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Arvak and Alsvid | Horses in Norse mythology

horses in mythology

Norse mythology is full of legends starring fantastic creatures, many of them presented as enemies and others as companions in battle. Within these stories, horses are presented as the most loyal and strongest creatures, and many of them have been attributed supernatural abilities, an example of which is Blodu (bloody hoof), who was able to ride on the flames in order to take the god Freyr to see his wife, or grain, faithful companion of the greatest of the Valkyries who accompanied her in every battle.

the sun goddess

Many of these steeds were attributed characteristics related to the God they served, the best known among these majestic beasts are Avak (early riser) and Alsvid (very fast), horses that pulled the chariot of the goddess Sól. Mythology tells that the gods were in charge of regulating the passage of days and seasons. Sól rode each day through the heavens and, while it was the goddess herself who provided the heat of the day, it was the horses' manes that brought clarity and light. During the day Sól and his steeds are chased by the wolf Skoll who seeks to devour them, this constant pursuit is also used to explain the solar eclipses during which the chariot drawn by Arvak and Alsvid has almost been overtaken. This legend also tells that one day Scoll will achieve her goal, that day her brother Máni (the moon) will replace her and in turn will be persecuted by the wolf Hati.

Other horses from Norse mythology

Another of the most characteristic steeds is Sleipnir, steed of Odin, which showed runes engraved on its teeth and eight legs representing the eight cardinal points, this allowed it to be one of the fastest horses. The only horse that has managed to challenge Sleipnir was Gullfaxi, horse of the giant Hrungir, but after losing it passed into the hands of Magni, son of Thor.

It should be noted that the figure of the horse was not only used during battle, but given its great fidelity it has also occupied other roles, as in the case of Gulltoppr, belonging to the God Heimdal, with whom he shared the task of guardian of Asgard, Svadilfari, who participated in the construction of the walls of Asgard, or Hofvarpnir, Possessor of large wings that allowed him to move through water and air, who was entrusted with the task of being the queen's messenger.

As you can see, the horse has played a very important role in the legends of the gods of Asgard and they are a figure to keep in mind when talking about their mythology.

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