The Lady of Winter

When I was looking up goddesses involved with justice, I came across a reference to Skadi, who was regarded as the Norse goddess of justice, as well as revenge. Neither one was her primary function, however. She was mostly known as the goddess of winter, and the ice and snow that came with it. The goddess was also famed as a huntress with the bow and a skier, often depicted as doing both at the same time.

Hey, isn’t that how Michael Kennedy died? She’s sometimes associated with snowshoes as well as skis, and if they’d existed back in the age of the Vikings, she probably would have been connected to snowboards as well.

The best-known myth involving Skadi begins when her father, the giant Thiazi, steals the golden apples of the Hesperides. No, wait, that’s Greek mythology. In Norse mythology, the goddess Idun was the keeper of the apples of youth, which kept the gods young. Thiazi blackmailed Loki into helping him kidnap Idun, but the trickster later stole her back and returned her to Asgard. Thiazi pursued Loki, but was killed by the Aesir. Skadi journeyed to Asgard hoping to avenge her father’s death, but Odin refused to fight, instead offering to pay her off. She didn’t want money, but accepted the offer of a godly husband and a good laugh. Loki provided the laugh by tying his testicles to a goat and being pulled around by the animal (Skadi would have loved America’s Funniest Home Videos or Jackass), and the snow goddess was to pick her husband only by his legs. She wanted to marry Baldur, but ended up with the sea god Njord instead. They had marital trouble almost immediately, however, because Njord wanted to live in his palace by the sea, and Skadi wanted to live in her father’s old home in the mountains. The two agreed to divide their time between the two places, but they both hated the other one’s home so much that they eventually split up.

The general consensus seems to be that Skadi then married Ullr, the son of Sif and god of agriculture and dueling, who shared the snowy woman’s love for skiing and archery. Some sources say, however, that she had children with Odin. Perhaps both are true.

Several websites mention that Skadi was almost certainly the model for Hans Christian Andersen’s frigid-hearted Snow Queen, although she was more evil than Skadi ever was in Norse mythology.

That’s the Christian take on pagan religion, I suppose. Since Skadi was a rival for the worship of God, she became a follower of Satan, if not a representation of the Evil One himself, in the view of the newer religion. The Snow Queen, in turn, was probably the source for C.S. Lewis’ even more reprehensible White Witch Jadis, also a representation of winter and the temptress of a young boy.

This page also draws another connection between Jadis and Skadi, namely that they were both descended from giants. I would imagine that both Andersen and Lewis would have been quite familiar with the Norse origins of this wintry woman.

This entry was posted in C.S. Lewis, Christianity, Chronicles of Narnia, Fairy Tales, Mythology, Norse, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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