Is Odinsleep Found in Norse Mythology?


Although the phenomenon wasn’t profoundly explored in the Marvel movies, Odinsleep is an integral part of Odin’s (and later Thor’s) storyline in the Marvel Comics. Viewers get a taste of it in the original Thor movie when Odin falls into Odinsleep while he and Loki are arguing about Loki’s heritage. But does it derive from Norse mythology?

Odinsleep is not something that appears in Norse mythology; it’s entirely an invention of Marvel. It’s covered more in-depth in the Marvel comics, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) also touches on it in the first Thor movie. 

This article will further explore Odinsleep in more detail. It will also provide the reader with more information about the Odin of Marvel comics, the Odin in the Marvel movies, and the Odin of Norse mythology. 

Odin Norse god
What Is Odinsleep? See below

What Is Odinsleep?

Odinsleep is the deep, lengthy slumber Odin falls into periodically whenever he depletes his magic and needs to ‘recharge his batteries,’ so to speak. It’s what allows him to wield the Odin-Force and perform such extraordinary feats of magic.

This Youtube video discusses both the Odinsleep and the Odin-Force in great detail: 

After Thor becomes the new All-father in the comics, he, too, has access to the Odin-force. As a result, he, too, must undergo the same sleep, now called Thorsleep, to help replenish his magical abilities. [1]

Is There Anything Similar to Odinsleep in Norse Mythology?

There’s not really anything like Odinsleep in the original Norse myths. There are no magical, coma-like sleeps or anything else that Odin must do to regain magical abilities after he’s used too much magic. He did have to hang on Yggdrasil for nine days to gain his knowledge of rune magic, though. [2]

It may be possible for some people to draw parallels between those two events, as hanging on the tree for nine days would result in a nine-day period of inactivity and probably a near-death experience. It’s even likely that he went in and out of lucidity and consciousness during his time on the tree. 

This event is the closest thing to Odinsleep the Norse tales ever describe.

Thor Norse god
What is Odin like in the Marvel Universe? See below

What Is Odin Like in the Marvel Universe?

In the Marvel Universe, Odin, the All-father, is strong, powerful, and an amazing warrior who learned to understand and crave peace in his later years. He’s stern but fair, patient but private, and very wise. He’s strong, fast, and has lived for thousands of years. He’s also a loving, proud father. 

However, there are differences between Odin in Marvel Comics and Odin in the Marvel movies.

Differences Between Odin in the Comics and Odin in the Movies

One of the most significant differences concerning Odin between the comics and the movies is how he lost his eye. In the original Thor, Odin loses his eye in a battle with the frost giants, specifically with Laufey, the king of the frost giants. [3]

In the comics, though, Odin sacrifices his eye willingly in exchange for knowledge. This story more closely aligns with the way Odin lost his eye in Norse mythology. 

Thor’s ascension to the throne of Asgard also happens very differently in the movies than it does in the comics. In the movie version of events, Thor and Loki find Odin living on earth, weak and half-crazed, after Loki banished him there and stole his throne. Shortly after, Odin dies – or vanishes into dust – and Thor eventually takes over the throne.

In Marvel Comics, however, Odin willingly steps down from the throne, giving it to Thor, and he and his wife go into retirement, which doesn’t necessarily end well for them.

This, then, leads to the third major difference between Odin in the movies and Odin in the comics: In the comics, he’s still very much alive. [4]

Norse runes
What is Odin like in Norse Mythology? See below

What Is Odin Like in Norse Mythology?

In Norse mythology, Odin is powerful and wise, but he’s also devious, close-lipped, and not afraid to lie to – or lie with – someone to get his way. In contrast to his character in the Marvel universe, he also doesn’t seem to have much care or love for his children, aside from perhaps Baldr. 

Odin is also quick-witted, clever, and cunning in the Norse tales, and he constantly craves more knowledge. This is evidenced by the fact that he sacrificed himself on Yggdrasil, the World Tree, in exchange for understanding the runes. Additionally, he sacrificed his eye at Mimir’s well for wisdom. 

In total, Odin learned 18 different charms or bits of secret wisdom. Here were a few of the charms or “secret wisdom” he gained from his sacrifice: 

  • The ability to cure the sick
  • The ability to calm storms
  • The ability to make women fall in love with him
  • The ability to turn away weapons
  • The ability to escape all bonds
  • The ability to make dangerous women calm [5]

Although his book American Gods was written centuries after people worshipped Norse Gods, Neil Gaiman provides one of the most poetic descriptions of Odin’s 18 charms a person can find. [6]

Odin could also shapeshift, just as Loki could, and he loved mead, battle, and beautiful women. Thanks to the sacrifice he made at Mimir’s well, he also knew the future. However, some of the actions he took because of his fear of the future are probably the very things that caused the things he feared. 

For example, he knew that the giant wolf Fenrir would kill him at Ragnarok, so he had the gods trick Fenrir into letting them bind him and chain him in a cave, never to break free until the battle at Ragnarok. 

However, up until that point, Fenrir had no reason to hate the gods and no reason to hurt them. It’s likely his treatment at the hands of the gods – and the command of Odin – that led to the part Fenris will play at Ragnarok. 

Conclusion

Odin is an interesting character in Norse mythology and the Marvel Universe. However, Odinsleep is the invention of Marvel and doesn’t appear in the myths.  

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source
[5] Source
[6] Source

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