According to a Norse myth, a man named Mundilfari had two beautiful children—a daughter and a son. Inspired by the beauty of his children, Mundilfari gave his son the name of Mani (or Moon) and named his daughter Sol (or Sun). The Norse gods took offense that a man named his children after the beautiful celestial objects, the sun and moon, so the gods stole the children and put them in charge of their namesakes. Sol was given the task of driving the chariot of the sun across the sky and her brother Mani kept the moon in motion while also overseeing the lunar cycle.
Despite being taken from their father and sentenced to manage the sun and moon until the end-times, there is more to the story of Sol and Mani. For extra incentive to keep the sun and moon in motion, two wolves born by a giantess prowled the heavens in pursuit of Sun and Moon. In the works of Snorri Sturluson, when wise Odin was asked about why the sun races so quickly across the sky, he bluntly explained, “There are two wolves, and the one who is chasing her is called Skoll. He frightens her, and will eventually catch her. The other is called Hati Hrodvitnisson. He runs in front of her trying to catch the moon. And, this will happen” (The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) by Snorri Sturluson. Translated by Jesse Byock, Penguin Classics, 2005).
Like most of the deities in Norse mythology, even the Sun and the Moon were doomed to die during the end-times of Ragnarok. At least Norse myth provided a glimpse of hope—for after Ragnarok a daughter of the Sun would continue her slain mother’s daily journey across the sky to illuminate the new world.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.
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- The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, translated by Jesse Byock. New York: Penguin Classics, 2005.