Jewelry in Mythology – Brisingamen

I thought that I would try something a little bit different and write some posts about jewelry in mythology.  You know, famous necklaces and whatnot that appear in the stories of cultures in the past.  Today I will start with the Norse myth of Brisingamen, a necklace and the goddess Freya who loved it.

Freya, along with her brother Frey, was a fertility goddess who belonged to the Vanir, but lived with the Aesir faction of the Norse gods.  As well as being a fertility goddess, she was also a goddess of battle.  She was beyond beautiful and had no problem getting men to do things for her.  Over time, Freya began to have a great longing for gold.  She had seen the many treasures that Loki (a trickster God) had brought back from the Giants and she wanted some for herself.

One night, she snuck away from her husband and went in search of the Giants.  She came across four Dwarves who possessed the most beautiful necklace ever created.  They had made it of gold, rubies, and amber and Freya had to have it.  The Dwarves made a bargain with her.  She could have the necklace if she slept with each of them.  Freya was disgusted, but then she looked upon the necklace, Brisingamen, again and she told them that she would comply.

When she returned from spending her time with the Dwarves, she found that her husband had disappeared.  She searched many years for him, but she was never to find him.  She had first coveted Brisingamen for its beauty and would wear it to dazzle all who would look on it, but now she wore it like a collar, showing her weakness and loss.

There are many versions of this story, as there are with most myths, but this captures the gist of it.  I know that it isn’t the most uplifting tale of jewelry and mostly perpetuates the idea that women will do anything for riches, but it does show the importance of necklaces in the past.  The interesting thing is, while I was doing research for this story, I came across a website with a board game based on it called “Freya’s Folly“.  Here’s their description of it:

You are a dwarf craftsman making jewelery of silver and precious gems. Use your team of dwarfs to mine jewels and set these into settings of fine silver which you can sell to earn prestige among your peers. Of course the grander the jewelery, the greater the prestige; but you have a quota to fill so you must work quickly. Various magical potions and abilities are available through the black market to aid you but you will need to use them wisely.

Freya, on the other hand, would like you to complete part of the Brisingamen for her. If you do this, she will reward you with favours in the form of free action tokens which you can use to help you achieve your goal. If all four parts of the Brisingamen are completed then your unspent tokens could well be worth more than the grandest jewelery. Will you be tempted by Freya’s offer and turn your hand to crafting part of the Brisingamen?

Sounds interesting, but slightly changes the Dwarves’ reward, huh?

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