Son of Odin
In Norse mythology , Bragi was the god of poetry. He was the son of Odin (OH-din) and the husband of Idun (EE-thoon), the goddess of fertility. Described as an old man with a long beard, Bragi welcomed to Valhalla the warriors who had died in battle.
Bragi condemned the trickster god Loki for his role in causing the death of the much-loved god Balder. The two exchanged threats despite the other gods' attempts to calm them down until finally Loki predicted the destruction of the gods and left them.
Bragi in Context
Some scholars think that the figure of Bragi might have come from Bragi Boddason, a Norwegian poet of the ninth century ce. In his Prose Edda, author Snorri Sturluson mentions Bragi Boddason as a real historical figure who served a number of Swedish kings and was a well-known poet in his time. He could have inspired a legend that grew over the centuries because the culture of this time period placed high value on poets, who were considered second only to kings in esteem. However, throughout his writings, Sturluson—who wrote about four hundred years after Bragi Boddason lived—does not indicate that the two Bragis are related.
Key Themes and Symbols
Bragi is usually depicted with a harp, an important accompanying instrument for a poet who reads his work aloud. He is always shown with a long beard. He is sometimes described as having runes, or characters from an ancient and magical alphabet, carved on his tongue. Bragi was associated with royal funeral services, when a “cup of Bragi” was used to drink to the honor of a dead king. This cup also figured in the taking of oaths, as anyone taking an oath would do so over a cup of Bragi.
Bragi in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life
Bragi does not often appear outside the classic works of Norse mythology. The most well-known images of Bragi are from the nineteenth century: an illustration by Carl Walbohm, and a painting by Nils Blommér.
Read, Write, Think, Discuss
Legends are sometimes based on a real historical figure. Think of someone whom you admire; it can be someone famous, or someone you know. Write a description of that person as a figure of legend. What characteristics do you think would be remembered and exaggerated? What aspects of their appearance would be emphasized? Are there any particular legends for which the person would be remembered?