Hyndla, Patron of Genealogists

I think the Norse giant Hyndla (“She-Dog”) must surely be the Patron of Genealogists. In Hyndluljód (Lay of Hyndla), the hero Óttarr has recklessly bet his entire inheritance that his ancestry is more illustrious than Angantyr’s. Now he needs to prove his ancestry so he can claim his inheritance. He’s been a devoted worshiper of the goddess Freyja so she takes up his cause. She disguises Óttarr as her boar Hildisvíni, then she rides him to meet Hyndla. Freyja forces Hyndla to reveal Óttarr’s ancestry, and to give him a memory potion so he will remember what she tells him.

Hyndla parts with her information grudgingly, but reveals quite a bit of information, including Óttarr’s direct paternal ancestors.

Hyndla spake:
12. "Thou art, Ottar, | the son of Instein,
And Instein the son | of Alf the Old,
Alf of Ulf, | Ulf of Sæfari,
And Sæfari's father | was Svan the Red.

Svan might have been an important genealogical figure, although nothing about him survives except his name and place in the genealogies. Nor is is it clear who Óttarr might have been, or what purpose is served by recording his genealogy.

Ættartolur, the genealogy section of Hversum Noreg byggdist, says Svan’s sister was Svanhild, who married Finnalf the Old, an ancestor the Norwegian kings.

“Finnalf the Old married Svanhild, who was called Gold-Feather. She was the daughter of Dag Dellingson, and Sola, daughter of Mundilfara. Their son was Svan the Red, father of Saefara, father of Ulf, father of Alf, father of Ingimund and Eystein” (Ættartolur).

This piece is conventional Norse mythology. Svan and Svanhild are children of Dag (Day) and Sól (the Sun). Dag is son of Delling (Dawn or Day-Spring, the Shining One) and Nótt (Night). Sól and her brother Máni (the Moon) are children of Mundilfari (the World Mill).

Viktor Rydberg, a 19th century writer, speculated that Óttar is another spelling for Freyja’s husband Óðr. He identifies Freyja with Menglöð and Freyja’s husband Óðr / Óttarr with Svipdagr.

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