Why is Odin known as the “Father of the Slain”?

In chapter 20 of the Prose Edda, a collection of Old Norse myths and legends written by 13th-century Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson, the character Third explains to Gangleri (who is actually King Gylfi in disguise) the reason why Odin, the chief god in Norse mythology, is known as Valföðr, which translates to “Father of the Slain.”

Odin, disguised as a wanderer, by Georg von Rosen (1886)

According to Third’s explanation, all warriors who fall in battle are considered to be Odin’s adopted sons. In Norse belief, dying a heroic death in battle was regarded as one of the noblest ways for a warrior to leave the mortal world. Such fallen warriors were highly esteemed and were believed to be chosen by Odin to become part of his retinue.

Odin, as Valföðr, assigns these fallen warriors, who are now his adopted sons, places in two separate halls: Valhalla and Vingólf. Valhalla is the well-known great hall of the slain, where the chosen warriors, known as the einherjar, reside.

In Valhalla, the einherjar engage in daily training and mock battles, preparing for the ultimate battle of Ragnarok, where they will fight alongside Odin and the gods against the forces of chaos.

In Valhalla, the chosen warriors, known as the Einherjar, reside in preparation for Ragnarok, the final apocalyptic battle. They engage in daily training and feasting, honing their skills and building camaraderie.

By being called Valföðr, “father of the slain,” Odin signifies his role as the divine figure who chooses and honors fallen warriors, welcoming them into the afterlife in Valhalla and Vingólf.

This aspect of Odin’s character emphasizes the importance of courage, bravery, and honor in battle in Norse mythology and the belief in an afterlife where esteemed warriors are rewarded for their valor.

Difference between Valhalla and Vingólf

In Norse mythology, Vingólf is a mythical hall or dwelling that is mentioned in some sources but is not as widely known as other locations like Valhalla or Asgard. The name “Vingólf” translates to “friendly or peaceful hall” in Old Norse.

The exact nature and significance of Vingólf vary in different accounts, and it is not extensively described in the surviving Norse sources. However, a few references provide some insights into its role in the afterlife and the realm of the gods.

In the Prose Edda poem the Gylfaginning, the character High mentions that Vingólf is one of the halls where fallen warriors are received by Odin. It is said to be a place where warriors who die in ways other than battle are taken. While Valhalla is reserved for those who die in battle and become the Einherjar, Vingólf appears to accommodate other honorable deceased souls.

In the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá, there is a reference to Vingólf being the hall of the goddesses. The exact goddesses or divine figures associated with Vingólf are not specified, leaving the interpretation open to some degree of uncertainty.

Despite its limited description, Vingólf is generally considered to be a part of the afterlife realm, either as an extension of Valhalla or as a separate dwelling for other esteemed deceased souls. Its association with goddesses also suggests its connection to the divine and the cosmic order.

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