U is for Ullr

Ullr (pronounced “ULL-er,” often Anglicized as “Ull,” and also occasionally referred to as “Ullinn”) is an obscure and enigmatic Norse god. References to him in Old Norse literature are sparse and tell us little to nothing about his personality or role in pre-Christian religion and mythology. Nevertheless, these passing references indicate that he was once a deity of considerable importance, even if we don’t know why.

–from Norse Mythology for Smart People by Daniel McCoy

Okay, I admit it. I picked U is for Ullr because I couldn’t find any other name that begins with U. The only place name I could come up with is Uppsala, but that’s in Sweden, and I will be traveling to Norway. And most of the resources I could find having to do with Uppsala are disputed by others.

So I’m sticking with Ullr or Ull. He is listed among the gods in the Poetic Edda. He was the son of Sif and the step-son of Thor. He was known for his skiing and his archery skills. But there are no known stories that include him.

But even he has made his mark on modern culture.

Ski patrols in parts of Europe wear a medallion with Ullr’s image, on skis, and carrying a bow and arrow. Breckenridge, Colorado, hosts a Ullr fest each January, supposedly to gain his favor and plenty of snow for the rest of the skiing season. There is even a New Zealand TV program that ran from 2011 to 2013, The Almighty Johnsons, based on the premise that a man woke up on his 21st birthday and discovered he and his family were reincarnated Norse gods who don’t yet know how to control their powers. And Ullr was one of the gods in the main character’s family. Clearly important.

And there are many place names in Norway that include his name, something for me to look for during my travels there.

For the tiny bit of information on Ull in the Poetic Edda, see stanzas 5, 42, Grimnismol, The Ballad of Grimnir; notes for stanza 30, Hyndluljoth, The Poem of Hyndla; stanza 32, Atlakvitha En Grönlenzka, The Greenland Lay of Atli

Image credit: Public Domain, Link

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