Idun

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Idun

Nationality/Culture

Norse

Pronunciation

EE-thoon

Alternate Names

None

Appears In

The Eddas

Lineage

Unknown

Character Overview

In Norse mythology , Idun was the goddess of spring and rebirth. She and her husband, Bragi (pronounced BRAH-gee), the god of music and poetry, lived in Asgard (pronounced AHS-gahrd), the home of the gods. Idun took care of the magic apples the gods ate to remain immortal, or able to live forever.

Major Myths

The Prose Edda, a book of Norse legends written in the 1220s, contains a story about Idun and the magic apples. One day Loki (pronounced LOH-kee), the Norse trickster god, was captured by a giant named Thiassi (pronounced THYAH-tzee). The giant refused to free Loki until he agreed to bring Idun and the apples to Thiassi's home. Loki gave his word and sped off to Asgard.

He invited Idun to bring her apples and walk into the forest, where he knew of some even more precious apples. Eager to compare her special fruit with that mentioned by Loki, Idun joined the trickster. But as soon as they reached the forest, Thiassi, in the form of an eagle, dove from the sky and seized the goddess and her apples.

Without Idun's apples, the gods in Asgard began to age. They became bent and feeble and demanded that Loki rescue Idun from Thiassi. Loki flew to the giant's home disguised as a falcon. He changed Idun into a nut and hid her in his claws. As Loki flew back to Asgard, Thiassi became an eagle again and followed him. However, as soon as Loki and Idun were inside Asgard, the gods lit a fire on the fortress walls. Thiassi's wings caught fire as he crossed the flames, and he dropped to the ground, where the gods killed him.

Idun in Context

In the myth of Idun, the golden apples provide immortality to the gods. In Norse culture, apples were an important food item that was locally available and flourished in the relatively cold weather of northern Europe. Apples were one of the first trees cultivated by humans, and throughout Europe, apples remain an important crop today.

Key Themes and Symbols

In Norse mythology, Idun represented the energy of spring and the immortality of the gods. The golden apples tended by her symbolized youth and life; when they were taken away, the gods became old. The gold color of the apples symbolized their magical nature.

Golden Apples

Golden apples appear in myths from around the world. In Greek mythology, Atalanta, famed for her refusal to marry any man who could not beat her in a foot race, was finally defeated by Hippomenes (pronounced hi-POM-uh-neez), who left golden apples along the side of their course to distract her. The Trojan War was sparked by a dispute over a golden apple. The Greek goddess Hera's (pronounced HAIR-uh) orchard had a grove of golden apple trees whose fruit gave eternal life to those who ate them. It was one of the twelve tasks of Greek hero Heracles (pronounced HAIR-uh-kleez) to steal these golden apples. In European folktales, golden apples are often featured as precious or magical objects stolen from kings.

Idun in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Although well known as the custodian of the golden apples of the gods, Idun is seldom mentioned in the tales of Norse mythology. The scene of her abduction, and the subsequent aging of the gods, is a popular one, however; it has been illustrated by many artists, including Arthur Rackham, John Bauer, and J. Doyle Penrose. A well-known image of Idun and her husband Bragi was painted in the nineteenth century by Nils Blommer.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

It is said that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Indeed, the Norse gods ate apples in order to live forever. Using your library and the Internet, find out more about the health benefits of apples and the various claims made for diets involving apples or apple products (such as apple cider vinegar). Write a short summary of your findings.

SEE ALSO Atalanta; Bragi; Fruit in Mythology; Heracles; Iliad, The; Loki; Norse Mythology

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Idun

In Norse* mythology, Idun (Iduna) was the goddess of spring and rebirth. She and her husband, Bragi, the god of music and poetry, lived in Asgard, the home of the gods. Idun took care of the magic apples the gods ate to remain immortal.

The Prose Edda, a book of Norse legends written in the 1220s, contains a story about Idun and the magic apples. One day Loki, the trickster god, was captured by a giant named Thiassi. The giant refused to free Loki until he agreed to bring Idun and the apples to Thiassi's home. Loki gave his word and sped off to Asgard.

immortal able to live forever

trickster mischievous figure appearing in various forms in the folktales and mythology of many different peoples

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

He invited Idun to bring her apples and walk into the forest, where he knew of some even more precious apples. Eager to compare her special fruit with that mentioned by Loki, Idun joined the trickster. But as soon as they reached the forest, Thiassi, in the form of an eagle, dove from the sky and seized the goddess and her apples.

Without Idun's apples, the gods in Asgard began to age. They became bent and feeble and demanded that Loki rescue Idun from Thiassi. Loki flew to the giant's home disguised as a falcon. He changed Idun into a nut and hid her in his claws. As he flew back to Asgard, Thiassi became an eagle again and followed him. However, as soon as Loki and Idun were inside Asgard, the gods lit a fire on the walls of Asgard. Thiassi's wings caught fire as he crossed the flames, and he dropped to the ground, where the gods killed him.

See also Birds in Mythology; Bragi; Fruit in Mythology; Loki; Norse Mythology.

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Idun in Scandinvian mythology, the goddess who was the guardian of the magic apples of youth; when (through the machinations of Loki) she and her apples were captured by the giants, the gods began to age, until Loki was forced to rescue Idun.