This illustration, attributed to the Hungarian artist Jacques Reich (1852–1923), was produced around the year 1900 for Sarah Powers Bradish’s book, Old Norse Stories. Reich’s image depicts the Norse god, Freyr (or Frey), a deity of fertility and good harvests. In the god’s hand is a magical blade, described by the Icelandic historian, Snorri Sturluson (c. 1179-1241), as a sword “so good that it fought by itself” (Prose Edda, Gylfaginning, chapter 37). As for the boar standing behind the god, it was called Gullinbursti (Gold Bristle) or Slíðrugtanni (Sheathed Tooth). This creature was gifted to Freyr by two dwarf craftsmen named Eitri and Brokk. The boar, itself, was strong enough to pull a chariot, but it also had innate magical properties. Snorri Sturluson described how the creature earned its name, Gold Bristle, writing, “night or day it could race across the sky and over the sea better than any other mount. Furthermore, night would never be so murky nor the worlds of darkness so shadowy that the boar would not provide light wherever it went, so bright was the shining of its bristles” (Prose Edda, Skaldskaparmal, chapter 5).
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, translated by Jesse Byock. New York: Penguin Classics, 2005.