Norse mythology, Ullr is a son of Sif and a stepson of Thor.
While extant sources are scant he appears to have been a major god in
prehistoric times, or even an aspect of the head of the Proto-Germanic
pantheon, mentioned on the 3rd century Thorsberg chape.
In Skáldskaparmál, the second
part of the Prose Edda, Snorri mentions Ullr again in a discussion of
kennings. Snorri informs his readers that Ullr can be called
ski-god, bow-god, hunting-god and shield-god. In turn a shield
can be called Ullr's ship. Despite these tantalising tidbits
Snorri relates no myths about Ullr. It seems likely that he
didn't know any, the god having faded from memory. Snorri's note
that a shield can be called Ullr's ship is borne out by surviving
skaldic poetry with kennings such as askr Ullar, far Ullar and kjóll
Ullar all meaning Ullr's ship and referring to shields. While the
origin of this kenning is unknown it could be connected with the
identity of Ullr as a ski-god. Early skis, or perhaps sleds,
might have been reminiscent of shields. A late Icelandic
composition, Laufás-Edda, offers the prosaic explanation that Ullr's
ship was called Skjöldr, "Shield".
Modern Icelandic Ullr is usually referred to as Ullur. In the
mainland Scandinavian languages the familiar form is Ull, without the
nominative case marker -r. The latter form is sometimes used as
an anglicization, as is Uller.
know the feeling-you are on your skis working the rhythm, enjoyin' the
speed, and suddenly for a few turns, you feel immortal. The
feeling is difficult to describe but perhaps you sensed a little
inspiration from Ullr, the god of choice among Scandinavians and
backcountry snow lovers alike.
Ullr, a.k.a. Uller, Ullin, Holler, Vulder, and Ull, is
a pre-Viking era Nordic god and he kept fine company with the likes of
Odin, Thor, and other esteemed deities. Among his many skills, he
was the god of skiing, archery, hunting, and was known to be quite
promiscuous (which he may have inherited from his mother Sif, the
Goddess of Fertility). Sure, Ullr had some neat traits but in our
world of plastic boots, cap skis, laser sights, and Viagra, it's easy
to dismiss them as the quaint skills of some randy old god.
Nevertheless, think back to the days when being noted as a master
archer was no slight task.
At the time, Ullr was
competing with the likes of Thor, who brandished a hammer capable of
shooting lightning bolts in battle (sort of like skiing old Karhu XCD's
while your buddy is on a pair of AK Launchers). Then there was
Loki the trickster, who could assume the form of animals to deceive or
escape the wrath of the gods. Despite his lack of supernatural
powers (aside from skiing), Ullr was the name invoked to warrant good
luck when undertaking a duel. His name, which means glorious or
dazzling, clearly reflects his abilities, and myth has it he once held
the seat of the highest god. His character and the legends
associated with it are pervasive throughout the historic tales of the
Vikings, Goths, Saxons, and ancient Britons. Basically, Ullr
In addition to dueling, gods were also
known to have a penchant for good times, and Ullr, when he was not out
making fresh tracks, was known to flirt with the Goddesses on a regular
basis. His sexual prowess is legendary and if modern pop culture
is any indication, then the goddesses may well have been sporting horns
and pointy metal bras - necessitating some smooth talkin' and delicate
moves on Ullr's part (and you thought the obstacle course on Survivor
was tough). As an historical aside: Ullr's sexual prowess seems
to support archaeological evidence that polypropylene underwear has not
existed until recent times given the effect sweaty polypro has on most
folks' amorous inclinations. However, most important to us snow
lovers, Ullr is the god of skiing. As the undisputed master of
skis, he often used his skill to escape from foes or track down prey in
addition to shredding fresh POW. In a sport intimately tied with
Scandinavian tradition, it is no wonder that in Norway there are a
number of place names that incorporate the name of Ullr.
the days of Ullr, skis were not entirely what we'd recognize
today. In fact, what we know as skis probably did not evolve
until the last century. In the time of the gods, skis were akin
to two planks of wood - one wrapped with cord to provide
traction. As people were often hunting or at war, a single ski
pole was often used, allowing a free hand for a weapon.
is said that Ullr was such a great skier that he would streak across
the sky leaving the brilliant stars as his trails (they obviously had
some fine powder days). Though very skilled, Ullr guarded his
knowledge closely and refused to show the other gods how to ski.
Luckily for us, he let the secret out of the bag and we will all be
soon celebrating his glory. Next time you are trying to bash
through some wind crust or plunge head first into fresh waist deep
powder, be sure to invoke his name and remember - ULLR RULES!