Hildisvíni, whose name means “battle swine” in Old Norse, is a magical golden boar from Norse mythology. He is the mount and companion of the goddess Freyja, and plays an important role in the eddic poem Hyndluljóð.
According to the sources, Hildisvíni was created by the skilled dwarven craftsmen Dáinn and Nabbi using their mastery over metals and animals. Like his counterpart Gullinbursti, the boar of Freyr, Hildisvíni has bristles of shining gold. This indicates his sacred status as well as his connection to fertility and wealth, both domains of Freyja.
The story of Hildisvíni appears in Hyndluljóð, where Freyja rides him on a quest to learn the ancestry of her human protégé Óttar. In the poem, Freyja encounters the giantess Hyndla, who possesses the knowledge of lineages. Freyja tries to compel Hyndla to recite Óttar’s genealogy, but Hyndla accuses Freyja of concealing Óttar as her lover. Freyja denies this, claiming Hildisvíni is her only companion.
At the end of the poem, once Hyndla has finally related Óttar’s ancestry, Freyja gives Hyndla a potion of memory so that Óttar may recall what he has learned. This suggests Hildisvíni may have been Óttar himself, transformed into a boar by magic. Shape-shifting and magical disguises are common elements in Norse myths.
The 13th century historian Snorri Sturluson also mentions Hildisvíni in his Prose Edda. According to Snorri, a historic king named Áli wore a boar-crested helmet called Hildisvíni during a famous battle against the Swedes on Lake Vänern. The helmet was among the spoils of war taken by the Swedish king Aðils after his victory over Áli.
Scholars theorize that Áli likely had a close connection to Freyja and Freyr, and adopted the boar as his personal symbol and protector in battle. Boars were revered by ancient Germanic tribes as symbols of courage, strength, and unyielding force. The boar helmet channeled the fearsome and tenacious nature of the mythical Hildisvíni.
Key Details About Hildisvíni:
- Hildisvíni means “battle swine” in Old Norse, referring to his role as a protector and spiritual weapon.
- He was crafted by the master dwarven smiths Dáinn and Nabbi, who made many treasures for the gods.
- His bristles shimmered like gold, connecting him to ideas of wealth and fertility.
- In Hyndluljóð, Freyja rides him on a quest to learn Óttar’s ancestry, suggesting he is her mount.
- Hildisvíni may have been Óttar transformed, as shapeshifting disguises were common in myths.
- A historic king wore a helmet named Hildisvíni as his war crest and talisman in battle.
- The boar was a sacred symbol of courage and ferocity for ancient Norse and Germanic warriors.
The Golden Boars of the Vanir Gods
In Norse mythology, both Freyja and her brother Freyr possessed magnificent boars with golden hair or bristles. These animals were more than mere mounts or pets – they were sacred creatures imbued with magic and great significance.
Gullinbursti was the name of Freyr’s golden-bristled boar. Like Hildisvíni, Gullinbursti was crafted by dwarven artisans and given as a gift to the god. Freyr rode Gullinbursti into battle and even used his bristles to illuminate the night sky.
The sibling boars underscore the ancient link between boars and the Vanir, the tribe of gods connected to fertility, wealth, and nature. As boars naturally ruled the forest, the golden boars affirmed the Vanir’s divine power over the woodlands and their bounty.
Both Hildisvíni and Gullinbursti boast bristles of solid gold or golden sheen. Gold was associated with the rising sun, kings, vitality, and the underworld where dwarves delved. The rare golden hue of Freyr and Freyja’s mounts reflected the treasures of the earth and their solar, royal nature.
Treasures Forged by Dwarves:
|TREASURE||DESCRIPTION OF POWERS|
|Mjölnir||Thor’s hammer, forged by dwarves Sindri and Brokkr. Possessed the power to level mountains and was impervious to most blows. Always returned to Thor’s hand when thrown.|
|Sif’s Hair||Replaced the golden hair Loki cut from Sif’s head as a prank. The dwarf-crafted replacement hair magically grew like natural hair.|
|Draupnir||Odin’s ring that dripped 8 new gold rings every 9 days.|
|Gullinbursti||Freyr’s golden boar that could run through air and water. Its bristles glowed in the dark.|
|Skíðblaðnir||Freyr’s foldable ship that always had a favorable wind when sailing and could contain all the Norse gods.|
|Gleipnir||Slender silken ribbon that could bind even the mighty Fenrir wolf due to its magical crafting.|
|Gungnir||Odin’s spear imbued with runic power. It never missed its target and always returned to Odin’s hand when thrown.|
|Brísingamen||Necklace of the goddess Freya of incomparable beauty and radiance.|
Hildisvíni in Battle and Warfare
The connection between Hildisvíni and warfare is emphasized by both Hyndluljóð and Snorri’s accounts. His name “battle swine” epitomizes the legendary courage, fierceness and determination of the boar in Norse culture.
