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Mimir

Mimir

In Norse* mythology, the giant Mimir was considered the wisest member of the group of gods known as the Aesir. He served as the guardian of Mimisbrunnr, the well of knowledge located at the base of the world tree Yggdrasill.

During the war between the Aesir and another group of gods called the Vanir, the Vanir took Mimir and a companion named Hoenir as hostages. Hoenir was treated as a chieftain by the Vanir, but without the wise Mimir he could not speak well. The Vanir felt cheated, therefore, and cut off Mimir's head and sent it back to Odin, the father of the gods, who kept it alive in a shrine near the base of Yggdrasill.

The well of knowledge sprang from the spot where Mimir's head was kept. Seeking wisdom, Odin rode to the well to drink its waters. However, Mimir allowed him to do so only after Odin left one of his eyes in the well. From then on, when Odin wished to learn secrets from the well, he asked questions to Mimir's head, which gave him the answers.

See also Giants; Norse Mythology; Odin; Yggdrasbll.

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Mimir

Mimir in Scandinavian mythology, the wisest of the Aesir and guardian of the sacred well, to whom Odin sacrificed one eye in exchange for poetic inspiration; when he was killed by the Vanir, Odin preserved his decapitated head, which became oracular.

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Mimir

Mimir (mē´mĬr), in Norse mythology, giant who guarded the well of wisdom. According to one legend Mimir was beheaded by the enemies of the gods of Asgard; his head was then preserved by Odin, who consulted it for information and advice.

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Mimir

Mimir

Nationality/Culture

Norse

Pronunciation

MEE-mir

Alternate Names

Mim

Appears In

The Eddas

Lineage

Unknown

Character Overview

In Norse mythology , the giant Mimir was considered the wisest member of the group of gods known as the Aesir (pronounced AY-sur). He served as the guardian of the well of knowledge, located at the base of the world tree called Yggdrasill (pronounced IG-druh-sil).

Major Myths

During the war between the Aesir and another group of gods called the Vanir (pronounced VAH-nir), the Vanir took Mimir and a companion, named Hoenir (pronounced HUH-nir), as hostages. Hoenir was treated as a chieftain by the Vanir, but without the wise Mimir he could not speak well. The Vanir felt cheated and cut off Mimir's head. They sent it back to Odin (pronounced OH-din), the father of the gods, who kept it alive in a shrine near the base of Yggdrasill.

The well of knowledge sprang from the spot where Mimir's head was kept. Seeking wisdom, Odin rode to the well to drink its waters. However, Mimir allowed him to do so only after Odin left one of his eyes in the well. From then on, when Odin wished to learn secrets from the well, he asked questions to Mimir's head, which gave him the answers.

Mimir in Context

The myth of Mimir reflects Norse attitudes about drawing resources from nature and transforming them into something useful, rather than simply hoarding resources as wealth. In this case, the well of Mimir is a natural source of knowledge that serves no purpose until someone drinks from it. Odin uses this knowledge to gain insight into the fates of the gods. Mimir does serve as a guardian of the well, but only to ensure that those who do drink from the well earn their knowledge through sacrifice. This contrasts with Norse depictions of the Vanir and other less heroic figures, such as Fafnir, who are depicted as greedy creatures, more concerned with possessing treasures than actually using them in a positive way.

Key Themes and Symbols

In Norse mythology, Mimir represents knowledge and wisdom. This is emphasized by the fact that only his head survives after he is kidnapped by the Vanir. The head is a traditional symbol of knowledge in many cultures, and, in the myth, Odin continues to seek guidance from the head. Mimir is also portrayed as a protector because he guards the well of knowledge and keeps the unworthy from drinking out of it. The fact that Mimir demands Odin's eye as a sacrifice before he can drink from the well indicates that there is a price to be paid to gain knowledge, but that it is worth it.

Mimir in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Mimir appears in the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, most notably the Gylfaginning and Voluspa. Though Norse mythology has become increasingly well known since the nineteenth century, Mimir only seldom makes appearances. He is perhaps best known from the Richard Wagner opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung, which combines Norse and German myths into an epic tale about the gods. “Mimir” is also the name of a class of disembodied skulls found in Dungeons and Dragons role-playing games that provide knowledge to the player, much like the mythical Mimir provided knowledge to Odin.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The Sea of Trolls (2004), by Nancy Farmer, is a fantasy novel set in the realm of Norse and Saxon myth. It tells the tale of a young apprentice bard named Jack who accidentally causes the half-troll Queen Frith to lose her hair during a performance at the royal court. She threatens to sacrifice Jack's sister unless he fixes the problem, so Jack embarks on a quest to find Mimir's well; by drinking from the well, he hopes to learn a spell that will replace the Queen's hair. Along the way, Jack has coundess adventures and meets creatures that are both humorous and frightening.

SEE ALSO Giants; Norse Mythology; Odin; Yggdrasill

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