Sleipnir:Odin’s eight-legged horse in Norse mythology

The creatures you come across in Norse Mythology aren’t the same creatures you come across in real life. These creatures are supernatural and have some form of ability or the other. It would make sense since they were companions to some of the powerful deities in the Norse pantheon. Speaking of the most powerful deity, Odin is associated with many animals, among them is the mighty Sleipnir.

Sleipnir is the mighty horse Odin has depicted riding when going off to war. But it is not the only horse to exist in Asgard, so what makes it so special and gives it superiority above the rest? Is it because it belongs to Sleipnir or is there another reason? This article explains who Sleipnir is in Norse mythology, the origin and meaning behind him.

Odin’s eight-legged horse

What Is Sleipnir In Norse Mythology?

The name Sleipnir in Old Norse means ‘the slipper’ or ‘slipping one’. This was based on the horse’s ability to slip from one world to another. Unlike other horses, Sleipnir could run on land, water, and air. He was faster and mightier than any horse in the entire nine worlds. It, therefore, makes sense that he was the trusty companion of the All-father, the most powerful Norse god there was. But who was Sleipnir outside of being Odin’s pet?

As it would turn out, Sleipnir was Loki’s child. That would make him the brother to Fenrir, Hel, and the giant serpent. Although some accounts mention that Fenrir was the first child of Loki, there is reason to believe that Sleipnir came first. It also seemed that the horse also had children, He is believed to be the ancestor of Grani, who Odin gifted to a hero named Sigurd.

Sleipnir has strength and speed beyond that seen in any horse. His special abilities have been mentioned in many myths and sagas including the poems Baldrs draumar, Hyndluljóð, Grímnismál, and Sigrdrífumál in the Poetic Edda. He also appears in the Prose edda in the saga Gylfaginning. He also appears in the Volsunga saga and Gesta Danorum.

In terms of appearance, Sleipnir was muscular and mighty. He is often depicted as having eight legs in total although some speculate that this may have just been to show that he was the fastest horse in all the realms. His hide was as grey as the stormy sky and his main and tail were a darker shade of grey. He is also believed to have runes written on his teeth.

The Sleipnir Origins

When it comes to Sleipnir’s, we’ve mentioned that he is Loki’s child. What you should know, however, is that, unlike his siblings, Loki is his mother and not his father. Shocking right? It started when a giant who was a renowned mason visited Asgard with an offer. At the time the realm had not been fortified and the Jotunn offered to build a fortress wall, so mighty, that no one would penetrate it. In return, he asked for the goddess Freya’s hand in marriage, along with the sun and the moon. Let’s take a pose here to note that the disappearing of the sun and the moon is believed to be the conditions that needed to be met for the initiation of Ragnarok, the end of the Norse deities. So, the Aesir were not willing to give him what he wanted. Being the cunning gods they were, they made the task difficult for him by stating that he had to complete it in only one season and without any help from any man. The giant agreed but only if he was allowed to take the help of his horse, Svadilfari.

At first, the gods were reluctant to agree but eventually accepted as per Loki’s argument that one horse’s help wouldn’t make that much of a difference. But as it turned out the stallion was actually a mighty horse and ended up doing most of the work for the giant. As the deadline drew near it seemed like the giant was almost about to complete the task in good time. Afraid they might lose the challenge and blaming Loki, they forced him to correct his mistake.

To save himself from the wrath of the Aesir, Loki came up with a plan that involved transforming himself into a magnificent mare. Seeing that the stallion was the one doing all the work, he planned to distract him as the mare. His plan worked and the giant failed in his task. Realizing he was duped; the giant went into a rage and ended up being killed by Thor. But as a result of fraternizing with the stallion, Loki ended up pregnant, being that he was the mare.

How Did Odin Get Sleipnir And Facts About Him?

Since Loki was pregnant, he had to remain a Mare until he gave birth. That was how Sleipnir was born. Over time he grew to be big and strong. Within no time it became increasingly clear that he was becoming the mightiest of all the horses in the entire cosmos. That was when Loki decided to gift him to Odin as his trusted companion.

The reasoning behind Loki’s decisions was not clear. It could be that he wanted to get back into Odin’s good books after the near mishap with the giant mason. Or it could be that Loki did not acknowledge being his mother. Whichever the case, seeing Sleipnir’s prowess and the fact that his courage matched that of the All-father, Odin did not resist accepting him.

The following are a summary of some facts that are related to Sleipnir based on his mentions in Norse mythology:

  • Odin rode Sleipnir to Hel to meet the Volva concerning the dream that Baldur had when he was still young, so he could find a way to prevent it.
  • After the death of Baldr, Odin’s other son, Hermod is given Sleipnir to ride to Hel and ask Hel to release Baldr. It is because Sleipnir was the only one with the strength to jump and cross the gates that blocked Helheim.
  • Sleipnir won a race against the Horse Gullfaxi who belonged to the giant, Hrungir, who Odin challenged by stating that he had a faster horse. Odin won Gullfaxi, whom he gifted to Magni, Thor’s son.

Conclusion

In today’s pop culture, Sleipnir has appeared Marvel comics, multiple versions of the Final Fantasy video game, and possibly in Lord of the Rings as Shadowfax, the king of all horses in the middle earth. Unlike his siblings who were destined to bring doom to the Norse gods during Ragnarok, Sleipnir ended up being the only one of Loki’s children who was Odin’s trusted companion even in battle.

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