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Aurvandil is a figure in Germanic mythology. In Norse mythology, Aurvandil's toe, who had frozen while he was carried in a basket across the Élivágar rivers by Thor, was made into a star by the thunder-god. He is also described as the husband of the witch Gróa.[1][2] In wider Germanic mythology, most sources portray him as the personification of a star. He was known as Ēarendel in Old English, as Orentil in Old High German, and probably as Auriwandalo in Lombardic[3] and as auzandil in Gothic (𐌰𐌿𐌶𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌹𐌻; translating the Koine Greek ἑωσφόρος, 'dawnbringer' and referring to the morning star, Venus).[4]



A Latinized version, Horvandillus, is given as the name of the father of Amleth in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum.[3][1]

Auriwandalo is attested as a historical Lombardic prince. The German Orentil (Erentil) is son of a certain Eigel of Trier and has numerous adventures in the Holy Land. A historical Orentil was a Bavarian count, recorded in the year 843. The name is reflected in toponymy, in the name of the village Orendelsall (now part of Zweiflingen municipality).[citation needed]


The Old Norse name Aurvandil derives from a Proto-Germanic form reconstructed as *Auza-wandilaz,[3] *Auzi-Wandalaz,[5] or *Auzo-wandiloz.[6] The name is a compound whose first part goes back to *auzi- 'dawn', a combining form related to *austaz 'east', cognate with Ancient Greek ēṓs 'dawn', Sanskrit uṣā́s, Latin aurōra, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂éuso-s 'dawn'.[citation needed]

The second element has been variously interpreted as *wandila- ('beard'),[7] or as coming from *wanđilaz, a derivative of *wanđaz (cf. Old Norse vandr 'difficult', Old Saxon wand 'fluctuating, variable', English wander), from *wenđanan which gave in English wend.[citation needed] The origin may be the name of a star or planet, likely the morning star (Eosphoros). The word 'planet' also means wanderer.[citation needed]

It is cognate with Old English Ēarendel ('morning star, dawn, ray of light'),[2] with Old High German Orentil and Middle High German Orendel, the name of a hero, and with the Lombardic personal name Auriwandalo.[3]

According to scholar John Lindow, the linguistic relation between the Germanic personal names may suggest a common myth depiste the absence of Aurvandil from the Poetic Edda.[2]

Mythological figure[edit]

Jacob Grimm (1835) emphasizes the great age of the tradition reflected in the mythological material surrounding this name, without being able to reconstruct the characteristics of the Common Germanic myth. Viktor Rydberg in his Teutonic Mythology (1886) also assumes Common Germanic age for the figure.[8]

Gothica Bononiensia[edit]

The oldest attestation of this name occurs in the Gothica Bononiensia, a newly-discovered (2009) sermon in the Gothic language from Ostrogothic Italy. This sermon, and the manuscript bearing it, was written not later than the first half of the sixth century,[9] although the sermon include quotes from the Gothic Bible which dates back to the mid-fourth century, to which this attestation can thus also be dated. Here, linguist P. A. Kerkhof suggested the reading auzandil for a difficult-to-read part of the manuscript, which is a palimpsest. This reading has been accepted by various experts (Schuhmann[10], Falluomini[11]) and so far seemingly opposed by none. The name occurs on folio 2 recto, in the context of a quotation from Isaiah 14:12. It translates the word ἑωσφόρος from the Septuagint, which in Latin is rendered Lucifer (not in the sense of Satan, but rather that of the morning star):

... ƕaiwa usdraus us himina auzandil sa in maurgin urrinnanda ...
... how Lucifer did fall from heaven, he who emerges in the morning ...

