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Sleipnir: the legendary horse of Odin

Sleipnir Horse the legendary steed of Hodin from Folklore

SLEIPNIR: THE LIGHTNING HORSE

Sleipnir is an eight-legged horse from Norse mythology, and it is said to be the fastest of all horses, as it can ride the sky, the waters and through the worlds on Yggdrasil branches.

Some say that Sleipnir has runes on its teeth, but no one has ever managed to get close enough to know for sure.

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THE BIRTH OF THE SLEIPNIR

The original deal

This horse’s father is Svaðilfœri, a stallion owned by an unnamed builder who offered to built a wall to protect the Gods from giants, their sworn enemies since the beginning of times, asking as a reward the goddess Freya, the Sun and the Moon. The Gods accepted, prompted by Loki, but putting some restriction on the builder, giving him 18 months, till the beginning of Summer, to complete his work.

The builder only asked permission to use his horse as a help, and the Gods, advised by the trickster god, accepted again. Svaðilfœri was a very strong horse, hauling huge rocks, and doing quite half the work of the builder, leaving the Gods speechless. As Summer approaches, they understood that they may really lose their beloved goddess along with the sun and the moon, so they almost collectively blamed Loki for this, being the one that pushed them into accepting this pact.

The Loki's Plan

Hearing the threats thrown at him, he got scared and promised to find a solution to the problem. Summer was almost there, just three days before its beginning, when Loki’s plan took action.

He changed his appearance, becoming a mare, and ran up to the stallion, taking him into the woods. The builder, angered, chased him all day and all night, delaying his work. The god repeated the same act for three days, successfully avoiding the fulfillment of the accord. 

Wrathful, the man revealed himself to be a giant too, calling the Gods vile oath-breakers and tried to fight them, his anger for being played prevented him from noticing the thunder god, the giant-slayer throwing his hammer to him. He fell dead, leaving the Gods to finish their wall alone. 

Loki was not seen for almost a year, and when he returned he was followed by a gray foal, with eight legs instead of the usual four. It grew to be a beautiful creature, fast and strong on its hooves, it was named Sleipnir, meaning “the one who fastly slips” or “the slipper”. Loki gifted it to Odin, calling him the best horse among men and gods. This horse won’t let anyone ride him, the Allfather the only allowed on its back, but he will let a mighty warrior ride him, if Odin orders so.

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RECENT FOLKLORE

In northern Iceland there is the horseshoe-shaped nanyon Ásbyrgi located in the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, according to which it was created by the hoof of the horse Sleipnir. In Norway he was represented with Odin on the relief of a famous Norwegian sculptor and painter Dagfin Werenskiold outside Oslo Town Hall.

There are also stories that mention his name, being popular in northern Europe.

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