From Iceland — Gods of Iceland: Rán, The Goddess Who Will Literally Drown You

Gods of Iceland: Rán, The Goddess Who Will Literally Drown You

Published October 9, 2020

Gods of Iceland: Rán, The Goddess Who Will Literally Drown You
Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Hans Dahl

Superpowers: Will literally drown you
Weaknesses: None
Modern analogue: A woman who will literally drown you

Rán is the wife of Ægir, a jötunn (a kind of giant) associated with the sea. While Ægir is all about the more positive aspects of the sea—sailing, exploring, fishing and such—Rán has but one mission in life and that is to literally drown you.

Where Thor has a hammer and Freyr has a magic sword, Rán has a net. And she uses that net to literally drown you.

Icelanders to this day feel a great deal of emotions about the sea, which they both revered and feared since Settlement times. Icelandic poet Egill Skallagrímsson, writing Sonnatorrek in the 10th century, lamented the loss of his son Böðvarr, who drowned at sea, saying in part, “Greatly has Rán afflicted me/I have been despoiled of a great friend/Empty and unoccupied I see the place/which the sea has torn my son”.

Why will Rán literally drown you? Because she can. Some people bake bread, some people knit, Rán literally drowns people. Much like the sea, she does not have any rhyme or reason in terms of who will be lost in her watery embrace—one only needs to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for Rán to see you, cast her net, and literally drown you.

Today, the Icelandic noun “rán” means a robbery of some kind. While having your car stolen is upsetting, it’s certainly better than being out to sea and having a powerful goddess throw a net at you, and then literally drown you.

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