Norse mythology is filled with enduring stories that provide many people with links to their past through shared legends. These tales have survived down the ages, and many of them have wound up in our music and pop culture (such as the lyrics of songs by Viking metal bands like Amon Amarth, and in comics and video games such as Marvel’s Thor series and the game Too Human). However, sprinkled through the stories of battle and betrayal, love and loss are tales of powerful weapons, enchanted items, and magical tools that helped the Norse gods achieve their victories. Below is a list of many of the items which are mentioned most often throughout the myths.
Perhaps one of the most famous, not to mention the most powerful, magical items in Norse myth is Thor’s war hammer Mjolnir. The name of the hammer, roughly translated, means Destroyer or Crusher. It was said that when thunder rolled, Thor did battle with the giants and the sounds of his hammer blows reverberated over the mountains. Mjolnir was made by the dwarves and presented to the gods as part of a contest instigated by the trickster god Loki, and it was Loki trying to influence the outcome that lead to a single mistake which made the hammer’s handle too short. However, short or not, Thor needed to wear both his gauntlets of strength and his belt of power in order to lift and wield the hammer.
Another famous weapon made by the dwarves (as were most of the gods’ great treasures) was Odin’s spear Gungnir. The spear (or the spear head, depending on the legend) was made as part of the same contest as mjolnir. It was said that the spear always flew true, and that it would cleave any flesh or armor upon finding its mark. Gungnir would always return to the hand that threw it, a property that it shared with Mjolnir.
The ring Draupnir was another of Odin’s great magical items. Draupnir was a gold ring that, every day, it would create a duplicate ring on the next finger. After nine days (nine being a very important number in Norse mythology) the other rings could be removed, and Draupnir’s regeneration trick would begin all over again. Draupnir, like Mjolnir and Gungnir, was a gift from the dwarves.
To round out the gifts given during Loki’s famous contest, the dwarves made three other, powerfully magic items. One was the longship Skidbladnir, which could hold a full contingent of men, sail over seas and even air in some descriptions, and when empty it could be folded up and put into a pocket. The ship was a gift to the god Frey, as was Gullenbursti, a magical boar which was a symbol of Frey who was the masculine god of creation and king of the light elves. One of the other famous items was Sif’s golden hair (a literal description in this case) which was meant to replace the original locks that had been shorn by Loki as a very ill-received practical joke. In some legends, due to Loki’s treachery, the gold of Sif’s hair turned to black iron to represent Loki’s double dealing.
Another legendary item, also dwarven made, was Brisingsamen, or the Necklace of Brisings, that was worn by Freya. Freya is the goddess of beauty and the leader of the Valkyries, and when she saw the necklace she agreed to spend a night with each of the four dwarven craftsmen in order to procure the item. The necklace is a representation of Freya as a goddess of fertility and the seasons, and it was said to make her even more beautiful than she already was. Freya was also supposed to possess a cloak of falcon feathers (whose origin isn’t usually discussed) which was often borrowed by Loki when he was up to his tricks.
The sword Tyrfing, which was once the property of the one-handed god of bravery and war Tyr, is an item that was said to actually exist at some point. This sword, which would cut through any armor, assured the wielder victory in his goals. The sword also cursed the owner to betrayal and downfall whenever it was used. This sword is reputed, according to the book “Myths of the Norsemen,” to have been used against the Romans, and lost after their empire crumbled.
Rounding out the list (which isn’t complete, but which has hit on many of the major items) was Gjallahorn, which was the property of Heimdall. Heimdall was the ever-vigilant watcher who stood gate near the bifrost bridge, and who watched as all comers entered and left Asgard. Gjallahorn was a huge, golden horn that, on the last day and beginning of Ragnarok, Heimdall would blow to call everyone to the battle and to begin the end of days.
There are of course many different items that are used and named at one point or another by the Norse gods. This list is only touching on those which are most often named, and which are also the most well known of the treasures and tools that the pantheon wielded in legend.