Nine Daughters Of The Sea
Updated: Apr 25
In Norse mythology, there are Nine Daughters of the Sea. They are the Billow Maidens and each of their names represents different waves.
The Nine Daughters Of The Sea And Their Family Tree
The ancient jötnar Ægir and his wife Rán represent the sea. They are the parents of the Billow Maidens - also known as the Nine Daughters of the Sea.
Attestation of Ægir exists throughout the Poetic Edda, Prose Edda and Skaldic poetry. These include: Lokasenna, Griminsmal, Sonatorrek, Hymiskviða, Hundingsbana 1, Skáldskaparmál and Hyndluljóð. In the Lokasenna you can see he and Gymir are the same individual. On that note, he is also called "Hlér - whom we call Ægir" in the Hversu Noregr byggdisk (How Norway Was Settled).
Ægir plays a major role as a great host of the gods in Lokasenna and Grímnismál. He is also mentioned in Hymiskviða as a renowned host among the gods. In many, he is listed as a jötnar.
In the Prose Edda, Ægir is mentioned in the Skáldskaparmál as taking a large journey from the island now called Hlér’s Island or island Læsø in Denmark. This journey takes him to the Æsir where he is well received by the gods. It reveals Ægir has a lot of magical knowledge, and his wife Rán is a völva who traps those at sea with her net. Together they have nine daughters. In the Sonatorrek, the 10th century Skald, Egill Skallagrímsson mentions Ægir and his wife Rán. The writer lost his son to the sea. He said he would fight Ægir and Rán with a sword if he could for that offence. This clearly depicting Ægir and Rán representing the Sea.
The Orkneyinga saga, Ynglinga saga and Hversu Noregr byggdisk (How Norway Was Settled), Ægir's father and brothers are introduced. His father's name is Fornjótr. Fornjótr is most commonly interpreted as forn-jótr which is an ancient or primordial jötunn.
In one source Fornjótr is a jötunn. In the others he is the king ruling over Gotland and Jutland. His sons are Logi ('fire'), Kári ('wind') and Hlér ('sea'), "whom we call Ægir." This makes the Nine Daughters of the Sea descendants of a jötunn and a goddess, nieces of wind and fire, and granddaughters of an ancient or primordial jötunn. Some scholars link these nine daughters with the Nine Mothers of Heimdallr. The Nine Mothers of Heimdallr are referred to as sisters, much like the Billow Maidens. This would mean Heimdallr was born from the waves of the sea. Unfortunately, there seems to be as many differences as similarities between these two groups of sisters so say anything with certainty.
The Nine Daughters Of The Sea: Names & Meanings
According to the Skáldskaparmál, the names of the Nine Daughters of the Sea are: Blóðughadda (bloody hair), Bylgja (wave), Dröfn (wave), Dúfa (wave), Hefring (rising wave), Himinglæva (sky gleaming), Hrönn (wave), Kólga (cold wave), and Uðr (wave).
In this poem, some of the names change from what's listed in the beginning of it. Dröfn is also named Bára, Hefring is Hevring, and Uðr is Unn. Although the above names include the more general translation, the meaning of the names are theorized, but nothing can be said for certain. One of the more detailed theories include:
Blóðughadda: Bloody hair - maybe conveying the wispy appearance of water streaming from the crest of the wave
Bylgja: Billow (rolling wave)
Dröfn or Bára: Comber, wave
Dúfa: Pitching wave
Hefring or Hevring: Rising wave
Himinglæva: Transparent wave
Hrönn: Welling wave
Kólga: Cold wave
Uðr or Unn: Frothing wave
Characteristics Of The Sisters
The Daughters of the Sea appear to be dreaded and terrifying. If you are at sea, you wouldn't want to encounter them. In the Poetic Edda. The poem Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, the following is written:
Kólga's sisters are heard crashing. The sound as if the swells and bluffs were bursting;
Ægir's dreaded daughters trying to overthrow their stay-bridled sea-steeds (ship); and,
"Ægir's terrible daughter" is referenced as a great wave.
Other Possible Links
Many theorize that the Eddic Poem Hyndluljóð (1100s) uses alternative names the Nine Daughters of the Sea, telling us of the nine mothers of Heimdallr (Heimdall). Here Heimdallr's name is Óttarr. From the translation of J. Klapper, stanzas 24 and 35 state: Óttarr was born at the beginning of days, a miracle of strength and of godly tribe. Nine mothers gave birth to him at the edge of the world, and they granted him peace. These mothers are the Jotun, Aegir's daughters. Here Aegir's name is Oagir, and the daughter's representing Ocean waves are named:
Jarnsaxa (Uðr or Unn)
Evolution: Ægir Becomes Njörðr
Later, Sólarljóð (1200s), The nine daughters of the sea Jotun Ægir turns into the nine daughters of the sea god Njörðr. In the translation from J. Klapper, stanza 79, Njörðr's name is spelled Niörd. It reads, "These are the runes that were carved by Niörd's nine daughters. Radwör the oldest and Kreppwör the youngest, with their seven sisters."
Did You Know...
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Note: A lot of these sources are included in collections of the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, but listed below are free readings for your convenience. Note that every translation may alter slightly.
The Orkneyinga saga
Hversu Noregr byggdisk (How Norway Was Settled)
Names: The Prose Edda, Skáldskaparmál
Hyndluljóð Scholarly Interpretations:
Lindow, John. 2002. Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515382-0
Simek, Rudolf. 2007 . Translated by Angela Hall. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer. ISBN 0-85991-513-1
Faulkes, Anthony. Trans. 1995 . Edda. Everyman. ISBN 0-460-87616-3
Andreas Zautner. 2021. The Lunisolar Calendar of the Germanic People's: Reconstruction of a bound moon calendar from ancient, medieval and early modern sources. ISBN 3-753-407-232 (13.2) Page 166.
Andreas Zautner. 2021. The Lunisolar Calendar of the Germanic People's: Reconstruction of a bound moon calendar from ancient, medieval and early modern sources. ISBN 3-753-407-232. (13.3) Page 167.