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Angrboda: a closer look at the obscure Giantess of Norse Mythology

angrboda

Angrboda (pronounced “ANNG-broh-dah”; Old Norse Angrboða, is a giantess Jötunn and seer in Norse mythology.

What does her name mean?

Her name means “grief-bringer”, “she who brings anguish”, or “one who offers sorrows”.

Who is Angrboda?

Angrboda was a giantess who lived in Jotunheim, the land of the giants. She was the wife of Loki, the god of trickery.

Angrboda was feared by the gods, who saw her children as a threat to their power. They banished her to a desolate place far from Asgard, where she lived in exile with her children.

Angrboda was said to be so beautiful that even Loki, the god of trickery, wanted her. But she would have none of him and instead chose to marry a giant named Þjazi.

Loki did not give up easily, though. He tricked Þjazi into turning into an eagle so that he could fly off with Angrboda in his talons. Þjazi turned back into a giant and fought Loki, but Loki was too quick for him and got away.

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What are her origins?

She is said to live in Jotunheim, the land of the giants, and her home is said to be in an iron house amongst the icebergs.

Angrboda is feared by both gods and mortals. She is said to be a prophetess and seer, and her predictions are said to always come true. Because of her knowledge of the future, she is sometimes consulted by Odin himself.

Who is the mother of Angrboda?

There is no mention of Angrboda’s parents in any Old Norse sources. Her consort, Loki, and her offspring, Jörmungandr, Hel, and Fenrir, are the only ones we know about.

fenrir

Fenrir

How does Angrboda die?

From the myths we don’t have any certain information about her death, however, we can assume that during the Ragnarok she died as she is not among the survivors.

Attestations

She is only referenced once in the Poetic Edda as Loki’s mother of Fenrir.

From Hyndluljóð 38

Ól ulf Loki við Angrboðu,

en Sleipni gat við Svaðilfara;

eitt þótti skass allra feiknast,

þat var bróður frá Býleists komit

 

The wolf did Loki | with Angrbotha win,

And Sleipnir bore he | to Svathilfari;

The worst of marvels | seemed the one

That sprang from the brother | of Byleist then.

She is also mentioned in the Prose Edda (The Beguiling of Gylfi )and described as “a giantess in jötunheim” and the mother of three monsters: the wolf Fenrir, the Midgard snake Jörmungandr, and the ruler of the dead Hel.

From Gylfaginning stanza 34

“Enn átti Loki fleiri bǫrn. Angrboða heitir gýgr

í Jǫtunheimum. Við henni gat Loki þrjú bǫrn.

Eitt var Fenrisúlfr, annat Jǫrmungandr

(þat er Miðgarðsormr), þriðja er Hel.

 

But Loki still had other children. Angrboða is called a giantess

of the Jǫtunheimr. By her Loki had three sons.

One was the wolf Fenrir, the second Jǫrmungandr

(who is Miðgarðsormr), the third is Hel.

 

And from the Seeress in Gylfaginning stanza 12

Þá mælti Gangleri: “Hverr er ætt úlfanna?”

So Gangleri said, “Where does the wolf lineage come from?”

 

Hár segir: “Gýgr ein býr fyrir austan Miðgarð í þeim skógi er Járnviðr heitir. Í þeim skógi byggja þær trǫllkonur er Járnviðjur heita. In gamla gýgr fǿðir at sonum marga jǫtna ok alla í vargs líkjum, ok þaðan af eru komnir þessir úlfar. Ok svá er sagt at af ættinni verðr sá einn mátkastr er kallaðr er Mánagarmr.

 

Hár replied, “A witch dwells east of Miðgarðr, in the forest called Járnviðr. In that forest dwell the trǫll females called Járnviðjur. The old witch gave birth to many giants, all in the form of wolves, and from here came these [two] wolves. It is said that from this lineage will come one stronger than all, called Mánagarmr.

 

We also find a reference to a Jötunn (aldna, which stands for “old woman”) dwelling in Járnvid ( a forest called ironwood, where female jötnar live), most likely Angrboda.

From Völuspá stanza 40

Austr sat en aldna

í Járnviði

ok fæddi þar

Fenris kindir;

verðr af þeim ǫllum

einna nǫkkurr

tungls tjúgari

í trolls hami.

 

In the east the old woman

Lives in Járnviðr

And there she gives birth

Fenrir’s offspring.

He will come among them all

The one and only

devourer of the moon

In aspect of trǫll.

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Angrboda in Popular Culture

  • In the video game Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Mistress of the Iron Wood, Angrboa appears as a minor character.
  • She will also appear in God of War: Ragnarok.
  • In Genevieve Gornichec’s 2021 novel The Witch’s Heart, Angrboa is the primary character.
  • Her character is also known as Gullveig in the literature.
  • In the television series Vikings, the boatbuilder Floki names his daughter Angrboa.
  • Angrboda, Saturn’s moon, is named after her.

What are her powers and abilities?

Sources differ on what Angrboda’s powers and abilities are. Some say she is a skilled sorceress, while others claim she has the ability to transform her shape.

What is her relationship with Loki?

In Norse mythology, Angrboda was a giantess who was the lover of Loki and the mother of his three children.

What are her children?

She is the mother of three children by Loki: the Serpent, Jormungand; Hel, the goddess of the underworld; and Fenrir, the giant wolf.

thor fighting Jormungandr

Thor fighting Jormungand

The Aesir (Norse gods) were enraged when they discovered Loki and Angrboda had created such terrible and dangerous creatures.

The Fenrir wolf was originally taken to Asgard, but when they discovered they couldn’t manage it, they took it to an island and tied it to a rock with a magical rope created by the dwarves.

Hel was exiled to Helheim, one of the nine kingdoms in Norse mythology that she transformed into her own domain.

HEL LOKI'S DAUGHTER

Hel Loki’s daughter

Jörmungandr, also known as The Midgard Serpent, was thrown into the sea and grew to be so large that it could envelop the entire world and eat its own tail.

What role does she play in Norse mythology?

It is surprising, how little material is recorded in the Norse Myths related to Angrboda, especially given that two of her kids with Loki, as well as Loki himself, play significant parts in the Ragnarök, which is a series of future events, including a final great battle, resulting in the death of many major figures like Odin, Thor, Frey, Heimdall, and Loki.

The world will be reborn after this event and the surviving gods will live in a new, idyllic world.

The relative calm and unknown around Angrboda seemed to give more power to the evil and destruction embodied by the giantess.

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