Vidar: The Silent God of the Aesir

Vidar is the Norse god of vengeance, silence, and resilience. He is the son of Odin, the chief of the Aesir gods, and the giantess Gríðr. He was less popular than his brother Thor. Despite this, the “avenging god” played an integral role in Norse mythology, killing Fenrir in Ragnarok, surviving those end times, and helping rule over the new earth.

Who is Vidar? What is Vidar the God Of?

Vidar is sometimes known as the Norse god of vengeance. Through the literature of Norse mythology, Vidar was called “the silent As,” “possessor of the iron shoe,” and “slayer of Fenrir.”

Is Vidar a War God?

While referred to as a god of vengeance, Norse myth does not record Vidar as being a warrior or military leader. Because of this, it is not appropriate to refer to him as a war god.

Who Were the Parents of Vidar?

Vidar is the child of Odin, the all-father, and the Jotunn, Grdr. As the son of Odin, Vidar is the half-brother of both Thor and Loki, as well as Vali, with whom he is often connected. Grdr was a consort of Odin and a giantess. She was known for her weapons and armor, which she supplied to Thor on his quest to kill Geirrod.

What Does the Prose Edda Say about Vidar’s Shoes?

Vidar is known as “the possessor of the iron shoe,” thanks to his role in Ragnarok. This is sometimes also known as “the thick shoe.” In the Prose Edda book, Gylfaginning,” the shoe is made of leather, put together from all the extra leather pieces mortal men have cut from their own shoes:

The Wolf shall swallow Odin; that shall be his ending But straight thereafter shall Vídarr stride forth and set one foot upon the lower jaw of the Wolf: on that foot he has the shoe, materials for which have been gathering throughout all time. (They are the scraps of leather which men cut out: of their shoes at toe or heel; therefore he who desires in his heart to come to the Æsir’s help should cast those scraps away.) With one hand he shall seize the Wolf’s upper jaw and tear his gullet asunder; and that is the death of the Wolf.

In this same text, Vidar is described as “the silent god. He has a thick shoe. He is nearly as strong as Thor; in him, the gods have great trust in all struggles.”

In the Grímnismal,” part of the Poetic Edda, Vidar is said to live in the land of Vithi (or Vidi), which is “Filled with growing trees and high-standing grass.“ 

Why is Vidar “The Silence As”?

There is no indication that Vidar took a vow of silence, or never talked. Instead, he was likely called “the silent Aesir” because of his calm, focused demeanor. It was said that Vidar was born for the sole purpose of vengeance and had little time for the parties and adventures that his half-brothers got up to. Not only did he avenge his father’s death by killing Fenrir, but Vidar also avenged his brother’s death at the hands of Hodr.

What Did Baldr’s Dream Tell of Vidar?

The “Baldrs draumar,” or “Vegtamskviða,” is a short poem in the Poetic Edda that describes what happens with Baldr has a bad dream and takes Odin to talk to a prophetess. She tells the gods that Hoth/Hodr will kill Baldr but that Vidar will avenge the god.

The prophetess says of Vidar: “His hands he shall wash not, his hair he shall comb not, till the slayer of Baldr he brings to the flames.” This single-minded focus of the silent god is his most recognizable trait.

How is Vidar Associated with Ragnarok in Norse Mythology?

Vidar is one of only two Aesir to survive Ragnarok, along with his brother Vali. “The Gylfaginning” records what the world would be after “the end of the world” and suggests that Vidar may even rule the new world, taking his father Odin’s place. This may be why he is sometimes also known as “father’s homestead-inhabiting As.”

READ MORE: Norse Mythology: Legends, Characters, Deities, and Culture

What Does the Prose Edda Have To Say about Vidar and Ragnarok?

According to the Prose Edda, the story is that the Earth will emerge back out of the sea and “shall then be green and fair.” Thor’s sons would join them, and Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, would also survive. Baldr and Hodr would return from Hel (Hell), and the gods would tell each other the stories of Ragnarok. There is an implication then that Ragnarok has already occurred and that we now live in the time when we tell stories of how Thor fought the world serpent, Jormungandr, and how Vidar killed Fenrir. It also says that “the golden chess pieces” would be recovered.

What Does Vidar Have in Common with Greek Mythology?

As a survivor of Ragnarok, Vidar is sometimes compared to the story of Aeneas, the prince of Troy who survived the war against the Greeks. Snorri Sturlason, the writer of the Prose Edda, retold the story of Troy, which also compared Thor to Tror, a grandson of King Priam of Troy.

READ MORE: The Trojan War: Ancient History’s Famed Conflict and Greek Mythology: Stories, Characters, Gods, and Culture 

What Happened Between Vidar and Loki?

Within the Poetic Edda is the text “Lokasenna,” which tells the Norse myth of when Loki crashed a banquet of the gods to insult each of them. After finally insulting Thor, the trickster god runs away to be chased down and bound together. According to literary sources in the Prose Edda, this binding becomes the first act that leads to Ragnarok.

Lokasenna” is the only recorded interaction between Loki and Vidar. After Loki is offended by not being praised by the hosts as other gods were, Odin tries to appease this son by offering him a drink:

Stand forth then, Vithar, and let the wolf’s father

Find a seat at our feast;

Lest evil should Loki speak aloud

Here within Ægir’s hall.”

Then Vithar arose and poured drink for Loki.”

“The wolf’s father” here refers to the fact that Loki is the parent of Fenrir, whom Vidar later killed. Some scholars believe Odin specifically chose Vidar because he was “the silent god” and would not say anything to rile Loki up. Of course, this strategy failed.

How is Vidar Portrayed in Art?

There is very little archeological evidence of Vidar, and the literature never physically describes the god. However, having strength only beaten by Thor and being the child of a giantess, it can be assumed that Vidar was large, strong, and a little intimidating.

Depictions of Vidar became slightly more popular in the 19th century, primarily in illustrations of the Eddas. Artworks that used the god as a subject showed a young, muscular man, often carrying a spear or long sword. An illustration from 1908 by W. C. Collingwood shows Vidar slaying Fenrir, with his leather boot firmly holding the jaw of the wolf to the ground. This illustration was very likely inspired by the works found in Cumbria, England.

How is Vidar connected to the Gosforth Cross?

In the English county of Cumbria stands a 10th-century stone monument known as the Gosforth Cross. 4.4 meters in height, the cross is a strange combination of Christian and Norse symbolism, with intricate carvings showing scenes from the Edda. Among images of Thor fighting Jormungandr, Loki being bound, and Heimdall holding his horn, is an image of Vidarr fighting Fenrir. Vidar stands with a spear, one hand holding up the creature’s snout, while his foot is planted firmly on the wolf’s lower jaw.

Fenrir could be mistaken as a serpent in this image, as the head of the wolf is linked to a long image of intertwined cords. For this reason, some believe the sculpture may be trying to parallel the story with Satan (the great Serpent) subdued by Christ.

READ MORE: How Did Christianity Spread: Origins, Expansion, and Impact 

At the end of this image is a Celtic triquetra, adding yet another complexity to the artwork.

The Gosford Cross is not the only artwork in the area with Norse symbols and images on it, and Cumbria is filled with archeological finds that show how the Norse and Christian mythologies would clash and combine.

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