Elli – Norse Goddess And Symbol Of Old Age That No One Ever Could Defeat

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A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - The story about Elli is a very powerful Norse myth that teaches us many important things.  Old Age has always frightened both humans and gods according to Norse beliefs.

Therefore it is vital that we can continue to have strength in our old age and Elli, Norse goddess of Old Age reminds us about it.

Elli goddess in norse mythology

Snorri Sturluson tells his story in Prose Edda book “Gylfaginning”. We meet Elli and the trickster god Loki, this time, as the giant Utgarda-Loki (or Loki of the Outyards") and the ruler of the castle Útgarðr in Jötunheimr.

One day, Thor visited Utgard-Loki (also known as ‘Skrymir’), the strongest and the most cunning of the giants, in his mighty Utgardr castle.

To test Thor’s strength, Utgard-Loki challenged him to wrestle the old giantess Elli, rather than the strong men of Utgard-Loki’s bodyguard.

Elli seemed to be the weakest of the nurses of Utgardr and Thor believed it’s an easy match to defeat her, so he accepted the challenge.

Thor struggled long and hard to defeat her but surprisingly, the old woman stood fast.

Finally, she put a hold on him to drive him to the ground and Thor fell to one knee. Thor, the brave god who could fight many giants was almost defeated.

Then suddenly, Utgard-Loki ended the match and explained how meaningless it was to fight further with his people.

A depiction of Elli, wrestling Thor (1919) by Robert Engels.. Image via Wikipedia

A depiction of Elli, wrestling Thor (1919) by Robert Engels.. Image via Wikipedia

The next morning, before Thor’s departure, Utgard-Loki accompanied him on the way and asked what he thought of his visit to the castle.

Thor was humiliated because of the contest. In response, Utgard-Loki said that he deceived him in the contest.

See also:

The Golden Apple Myth And The Goddess Idun Of Scandinavia

God Loki – Trickster And Wizard Of Lies In Norse Mythology

Brave And Mighty Thor: Thunder God In Norse Mythology

More Myths And Legends

“In the wrestling you contested with Old Age, who defeats everyone, despite their strength,” Utgard-Loki said.

“No one can defeat Elli, the personification of Old Age. And now we must part, and it will be better if we do not meet again.

"Be warned that I will always defend my castle with similar tricks."

No one can defeat old age and remain young, forever. The gods in Asgard made several attempts to stay young and they managed to do it but it was only artificially - with the help of magical golden apples of Idun.

Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer

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Jones V. Charles, Medieval Literature in Translation