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Idunn: Guardian of Youth

Idunn is a Norse goddess, the guardian of a sacred fruit that provides immortality to the Aesir. There are several accounts of Idunn in the Prose Edda where she is often described as possessing child-like trust, giving her a sense of naivety. The first account of Idunn is in the Gylfaginning of the Prose Edda, where Idunn is referred to as the wife of Bragi, a god skilled in poetry and knowledge. Here, it mentions Idunn keeps the sacred fruit of the Aesir within a carved wooden box. Every day until the final battle of Ragnarok, the Aesir must eat these apples to remain youthful (although, apples arrived late to Iceland and more likely these were tree nuts, similar to Irish lore). In a later section of the Prose Edda, the Skaldskaparmal, a retelling of a legend about a bargain struck between Loki and the powerful frost giant, Thjazi. Loki promises to lure Idunn and the fruit away from Asgard. In bringing Idunn to Thjazi, the giant takes her to his fortress Thrymheim. During Idunn’s absence and, without the daily renewal of their youth, the Aesir quickly weaken and age. The Aesir question Loki over Idunn’s disappearance and Loki bargains to retrieve Idunn if Freyja gifts him the magic to change form into a falcon. After agreement, Loki flies to Thrymheim during Thjazi’s absence. Finding Idunn alone, Loki changes her into a nut before flying back to Asgard with Idunn in his talons. The Aesir see Thjazi in pursuit of Loki, the giant guised as an eagle. Quickly, the Aesir light a large fire with barely enough time for Loki to return safely into the Asgard fortress. Following closely behind Loki, Thjazi is unable to safely land and still in eagle-form, is burned by the flames and killed by the Aesir.