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The Walling of Asgard and the Birth of Sleipnir
The Walling of Asgard and the Birth of Sleipnir

The Walling of Asgard and the Birth of Sleipnir

In a Nutshell

You don’t have to read very much Norse mythology before you get a bit weirded out. These stories can be seriously strange and wacky. Sometimes, it’s not so much the plot of the stories themselves, but the little details, that raise eyebrows. Isn’t it a little crazy – and very gross – that, in Norse mythology, the whole race of giants (called Jotun) grew out of another giant’s armpit? Talk about bad b.o. Or consider that, during Ragnarok, the enemies of the gods will supposedly be ferried by a ship made entirely of dead peoples’ toenails. How did they think this stuff up?

Somewhat less gag-worthy, but still very weird, is Odin’s preferred mode of transport. If you’ve read the myths about "The Death of Balder" or "Thor and the Jotun Hrungnir," you may have noticed that Odin gets around on an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. Sleipnir’s pretty awesome. Odin uses him to outrun Hrungnir and trap him in Asgard. Sleipnir’s also the only horse that can carry his rider to the Underworld, Hel. Sleipnir’s general awesomeness explains why Odin calls him "the best of horses" and prefers him to any other ride. But you might still be wondering about where Sleipnir came from. And, oh yeah, why the heck does he have eight legs?

Well, inquisitive Shmooper, you’re in luck. Because, unlike the armpit-origin of the Jotun race or the ship made entirely of toenails, Odin’s eight-legged horse has a thorough explanation in Norse mythology – a whole story, in fact. It turns out, Sleipnir’s the offspring of a stallion named Svadilfari and the trickster-god, Loki.

The story of Sleipnir’s origin also explains the huge wall around Asgard, and adds yet another reason to the long list of reasons that the gods and giants hate each other so much. So, if you want to impress people with your deep understanding of Norse mythology, this story is a pretty important one to know. After you read our guide, you’ll never again have to wonder where the eight-legged horse named Sleipnir came from. As for the ship made entirely of toenails? Sorry, can’t help you there.

Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this myth connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop

Germanic Literature

Horses as Symbols of Sexuality

Magical Animal-Like Creatures

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