is mentioned once in the prologue, in chapter 31 of "Gylfaginning", and in "Skáldskaparmál" as a guest at Ægir's feast (a reference to "Lokasenna"), the subject of a jötunn's desire, as having her hair shorn by Loki, and in various kennings.

Prologue

Sif is introduced in chapter three of Snorri's euhemerized account of the origins of Norse mythology serving as a Prologue for the Prose Edda. Snorri states that Thor married her and that she is known as "a prophetess called Sibyl, though we know her as Sif" though to the extent of this implication some debate has existed. Sif is further described as "the most loveliest of women" and with hair of gold. Although he lists her own ancestors as unknown, Snorri writes that Thor and Sif produced a son by the name of Lóriði, who "took after his father".Faulkes (1995:3).] Lóriði is attributed an extended genealogical list of descendants, including figures such as Godwulf and Odin, though outside of this continuity Odin is described as the father of Thor.

"Gylfaginning"

In chapter 31 of "Gylfaginning", Ullr is referred to as a son of Sif and a stepson of Thor though his father is not mentioned:

Ull is the name of one. The son of Sif, he is the stepson of Thor. He is so skillful a bowman and skier that no one can compete with him. He is beautiful to look at, and is an accomplished warrior. He is also a good person to pray to when in single combat.Byock (2006:38).]

"Skáldskaparmál"

As described in "Skáldskaparmál", Thor engages in a duel with Hrungnir, there described as the strongest of the jötunn. Prior to this, Hrungnir had been boasting of his desire to, amongst other things, kill all of the gods except Freyja and Sif, whom he wanted to take home with him. However, at the duel, Hrungnir is quickly killed by the enraged Thor.Faulkes (1995:77-79).]

Further in "Skáldskaparmál", Snorri relates a story where Loki cuts off Sif's hair as a prank. When Thor discovers this, he grabs hold of Loki, resulting in Loki swearing to have a headpiece made of gold to replace Sif's locks. Loki fulfills this promise by having a headpiece made by dwarves referred to as the "sons of Ivaldi". Along with the headpiece, the dwarves produced Odin's spear, Gungnir. Further, as the story progresses, this event leads to the creation of the ship Skíðblaðnir and the boar Gullinbursti for Freyr, the multiplying ring Draupnir for Odin, and the mighty hammer Mjolnir for Thor.Faulkes (1995:96-97).] Sif also appears in "Skáldskaparmál" listed as a kenning for "earth",Faulkes (1995:160).] appears as a kenning for a gold-keeping woman,Faulkes (1995:115).] and once for Hildr.Faulkes (1995:123).]

Theories

Fields of wheat

Sif was so associated with her hair that in the "Prose Edda" book "Skáldskaparmál", the "hair of Sif" is listed as a kenning for gold.Byock (2006:92).] English scholar H. R. Ellis Davidson states that Sif may have been an ancient fertility goddess, proposing the link between her lustrous hair and fields of golden wheat.Davidson (1965:84).]

Rowan

Sif has been linked with Ravdna, the consort of the Sami thunder-god Hora galles. Red berries of rowan were holy to Ravdna and her name resembles the North-Germanic words for that tree (e.g. Old Norse "reynir"). According to "Skáldskaparmál" the rowan is called "the salvation of Thor" because Thor once saved himself by clinging to it. It has been theorized that Sif was once conceived in the form of a rowan to which Thor clung. [Turville-Petre (1964:98).]

Understated importance

John Lindow proposes that a potentially understated mythological importance of Sif's role in the story of her sheered hair exists; her headpiece is created along with the most important and powerful items in Norse mythology. Lindow further states that it may be easy to lose sight of the central role Sif plays in the creation of these objects.

Notes

References

* (Trans.) (2006). "The Prose Edda". Penguin Classics. ISBN 0140447555
* (Trans.) (1995). "Edda". Everyman. ISBN 0-4608-7616-3
* (Trans.) (1990). "The Poetic Edda". (2nd edition). University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292764995
* (1965). "Gods And Myths Of Northern Europe". Penguin. ISBN 0140136274
* (Trans.) (1999). "The Poetic Edda". Oxford World's Classics. ISBN 0192839462
* (2001). "Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs". Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515382-0.
* (1964). "Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia". Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

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