In Chapter 7 of Eyrbyggja saga we are told how Thorolf, the first gođi of Thorsness pledged his chield to Thor:

Thorolf Most-beard married in his old age, and had to wife her who is called Unn; some say that she was daughter of Thorstein the Red, but Ari the Learned, son of Thorgils, numbers her not among his children. Thorolf and Unn had a son who was called Stein; that lad Thorolf gave to Thor his friend, and called him Thorstein, and the boy was very quick of growth.

Now, apparently,the child was not sacrificed or anything, he just got a new name. My questions are:

  • Was this practice prevealent? We hear of extremely many ThorX-s (Thorgerd, Thorhall, Thorkell, Thorbiorn, etc...), but it is never mentioned that they would explicitly given to Thor.

  • Were Thorolf fatherly rights in part transferred to the god?

  • Did they expect any special benefits or obligations to be bestowed on the child? (Other than growing fast)

  • 2
    No. The previous chapters in the saga make it clear that Thorolf was a priest of Thor and was considered the god's friend. He dedicated fields and fells to him too. – b.Lorenz Jun 10 '18 at 9:46
  • I don't have the background to make a full answer, but I'd guess it might be like other dedications, such as the horse Freyfaxi in Hrafnkel's saga. It's implied Freyfaxi had a spiritual connection with Frey (first being uncannily smart, and second being killed in a ritual manner normally used for a witch). But this is guesswork at best. Most of the Thorsteins and Thorvalds in the sagas display no special piety. But many Norse did invoke Thor as a more personal god, as shown by his mythological role, the Thor-names, and the cross-like hammers. It seems like a way to draw his attention. – Random Jun 10 '18 at 17:36

The practice seem more or less untestified outside the Eyrbyggja saga. The saga deals with religious matters to an unusual degree, and is in fact one of the more importantsources for religious practices, even if it was written by a Christian long after the events and should be treated carefully. Thus, questions about how common this was can not be answered.

As for special status, my impression is that Thorsteinn was expected to be friend of Thor in a similar manner as Thorolf had been. Compare how "Thorolf" was actually named "Rolf" (chapter 3). Also, see how he named the isthmus "Thorsnaess" without it taking on any deeper significance, but the mountain he thought was sacred and surrounded with taboos, he called "Helgafjell", "holy mountain" (chapter 4).

The names starting with Thor were, however, unusually common in that family. I believe this can be compared with similar modern practices: while you would not necessarily think someone named "Grace" had particularly devout parents, if all siblings had virtue names, the odds are different.


Apart from the Eyrbyggja saga, in Swedish translation by Mikael Males, I've consulted Britt-Mari Näsström Fornnordisk religion and H R Ellis Davidson's Gos and Myths of Northern Europe; while both discuss some aspects of the saga, the dedication of Thorsteinn is not one of them.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.