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Njörun

Njörun

Njörun (Norse: Njǫrun) was a little-known (presumably Vanir) goddess of Norse mythology, attested only in the Edda in Prose and in some kenningar of the Poetic Edda. Scholars believe that her name is etymologically related to the male god Njörðr and the proto-Germanic Nerthus and that she could be the personification of the earth or Njörðr's sister-wife.

Attestations

In Snorri's Edda Njörun is enumerated in the list of the Aesir, but no other information is given about her. Other attestations of the name recur in kenningar denoting women, found in the Krákumál, Íslendinga saga, Njáls saga, and Harðar saga, and in works by other poets. Examples of kenningar are Eld-Njörun (Njörun of fire) and Draum-Njörun (Njörun of dream).

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Theories

Njörun is a mysterious figure about whom nothing is known and who is suspected to be only a later invention. Other scholars have speculated that the name comes from the root njǫr, which originates from Nerthus, the Proto-Germanic earth goddess described in Tacitus, and from which Njǫrðr is derived. Initially perhaps Njǫrðr was thus a female deity of the earth, later transformed into a male and patron of the sea.

Another theory is that Njörun may simply be the female counterpart of Njǫrðr, from whom he takes his name. A similar process occurred, for example, in Mycenaean religion where the names of the wives of the gods were rendered feminine (Diwe/Diwio/Zeus → Diwia).

Similarly, Njǫrðr may have given rise to Njörun with the addition of the suffix -un. As has been noted, however, Njörun and Gefjun are the only Norse goddesses to present this suffix, and Gefjun is not paired with another god. The other divine pairs presenting the same etymology are Fjörgyn and Fjörgynn, Ullr and Ullinn, and the High-Germanic deities Phol and Volla (later Fulla).