Norse mythology is full of enchanted objects that enhanced the powers of the Viking gods.
One such object was Draupnir, a powerful ring that belonged to the god Odin, the king of the Norse gods.
But why was Odin’s ring an important object in the Nose world?
Odin’s ring Draupnir, which means “dripper” in old Norse, as well as being a beautiful object of fine craftsmanship, had the power to multiply itself. Every ninth day, eight identical rings would “drip” from the first.
This could make the owner of the ring very wealthy, and help them confirm their power as it was common for Viking lords to give wealth to their followers in order to secure their support.
This made it the perfect gift for the king of the gods, the ultimate Norse patron.
Origins of Odin’s Ring
Like most of the fantastical objects of Norse mythology, Draupnir was made by the norse dwarves, the master craftsmen of the Norse cosmos. Draupnir was one of six enchanted objects made by the dwarves in response to Loki the god of mischiefs cutting off the golden hair of Sif, Thor’s wife.
According to the story, as a prank Loki cut off the beautiful golden hair of Sif, which shone like golden wheat. The angry Thor demand that Loki replace the hair with something as beautiful, or face the consequences. Loki travelled to Svartalfheim, the land of the dwarves, in search of a solution.
There he encountered the brothers Ivaldi, who agreed to make a wig of gold for Sif that would be enchanted to grow on her head like hair, as well as two further wonders to help Loki appease the angry gods. They also made Gungnir, the spear of Odin that never missed its mark, and Gullinbursti, a golden boar that was given to the god Freyr.
But Loki, always on the look out for mischief and a chance to get one over on someone else, was not satisfied with just three treasures.
While in the land of the dwarves he also visited the brothers Brokkr and Sindri, telling them that everyone knew that they could not produce treasures as fine as the Ivaldi, and challenging them to prove him wrong. The brothers agreed to the challenge, saying that they would make three treasures for the gods even finer than those of the Ivaldi.
But suspicious of Loki, they said that if they won, they would want Loki’s head. Always confident of his ability to outwit everyone, Loki agreed, and then put his energy into sabotaging the brothers to ensure that their gifts were fine, but inferior.
In the end, the brothers Brokkr and Sindri produced Odin’s ring Draupnir, Skidbladnir, a ship that was large enough to carry all the gods and their horses in full armour, but which also folded up like a piece of paper to be carried by the owner, and Mjolnir. Because of the distractions caused by Loki, Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, arrived with a shorter handle than the craftsmen had intended, but it was still deemed by the gods to be the greatest of the six treasures presented to them.
Loki, unwilling to pay the price, said to the dwarves that he had promised them his head, but not his neck, and that they could not very well take one without the other. With the consent of the other gods, the dwarven brothers satisfied themselves with sewing Loki’s mouth shut. Though this does not seem to have lasted very long, as Loki’s fast tongue is free in all other Norse stories.
Draupnir in Norse Mythology
Aside from the story of its creation, Draupnir is only mentioned in passing in other stories from Norse mythology. In the story of the death of Balder, Odin placed Draupnir according to the Gylfaginning on the funeral pyre of his son Balder as a sign of respect.
Later, when Hermodr travelled to Helheim to try and bargain for Balder’s life, Balder gave Draupnir to him to return to Odin in order to provide proof of their encounter.
In another story, Freyr seems t o have become the possessor of Odin’s ring, and offers Draupnir to his servant Skirnir as payment for wooing the giantess Gerdr on his behalf. Skirnir refuses Odin’s ring, only accepting the sword of Freyr, which has the magical ability to fight by itself, as payment.
Norse Rings and Tolkien
While we know that J.R.R. Tolkien was very inspired by Norse culture when producing his epic, The Lord of the Rings, it is not in fact Odin’s ring Draupnir that inspired Tolkien’s ring of power. This was another ring acquired by Loki, called Andvaranaut.
This ring belonged to the dwarf Andavari, and had a similar power to Odin’s ring to replicate itself, giving the smith an unlimited source of gold for his work. Loki stole the ring from the dwarf, who then cursed it to bring misfortune to anyone who came to possess it.
The ring also had an intense attraction, and even Odin coveted the ring for himself when he saw it. Loki passed the ring onto the dwarf Hreidmarr and his family in payment for accidentally killing his son Otr. The family was eventually torn apart by their desire for the ring, with son killing father and brother killing brother.
So, what do you think of Odin’s ring Draupnir, and what would you do if you possessed it?