People love ranking things. Search for Top Ten lists on the internet and you will get results for everything from the FBI’s top 10 fugitives to 10 bizarre theme parks from around the world. Writing such a list in this day and age seems to be a quick way to open yourself up to criticism. Luckily the internet was not around when the sagas were written and Grimismol told us all about the various best things in Norse mythology.
The Best of Food
Stanza 18 tells us about the magical boar Sæhrimnir, who has a confusing name since it means sooty sea-beast. This beast is cooked up by the chef “Sooty” in his huge cauldron “Fire-sooty” every night and supplies enough food to feed the entire host of Einherjar. Every morning the boar is reborn and ready to provide another night of delicious food.
The Best of Ships
Skithblathnir belonged to Freyr. The name means “wooden-bladed” and whenever its sails were raised a fair wind would appear to take the ship to its destination. The dwarves created this ship and although it is big enough to hold all of the gods and all of their weapons it can be folded down until it is small enough to fit in one’s pocket.
The Best of Trees
Yggdrasil, The World Tree earned this honor. Considering that this ash tree stretched from the depths of Hel all the way up to the heights of Asgard, that is no surprise.
The Best of Gods
Othin, or Odin, was called the greatest of gods. Some researchers have made the argument that Thor was more of a friend and guardian to the race of man than Odin. There is some merit to that argument but you should keep two things in mind. First of all, Odin was the ruler of the gods. Secondly, the poem Grimnismal is told from the point of view of Odin in disguise – who else is he going to say is the greatest?
The Best of Steeds
Sleipner, the eight-legged horse of Odin earns this distinction. Sleipner was born of Loki when the Trickster changed himself into a female horse to trick the giant who was building the walls of Asgard but Loki gave him to Odin. The grey horse was amazingly fast and even bore a rider down to Hel on more than one occasion. His name has worked its way into a number of kennings such as sea-slepnir – meaning a fast boat.
The Best of Bridges
Bifrost, sometimes appearing as Bilrost, is the rainbow bridge that connects Midgard and Asgard. The red color of the bridge is supposedly from flames that set the water beneath it to boiling. Bifrost is very strong and was constructed with incredible skill, but as good and strong as this bridge is there are two things it can not withstand: the chariot of Thor, god of Thunder; and the assault of the “sons of Muspell” during Ragnarok.
The Best of Skalds
Bragi, one of Odin’s sons, has this honor. It is not surprising since his name comes from the Norse word for poetry. He was sired by Odin while the ruler of the gods was stealing the mead of poetry from the giants. One of the things I find unusual is that Bragi was reported to be the only god that was welcome in all of the worlds. Everyone loves a good story or a sweet song and this god’s ability to share both of these things earned him friends wherever he went.
The Best of Hawks
Hobrok, or Hábrók, is reported to be the best of hawks, but unfortunately we have no other mention of him or her in the myths at all.
The Best of Hounds
Garm is the blood-stained hound that guards the gates to Hel. When Ragnarok comes he will burst his chains and run loose upon the world until he meets up with the god Tyr and the two of them slay each other. It is interesting that they choose a Hel-hound for the best of the category. Instead of going with a faithful companion animal or possibly a guardian type dog, Grimnismal basically chooses a monster for the best of hounds.