The name Borr means son or born. He's the son of Buri, the primeval god freed from a salty ice slab by the ancient cow (Auðumbla).
Borr, Bör, or Burr, however you choose to spell it, is one of the least-known figures in Norse mythology. Interestingly, he’s only mentioned twice from the vast collections of the Norse gods.
He’s quoted in:
- Völuspá, verse four
- The second writing of the Prose Edda (Gylfaginning), chapter six.
So, what do we know about Borr, or Bör, or Burr?
Who Is Borr in Norse Mythology?
Borr is a Norse god. He’s the father of Odin and the grandfather of Thor and Loki.
Let’s consider him under the following headings;
From the two sources, the Poetic Edda and Völuspá, he’s the son of Buri.
Quote from Gylfaginning (second section of the Prose Edda):
Búri begat a son called Borr, who wedded the woman named Bestla, daughter of Bölthorn, the giant; and they had three sons: one was Odin, the second Vili, the third Vé.Gylfaginning – Sacred Texts
Buri; He’s the father of all gods.
Similar to his son (Borr), little is known about him. Although, there is one fascinating account of him mentioned in the Prose Edda; He was rescued from a salty ice block by a cow, which licked the ice for three days. How he got himself there, we’re not told. His wife or his origin, we also don’t know.
As indicated by Snorri Sturluson, author of the Prose Edda, Borr had a wife named Bestla, daughter of Bölþorn. She was a frost giant and alleged to be Mimir’s sister, the wisest of the gods.
Bestla and Borr had three sons; Odin, Vili, and Vé. Odin was the eldest, followed by Vili; the lastborn was Vé.
The sons are categorized as the mightiest gods in Norse mythology. However, of the three, Odin, the father of Thor, is the greatest and most known.
They’re the first Asgard gods. They’re the ones who killed the great Ymir, the father of giants, and created the earth.
Quote from Völuspá, verse four:
Then Bur’s sons lifted the level land, Mithgarth the mighty there they made; The sun from the south warmed the stones of earth, And green was the ground with growing leeks.Voluspa 1-5; Voluspa Org
To the first humans (Ask and Embla), they gave them life and soul (Odin), intelligence, and the ability to feel (Vili); countenance, sight, speech, and hearing (Vé).
Character and Abilities
There is no surviving writing that tells us what Borr looked like or what kind of abilities he possessed. Yes, there is a lot of information from Norse comics about him: a great warrior with unmatched strength and the first king of Asgard.
However, there is no proof of these attributes in the old Norse stories.
Scholars’ Interpretation of Borr: The Father of Odin
There are two scholarly interpretations of Borr in Norse mythology;
- Finnur Magnússon’s understanding, and
- Jacob Grimm’s hypothesis
Both explain how the Vikings and the Germanic people might have viewed Borr.
Finnur Magnússon’s Interpretation
Magnússon was a 19th-century Icelander; he was a scholar and an archaeologist. He viewed Borr and Bestla as the mountain (or mountain chain) from which the Scandinavian people originated.
Magnússon suggested the Caucasus Mountains, which in Persian is called Borz, genitive to the name Bor.
Bestla, on the other hand, signified the snow on the mountain’s summit.
Finnur Magnússon later abandoned the above interpretation in preference for another. In his Lexicon Mythologicum, Magnússon interpreted Borr and Bestla to mean earth and ocean, respectively, and their sons to mean;
- Odin, he interpreted as the spirit of the world
- Vili as the sky and the heavenly lights, and
- Vé as fire
Jacob Grimm’s Interpretation
Grimm was also a 19th-century scholar. He equated Borr with Mannus from the writings of Tacitus, the roman historian. Grimm’s reason for likening Borr to Mannus was due to their similarity in function.
Mannus was the son of Tuisto, and he had three sons, similar to Borr’s story. So, as Mannus is seen in the Germanic theogony as the progenitor of the Germanic people, Grimms concludes the same with Borr. He’s the progenitor of the Vikings.