In Hyndluljóð, Freyja rides Hildisvíni on a quest to gain knowledge to aid her human subject, Óttar. Their journey has echoes of a warrior ride – confronting giants, uncovering ancestral wisdom, gaining power for future struggles. This positions Hildisvíni as part of Freyja’s own martial aspect.
Snorri’s tale of King Áli wearing the boar-crested helmet Hildisvíni in battle is the most overt warlike link. By invoking the name and magic of Freyja’s boar, Áli attempted to channel its power and protect himself in combat, though he was ultimately defeated.
The boar helmet was also likely meant to terrify the enemy with its golden fierceness and tenacity. For Norse fighters, the boar was an embodiment of courage, determination and viciousness in war. Hildisvíni represented these ideas in animal form.
The Mighty Boar in Norse Belief
Across Norse religion and mythology, the boar stood out as one of the most significant sacred animals. The reverence for boars stems from their very nature as beasts and inhabitants of the forest.
To the Norse people, boars were mighty creatures who perfectly embodied many of the most admirable virtues in war, farming and life. They were seen as:
- Fierce and brave – Boars charge enemies head-on without hesitation, even when wounded. Their courage was profoundly respected.
- Strong and unyielding – Their compact, dense bodies and iron-like hair made them incredibly durable. They never flee or back down.
- Destructive and dangerous – Boars voraciously tear up fields and gore prey with small, deadly eyes. They were rightfully feared.
- Important game animal – Hunting boars tested bravery and skill. Boar meat was a prized food source.
- Forest dwellers – Boars ruled the woods and symbolized the fertility and resources of the wilderness.
- Golden beauty – The rare sight of their golden hair evoked the sun, gold, and divine blessing.
These traits reveal why boars like Hildisvíni and Gullinbursti were so exalted. They embodied the Norse ideals of courage, strength, danger, and sacred, vibrant life emerging from the forest.
- Hildisvíni was the golden boar mount and companion of the goddess Freyja in Norse Mythology.
- He appears in the eddic poem Hyndluljóð, assisting Freyja on a quest to uncover ancestral knowledge.
- Hildisvíni may have been Freyja’s human lover Ottar transformed by magic into a boar.
- A historic king wore a boar-crested helmet named Hildisvíni, invoking the boar’s power in battle.
- Boars were sacred animals to the Norse, representing key virtues like bravery, strength, and fertility.
- The golden boars of Freyja and Freyr reflected their royal, solar divinity ruling over wealth and nature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Hildisvíni and Gullinbursti the same boar?
No, Hildisvíni and Gullinbursti are two separate magical golden boars in Norse myth. Though they have similar qualities, Hildisvíni is Freyja’s boar while Gullinbursti belongs to her brother Freyr. They were likely crafted separately by the dwarf brothers Dáinn and Nabbi.
If Hildisvíni’s name in Old Norse means “battle swine”, why is he typically depicted as a boar?
Although his name contains the word “swine”, Hildisvíni is generally considered to be a boar rather than a domestic pig. The Old Norse word “svine” was likely used as a broad term for boars. Also, Freyja’s title “Sýr” (sow) connects her boar to swine. Translators possibly chose “boar” to convey Hildisvíni as a wild, magical creature rather than a farm pig. Moreover, boars had special significance in Norse culture over other swine. So while his name is ambiguous, the contexts point to Hildisvíni being Freyja’s divine boar companion.
What was the role of Hildisvíni in Norse myth?
Hildisvíni was the golden boar companion and mount of the goddess Freyja. He aided her on a journey to uncover ancestral knowledge in the poem Hyndluljóð.
How did Hildisvíni get his name?
His name means “battle swine” in Old Norse, referring to the legendary courage and fierceness of the boar. This suits his role as Freyja’s magical protector and helper.
What were some key symbolic traits of the boar in Norse culture?
Boars were admired for courage in battle, physical strength, fertility, importance as game animals, their destructive power, and mystical golden hair or bristles.
Who made Hildisvíni according to the myths?
Like his counterpart Gullinbursti, Hildisvíni was crafted by the masterful dwarf artisans Dáinn and Nabbi who made many treasures.
Did Hildisvíni appear outside of Norse myth?
Yes, a king wore a helmet named Hildisvíni in a famous battle. This invoked the boar’s power and protection in war.
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