Orendel poem[edit]

The epic poem about a king Orendel or Erentel is preserved in the Heldenbuch tradition. King Erentel, son of Eigel is rescued at sea by a mysterious fisherman, Eisen. Erentel goes on to take the fisherman's magical coat, and his wife Breide.[12][13][14]

Chronicon Lethrense and Gesta Danorum[edit]

Horwendill is the name of a Jutish chieftain in Chronicon Lethrense and in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum (book 3). Saxo Grammaticus states that Horvendill and Feng were the sons of Jutland's ruler Gervendill, and succeeded him as the rulers of Jutland. On his return from a Viking expedition in which he had slain Koll, king of Norway, Horvendill married Gerutha, the Danish king Rørik Slyngebond's daughter, who bore him a son Amleth (cf. Hamlet). But Feng, out of jealousy, murdered Horvendill, and persuaded Gerutha to become his wife, on the plea that he had committed the crime for no other reason than to avenge her of a husband by whom she had been hated. The Chronicon Lethrense (and the included Annales Lundenses) tell that the Danish king Rorik Slengeborre installed Horwendill and Feng as rulers in Jutland, and gave his daughter to Horwendill as a reward for his good services. In this version, too, a jealous Feng kills Horwendill and takes his wife.

Prose Edda[edit]

Aurvandil is mentioned once in Norse mythology, in Skáldskaparmál, a book of Snorri Sturluson's 13th century Prose Edda:

Thor went home to Thrúdvangar, and the hone remained sticking in his head. Then came the wise woman who was called Gróa, wife of Aurvandill the Valiant: she sang her spells over Thor until the hone was loosened. But when Thor knew that, and thought that there was hope that the hone might be removed, he desired to reward Gróa for her leech-craft and make her glad, and told her these things: that he had waded from the north over Icy Stream and had borne Aurvandill in a basket on his back from the north out of Jötunheim. And he added for a token, that one of Aurvandill's toes had stuck out of the basket, and became frozen; wherefore Thor broke it off and cast it up into the heavens, and made thereof the star called Aurvandill's Toe. Thor said that it would not be long ere Aurvandill came home: but Gróa was so rejoiced that she forgot her incantations, and the hone was not loosened, and stands yet in Thor's head. Therefore it is forbidden to cast a hone across the floor, for then the hone is stirred in Thor's head.

Guesses as to the identity of this star have included the polestar, the planet Venus, Sirius and the star Rigel which forms the toe of the constellation Orion, though if Aurvandil is to be identified with the constellation Orion one would expect to find Aurvandil himself being translated into the sky, not just his toe.

Crist I[edit]

In the Old English poem Christ I are the lines (104–111):

éala éarendel engla beorhtast
ofer middangeard monnum sended
and sodfasta sunnan leoma,
tohrt ofer tunglas þu tida gehvane
of sylfum þe symle inlihtes.
Swa þu, god of gode gearo acenned,
sunu soþan fæder swegles in wuldre[15]

Hail Day-Star! Brightest angel sent to man throughout the earth, and
Thou steadfast splendour of the sun, bright above stars! Ever Thou dost
illumine with Thy light the time of every season. As Thou, begotten God
of God, Son of the True Father, without beginning ...

— (From the Kennedy modern English Translation) [16]

The name is here taken to refer to John the Baptist,[citation needed] addressed as the morning star heralding the coming of Christ, the "sun of righteousness". Compare the Blickling Homilies (p. 163, I. 3) which state Nu seo Cristes gebyrd at his aeriste, se niwa eorendel Sanctus Johannes; and nu se leoma thaere sothan sunnan God selfa cuman wille, that is, "And now the birth of Christ (was) at his appearing, and the new eorendel (morning-star) was John the Baptist. And now the gleam of the true Sun, God himself, shall come."

J. R. R. Tolkien[edit]

J. R. R. Tolkien was inspired by references in the Crist poem,[citation needed] deriving both the character Eärendil, also associated with the morning star, and his use of Middle-earth from it (see Sauron Defeated p. 236f.). The Quenya phrase, "Aiya Eärendil, elenion ancalima!", literally "Hail Eärendil, brightest of stars!", bears a strong similarity to the line "Hail Earendel, brightest of angels" in Crist I, even so far as to use the same syntax as the Old English version.

