Ran (Old Norse: Rán [ˈrɒːn]) is, in Norse mythology, the wife of the jǫtunn Ægir and mother of nine daughters (who are the probable mothers of Heimdallr). She is a goddess of the sea, living with her husband in an underwater hall. She captures sailors and drowns them in her net, which she gives temporarily to Loki, so he can capture Andvari the dwarf.
Rán is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled during the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda, written during the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; in both Vǫlsunga saga and Friðþjófs saga hins frǿkna; and in the poetry of skalds, such as Sonatorrek, a 10th-century poem by Icelandic skáld Egill Skallagrímsson.
The Old Norse common noun rán means 'plundering' or 'theft, robbery'. In turn, scholars view the theonym Rán as meaning, for example, 'theft, robbery'. On the etymology of the theonym, scholar Rudolf Simek says, "although the meaning of the name has not been fully clarified, Rán was probably understood as being 'robber' ... and has nothing to do with [Old Norse] ráða 'rule'.
Because Rán is a personification of the sea, skalds employ her name in a variety of kennings to refer to the sea. Examples include Ránar-land ('Ran's land'), -salr ('Rán's hall'), and -vegr ('Rán's way'), and rán-beðr ('the bed of Rán') and meaning 'the bed of the sea'.
Rán and Ægir receive mention in the poem Sonatorrek attributed to 10th century Icelandic skáld Egill Skallagrímsson. In the poem, Egill laments the death of his son Böðvar, who drowned at sea during a storm:
Mjǫk hefr Rán rykst um mik;
Nora K. Chadwick translation:
In one difficult stanza later in the poem, the skald expresses the pain of losing his son by invoking the image of slaying the personified sea, personified as Ægir (Old Norse ǫlsmið[r] 'ale-smith') and Rán (Ægis man 'Ægir's wife'):
Bjarni Einarsson translation:
Rán receives three mentions in the Poetic Edda; twice in poetry and once in prose. The first mention occurs in a stanza in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, when the valkyrie Sigrún assists the ship of the hero Helgi Hundingsbane as it encounters ferocious waters:
Henry Adams Bellows translation
- But from above did Sigrun brave
- Aid the men and all their faring;
- Mightily came from the claws of Ron
- The leader's sea-beast off Gnipalund.
Carolyne Larrington translation
- And Sigrun above, brave in battle,
- protected them and their vessel;
- the king's sea-beasts twisted powerfully,
- out of Ran's hand toward Gnipalund.
In the notes for her translation, Larrington says that Rán "seeks to catch and drown men in her net" and that "to give someone to the sea-goddess is to drown them."
Henry Adams Bellows translation:
Carolyne Larrington translation:
Finally, in the prose introduction to Reginsmál, Loki visits Rán (here rendered as Ron) to borrow her net:
- [Odin and Hœnir] sent Loki to get the gold; he went to Ron and got her net, and went then to Andvari's fall and cast the net in front of the pike, and the pike leaped into the net.
Translator Henry Adams Bellows notes how this version of the narrative differs from how it appears in other sources, where Loki catches the pike with his own hands.
The Prose Edda sections Skáldskaparmál and Háttatal contain several references to Rán. Section 25 of Skáldskaparmál ("How shall sea be referred to?") manners in which poets may refer to the sea, including "husband of Ran" and "land of Ran and of Ægir's daughters", but also "father of Ægir's daughters".
Standardized Old Norse
Anthony Faulkes translation
The section's author comments that the stanza "[implies] that they are all the same, Ægir and Hler and Gymir. The author follows with a quote from another stanza by the skald that references Rán:
Chapter 33 of Skáldskaparmál discusses why skalds may refer to gold as "Ægir's fire". The section traces the kenning to a narrative surrounding Ægir, in which the jötunn employs "glowing gold" in the center of his hall to light it "like fire" (which the narrator compares to flaming swords in Valhǫll). The section explains that "Ran is the name of Ægir's wife, and the names of their nine daughters are as was written above ... Then the Æsir discovered that Ran had a net in which she caught everyone that went to sea ... so this is the story of the origin of gold being called fire or light or brightness of Ægir, Ran or Ægir's daughters, and from such kennings the practice has now developed of calling gold fire of the sea and of all terms for it, since Ægir and Ran's names are also terms for the sea, and hence gold is now called fire of lakes or rivers and of all river-names."
Vǫlsunga saga and Friðþjófs saga hins frǿkna
In the legendary saga Friðþjófs saga hins frœkna, Friðþjófr and his men find themselves in a violent storm, and the protagonist mourns that he will soon rest in Rán's bed:
Eiríkr Magnússon and William Morris translation (1875):
The protagonist then decides that as they are to "go to Rán" (at til Ránar skal fara) they would better do so in style with gold on each man. He divides the gold and talks of her again:
- Faulkes (1998: 250) and discussion in Simek (2007 : 260).
- Simek (2007 : 260).
- Guðbrandur Vigfússon (1874: 487–488).
- Bellows (1936: 299–300). Bellows renders Old Norse Rán as Ron throughout his translation.
- Larrington (1999 : 118).
- Davidson (1999 : 279, 280).
- Bellows (1936: 281).
- Davidson (1999 : 127).
- Bellows (1936: 358–359).
- Faulkes (1995 : 91).
- Faulkes (1998: 37).
- Faulkes (1995 : 91). Formatted for display. This stanza appears quoted a second time later in Skáldskaparmál, for which see Faulkes (1995 : 140).
- Faulkes (1998: 92).
- Faulkes (1998:95). The chapter continues with discussion regarding the development of these kennings and the concept of allegory.
- Faulkes (1998: 157).
- Byock (1990: 58).
- Friðþjófs saga ins frækna at Norrøne Tekster og Kvad, Norway.
- Eiríkr Magnússon and Morris (1875: 84).
- Eiríkr Magnússon and Morris (1875: 86).