Edward Pettit

Published On


Page Range

pp. 235-286

Print Length

51 pages

10. Freyr, Heorot and the Hunt for the Solar Stag

  • Edward Pettit (author)
Chapter 10 continues to examine the mythology of Freyr by focussing on his connection with the stag. Freyr, having lost his sword, used an antler to slay a giant. Since he was shining when he did so, his antler may well have been solar. Comparably, Hroðgar is associated with the stag through his lordship of, and implicit identification with, his hall Heorot ‘Hart’, which shone in a manner suggestive of the sun. An identification of Hroðgar with a stag hunted by hounds and with an antler-hilted(?) sword—the giant sword—hidden in Grendel’s mere is implied by a punning passage describing a stag-hunt shortly before Beowulf enters the mere. Supporting these suggestions, Pettit adduces evidence for the concept of a solar stag more widely in early Europe, along with Old Norse myths about the hunting and devouring of the sun by wolfish lunar eclipse-monsters. Pettit argues that these may include an old female giantess and her son, a pitchfork-wielding wolf-troll, in the Eddic poem Vǫluspá ‘The Prophecy of the Seeress’, and the earliest surviving detailed depiction of Ragnarǫk, the Norse apocalypse, carved on the Viking Age Gosforth Cross in Cumbria, England. Pettit ends with traditions about the folkloric Man in the Moon, who, Pettit suggests, stole beams of sunlight.


Edward Pettit