In a personal letter given in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (page 385) Tolkien talks of his understanding of the word, saying that

it at least seems certain that it belonged to astronomical-myth, and was the name of a star or star-group. To my mind the Anglo-Saxon uses seem plainly to indicate that it was a star presaging the dawn (at any rate in English tradition): that is what we now call Venus: the morning star as it may be seen shining brilliantly in the dawn, before the actual rising of the Sun. That is at any rate how I took it on first encountering the word, in 1914.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Orchard 1997, p. 11.
  2. ^ a b c Lindow 2001, p. 65.
  3. ^ a b c d de Vries 1962, p. 20.
  4. ^ Hostetter, Carl F. (1991). "Over Middle-earth Sent Unto Men: On the Philological Origins of Tolkien's Eärendel Myth". Mythlore. Article 1. 17 (3).CS1 maint: location (link)
  5. ^ Hatto, Arthur T. (1965). Eos: An enquiry into the theme of lovers' meetings and partings at dawn in poetry. Walter de Gruyter. p. 70. ISBN 978-3-11-170360-2.
  6. ^ Haralds Biezais and Åke Ström, Germanische und Baltische Religion (1975), p. 139
  7. ^ Birkhan 1974, p. 34.
  8. ^ Rydberg, Viktor; Anderson, Rasmus B. (2004) [1886]. Undersökningar i germanisk mythologi, första delen [Teutonic Mythology]. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7661-8891-4.
  9. ^ Falluomini, C., 'Zum gotischen Fragment aus Bologna', Zeitschrift fur deutsches Altertum und Literatur 143 (2014) pp. 281-305, relevant section at p. 286
  10. ^ Schuhmann, R., "A linguistic analysis of the Codex Bononiensis", in: Auer and De Vaan eds., Le palimpseste gotique de Bologne. Études philologiques et linguistiques / The Gothic Palimpsest from Bologna. Philological and Linguistic Studies (Lausanne 2016) pp. 55-72, relevant section at p. 56
  11. ^ Falluomini, C., 'Zum gotischen Fragment aus Bologna II: Berichtigungen und neue Lesungen', Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und Literatur 146.3 (2017) pp. 284-294, relevant sections at pp. 288-291
  12. ^ Ker, W. P. "Notes on Orendel and Other Stories." Folklore 8, no. 4 (1897): 289-307. Accessed May 10, 2020.
  13. ^ Meyer, Elard Hugo. "Über Das Alter Des Orendel Und Oswalt." Zeitschrift Für Deutsches Alterthum 12 (1865): 387-95. Accessed May 10, 2020.
  14. ^ Laistner, Ludwig. "Der Germanische Orendel." Zeitschrift Für Deutsches Altertum Und Deutsche Literatur 38 (1894): 113-35.
  15. ^ Christ A, B, C
  16. ^ Christ A, B, C : Kennedy modern English Translation


Further reading[edit]

  • Beechy, Tiffany. "Eala Earendel: Extraordinary Poetics in Old English." Modern Philology 108, no. 1 (2010): 1-19. doi:10.1086/656221.
  • Dumézil, Georges. (1970). HORWENDILLUS ET AURVANDILL. In: Échanges et communications. December 1970. pp. 1171-1179. DOI: 10.1515/9783111698281-027.
  • Grimm, Jacob, Teutonic Mythology (1844), 347-349.
  • Hostetter, Carl F. "Over Middle-earth Sent Unto Men: On the Philological Origins of Tolkien's Eärendel Myth." Mythlore 17, no. 3 (65) (1991): 5-10. doi:10.2307/26812595.
  • Laistner, Ludwig. "Der Germanische Orendel." Zeitschrift Für Deutsches Altertum Und Deutsche Literatur 38 (1894): 113-35.
  • Tarcsay, Tibor. ""Chaoskampf", Salvation, and Dragons: Archetypes in Tolkien's Earendel." Mythlore 33, no. 2 (126) (2015): 139-50. doi:10.2307/26815994.