Lodurr

Lodurr (pronounced “LOAD-er,” from Old Norse Lóðurr, whose meaning/etymology is unknown[1]) is a Norse god about whom we know essentially nothing due to the dearth of information about him in Old Norse literature.

No description of Lodurr is ever given. There is one instance in which a single action is ascribed to him. The eighteenth stanza of the Völuspá, one of the poems in the Poetic Edda, reads in part:

lá gaf Lóðurr
ok litu góða.[2]

This stanza gives an account of the gods Odin, Hoenir, and Lodurr bringing the first two humans, Ask and Embla, to life. Each god endows the pair with particular attributes, and Lodurr’s gifts are good looks (litu góða) and . The meaning of is ambiguous and contested, but most likely refers to blood and other bodily fluids. (The popular suggestion that means “warmth” is unsupportable, since the word is never once used to mean “warmth” in all of Old Norse literature.)[3]

However, this stanza is rather confused. It has Hoenir give óðr, Odin’s defining quality and the root of his name, to Ask and Embla, a task which surely would have belonged to Odin himself. Consequently, even this little scrap of information about Lodurr can’t be taken at face value.

There are exactly two other references to Lodurr in the Old Norse sources, both of which simply call Odin “Lodurr’s friend” and then move on, saying nothing else about Lodurr.[4] Virtually any of the gods could be called a friend of Odin, so these references don’t tell us anything substantial.

Some scholars have tried to identify Lodurr with Loki or Freyr, but the proposed connections are spurious and utterly unconvincing.

The identification with Freyr is the more abjectly ridiculous of the two suggestions. On the basis of the (not necessarily entirely trustworthy) Völuspá passage and a proposed etymology of Lodurr’s name that’s speculative at best, it claims that Lodurr was a god of fertility and sensuality. It then leaps to identify Lodurr with Freyr on this basis alone, regardless of the sheer number of other Norse gods who have much to do with fertility and sensuality.[5]

The superficial similarities between the names of Lodurr and Loki are just that: superficial. The only evidence that Lodurr and Loki might have been identical is the fact that Old Norse literature occasionally features the triad of Odin, Hoenir, and Loki, where the Völuspá features a triad of Odin, Hoenir, and Lodurr.[6]

But such triads (Odin and two other gods) are very common throughout Scandinavian and Germanic literature and occur in several different forms, so the idea that Lodurr and Loki must be identical because they’re both featured in such a triad is, like all of the other attempts to link Lodurr and Loki, ultimately frivolous.

I would love to be able to say, “Yes, Lodurr was such-and-such a god, and here are his twenty defining characteristics.” But while that approach might get me more readers, it would be profoundly dishonest. Given the number of independent mentions of Lodurr, it’s safe to assume that he was indeed a pre-Christian god, and not just a literary figure. But anything else one might say about him is speculative at best. My preferred method is to use reason and intuition to fill in the gaps in the framework that the sources present of any given figure/symbol/story/etc., but in cases like Lodurr’s there’s not even a framework to fill in – there are only passing references that don’t amount to anything. It’s like grasping for handholds or footholds on a smooth, vertical wall. Lodurr is lost to us, and as sad as that is, that’s the way it is.

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References:

[1] Simek, Rudolf. 1993. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. p. 190.

[2] The Poetic Edda. Völuspá, stanza 18.

[3] Turville-Petre, E.O.G. 1964. Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia. p. 81.

[4] Simek, Rudolf. 1993. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. p. 190.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Turville-Petre, E.O.G. 1964. Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia. p. 81.

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