Thursday, 20 September 2012

Ullr

Here is a detail that I do not remember noticing before. In Poul Anderson's War Of The Gods (New York, 1999), a character swears, "By Ull the Hunter..." (p. 128).

Summaries of Norse mythology inform us that there was an archer god called Ullr but that no stories about him survive. The Prose Edda describes him as son of Sif and stepson of Thor. He seems an ideal character to be adapted into a new series of stories.

There is another obscure archer god, the Etruscan Usil. Roy Thomas, creating Axis super villains for the DC Comics Young All-Stars, included Usil as representing Fascist Italy. Another source describes Usil as the Etruscan equivalent of Helios, the Greek god of the sun, and does not highlight his archery.

Superhero teams, kind of modern pantheons, include super-speedsters (equivalents of Mercury) and archers and even, of course, an updated Thor. Ullr - or Ull, assuming that this is the same guy, - seems a perfect character to adopt/adapt since he has little or no back story for any new version to contradict.

Meanwhile, Anderson's meticulous attention to detail is revealed yet again when, placing an oath in the mouth of a character, he revives this obscure divine name rather than just relying on the familiar Odin or Thor.

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