We already know that Odin, the God of wisdom is also the keeper of some powerful weapons. There are the wolves of Odin, which we will discuss in another post. We’ve talked about Odin’s horse Sleipnir, the eight-legged stead that is already pretty magical. Odin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn appear in another post, and now we have to talk about this mythical weapon, Odin’s spear. Norse mythology is full of cool weapons, and Gungnir is no exception.
Fashioned by Dwarves
The God of war cannot have an ordinary spear. According to the Old Norse sources, this weapon was fashioned by the dwarves that were known as the sons of Ivaldi. These dwarves were like the modern day Tesla. Whatever was new and innovating was created by these guys. They not only fashioned Odin’s spear, but sources have also credited them with creating a ship for the Goddess Freyja, as well as some golden hair for Sif (after Loki cut some of hers off – typical Loki).
Gungnir in the Poetic Edda
There is not a ton of information about this eternal spear in the sources. However, we do see mention of the Aesir – Vanir war beginning in the Poetic Edda with Odin throwing a spear over the heads of the Vanir Gods. There are two sets of Gods in Norse mythology. You’ve got the Aesir, who of course come from Asgard. This is where we heard of the fortification being built by the giant in the story of Loki and Svaldifari. Then you’ve got the Vanir Gods who come from Vanaheimr, or “Land of the Vanir”. Everyone in Norse mythology likes to dwell in their own little realm beneath the tree of life. You’ve also got the realm of the dwarves, where those Ivaldi brothers who are the skilled craftsmen live, and it’s also where the pesky giants hang out.
Gungnir in the Prose Edda
We also get a brief mention of Gungnir in the Prose Edda when Odin is described as riding out, wearing a golden helmet, an impressive coat of mail, and carrying the powerful item. The spear, like many of the important weapons mentioned in the sources, possesses some magical qualities. It is said that the spear has the special ability to strike any target, not matter the skill of the thrower. It basically gives whomever yields it, the ultimate skills.
There are not too many references to Gungnir in the archeological records. We do, however, have the Boksta runestone which is believed to depict the spear of the God Odin.
I would be remiss to not mention Gungnir in context for those who might be a Marvel fan. While I usually like to include information from the modern day in these posts, we have to keep in mind that their accuracy is questionable at best.
We do see mention of Thor’s hammer, and Odin’s spear Gungnir in the Marvel films. However, Odin’s weapon rivals all the others in the films which isn’t necessarily true. According to Marvel the spear is fashioned from ancient uru metal which comes from the first moon in the universe. Now, I don’t actually know everything about the historical sources, so this part may or may not be derived from some information about those dwarves and their crafting material.
Despite their reputation for war and violence, Norse mythology actually only provided three of the Gods with weapons. We have Thor with his hammer, Odin with his spear, and Freyja and her sword.
Odin could apparently thrust Gungnir at an entire army and cause it “to be paralyzed with battle fetters”. It sounds like he also always threw the spear at multiple targets, and not just a single being.
This one is another super popular tattoo. If you have a Gungnir tattoo then leave a message in the comments and tag @norseauthority on Instagram to show it off.