Gerd (Gerðr): The Jötunn Goddess and Wife of Freyr

gerd norse mythology
Gerd, also known as Gerðr or Gerth, was an earth goddess of fertility. As described in the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, she was one of the most beautiful jötunn giantesses in Jotunheim. She was so charming that she made the god Freyr lovesick when he spotted her from afar.

While their love story isn’t the thing that love songs are made of, their union was quite influential in the Viking age. As the wife of Freyr, she would later give birth to Fjölnir, who would become a legendary Icelandic king in Norse mythology.

Let’s look at who Gerd was and her love story with the Vanir god Freyr.

Gerd’s Background

Gerd is the daughter of Aurboda and Gymir. There isn’t much that is known about Gerd’s parents. We know that they were both giants, and they were described in the Gylfaginning as the parents of Gerd and nothing more.

After some persuasion, she eventually married the Vanir god Freyr and gave birth to a son, Fjölnir.

Is Gerd a jötunn?

Yes, Gerd is a jötunn.

She lived in the icy region of Jotunheim, one of the nine realms of Norse mythology connected under the roots of Yggdrasil. Jotunheim existed long before the Æsir gods of Asgard.

When the Asgardians took control of the realms, they became hostile to the jötunn. Gerd’s ties to the jötunn make her love story with Freyr even more contentious.

Gerðr refuses Skírnir's offer of eleven golden apples and the ring gift as illustrated (1895) by Lorenz Frølich.
Gerd refuses Skirnir’s offer of eleven golden apples and the ring gift as illustrated (1895) by Lorenz Frølich

Gerd’s Attestations in Old Norse Literature

One of Gerd’s most compelling attestations tells the tale of her and Freyr’s love story in the poem Skírnismál in the Poetic Edda.

The Story of Gerd and Freyr in Norse Myths

One day, the Vanir (and also Æsir) god Freyr snuck into Odin’s house and sat on his throne Hliðskjálf. From there, he could look down onto all nine realms and become captivated by the beautiful goddess Gerd. He fell lovesick after spotting her and refused to eat, drink, sleep, or talk after gazing upon her beauty.

Freyr’s father, Njord, asks his servant Skirnir to get to the root of Freyr’s silence. Knowing the tension between Asgard and Jotunheim, Freyr laments that the two could never be together. To help, Skirnir offers to send a proposal to the fair jötunn on Freyr’s behalf in exchange for his magic sword (Spoiler: since Freyr gave his weapon to Skirnir, he dies weaponless at Ragnarök).

At first, Skirnir asks Gerd’s hand in marriage on Freyr’s behalf, and she declines. Then, he offers her eleven golden apples and Odin’s golden ring Draupnir. Still, she refuses. Skirnir threatens Gerd with a curse from secret runes as a last resort. This threat works, and Gerd agrees to marry Freyr.

In the Lokasenna, Loki accuses Freyr of forcing Gerd’s hand in marriage and even notes that he gave away his weapon for love. Loki posits that at the end of the world, Freyr will be weaponless and die. And Loki is correct in his assumption.

The Heimskringla details Gerd and Freyr’s fate after their marriage. Once wed, Freyr serves as the king of Sweden. They give birth to a son that will continue in their Ynglings family line.

Skyrnir and Gerda - Illustration by Harry George Theaker for Children's Stories from the Northern Legends by M. Dorothy Belgrave and Hilda Hart, 1920
Skirnir and Gerd – Illustration by Harry George Theaker for Children’s Stories from the Northern Legends by M. Dorothy Belgrave and Hilda Hart, 1920

Gerd in Skáldskaparmál

While the love story of Gerd and Freyr is her claim to fame within the sagas of the Norse gods, it doesn’t end there. Some scholars have theories that Gerd’s relationship with the Norse gods doesn’t end with Freyr.

In the Skáldskaparmál, Snorri Sturluson describes Gerd as a rival to Frigg because she slept with Odin. In contrast, some scholars believe that Snorri misinterpreted the Norse word Gríðr (which may translate to impetuosity) for Gerðr. It may be lost in translation, but Odin is out of character to take on many partners outside of Frigg.

Tara Summerville

Tara is a freelance writer deeply involved with history in general, old mythology and Vikings in particular. She enjoys sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee reading books on Norse myths, deities and the fantastic stories behind each and every Norse god. Her fascination with mythology began as a child; spending afternoons at her grandma’s house going through the library in search of history and mythological books. She has since carried her love of mythological stories into adulthood also studying diverse aspects of the Viking culture in general.

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