All characters in Norse mythology carry along themselves a mission either good or bad. Among the huge system of characters, the most inspiring mission from my personal viewpoint is to spread the knowledge and wisdom to the universe. But it wasn’t everyone that could fulfill this mission. Loki, for example, spread more trouble than knowledge. So the question is, who was the wisest in Norse mythology? The list includes three figures that we’re to discuss: Odin the Allfather, Mimir, and Kvasir
Odin the Allfather the Nonstop Knowledge Seeker
For the ones who are yet to know, Odin fathered Thor God of Thunder but not Loki. Odin was the Aesir chief god who presided over the stronghold Asgard. He was among the wisest figures in Norse mythology and properly the wisest god in the myth. He was the nonstop knowledge seeker and took up the wandering life, disguising himself as an old man and traveling to learn and spread knowledge.
In many depictions, Odin appeared to be an one-eyed old man which was a result of seeking knowledge. Legend had it that knowing the holy water in the Mimir’s Well, Odin traveled there to ask for it. But it wasn’t about asking and giving. Mimir (whom we will discuss later) the guardian of the holy water demanded Odin to make a sacrifice to gain the knowledge. As you guess, the sacrifice was Odin’s eye. Without a hesitation, Odin sacrificed his eye into the well and acquired the drink from the holy water. And from that moment on, Odin lived his life with an infinite fountain of knowledge. This sacrifice was the exchange between the external vision and the internal knowledge. Indeed, there was a limit for the sacrifice as Odin didn’t devote both eyes which meant he would lose all of his external vision.
Odin endured nine days and nights of hanging himself on the Yggdrasil Tree of Life to be able to decipher runes. This sacrifice was much terrible as he hung himself for nine days and didn’t drink or eat anything. Moreover, Odin kept for himself a pair of ravens that fly over the Nine Worlds to tell him what was happening across the cosmos. Or he had a High Throne that could provide him a superclear vision of the worlds. Odin often sat on his High Throne to observe everything below Asgard.
Mimir the Best Counselor
Why Mimir became so omniscient in Norse mythology remains a mystery. What we know about this awesome figure is that he is the best counselor in Norse mythology. Even Odin the Allfather one of the wisest in Norse mythology traveled to meet and ask him for advice. Life of Mimir was divided into two phrases: before decapitation and after decapitation.
In the first phase, Mimir was still a complete figure. After the War of Gods, Mimir became one of two hostages to come and live in Vanaheim land of Vanir gods. The other was Hoenir. Vanaheim’s inhabitants respected Hoenir for they thought Hoenir was wise and he could answer all answers. But they didn’t know that Mimir was the one that stood behind all the answers of Hoenir. So it was Mimir that gave Hoenir the answers of everything in the world. Once the curtain lifted, Vanir gods were very angry and decided to behead Mimir only to send it back to Odin.
As we all know, Odin was a knowledge seeker and he wouldn’t waste any chance to better his fountain of wisdom. I bet Odin must have been down when he had to part with Mimir right when Mimir went to Vanaheim. So the day Vanir gods sent Mimir’s head back, Odin must have been over the moon. His great source of advice was back!
The second phase of life of Mimir revolved around the Well of Mimir. Odin placed Mimir’s head in the Well to guard it. Many accounts told that Mimir doubled his wisdom thanks to the holy water from the Well. Once Ragnarok broke in the sky, Odin traveled to the Well of Mimir and asked for advice.
Kvasir the Unexpected Figure
The birth of Kvasir was a little bit complicated though. So as the Vanir-Aesir conflict ended with the first peace treaty by exchanging hostage, the two tribes lived harmoniously. Until the day Vanir gods smelt a rat in the two hostages from Asgard and became angry, the second peace treaty came into being. And the result of the second peace treaty was Kvasir. Gods assembled and created Kvasir who was assumingly the wisest.
Indeed, Kvasir knew a lot of things in the cosmos. There was no question in the cosmos that he couldn’t answer. Like Odin, Kvasir wandered around the cosmos to spread his knowledge. But the evil dwarves ended his life for their selfish ego. From the blood of Kvasir, the dwarves created the Mead of Poetry. The Mead was powerful and it could provide its drinkers a great fountain of knowledge and inspiration. Anyone drinking the Mead could persuade people to do or believe in something. And Odin was the figure to retrieve the Mead of Poetry back to the god tribes.
Final Thought Upon the Wisest in Norse mythology
In fact, there can be no final conclusion up to who was the wisest in Norse mythology. All the figures we mention are wise and powerful in their own ways. Each figure expresses their knowledge and wisdom in a different way. Maybe because Odin was among the main characters, the myth creators focused more on Odin’s stories than Kvasir and Mimir.
Odin was a kind of the one who would actively welcome knowledge in any form. He learnt something new but he didn’t keep it for himself only. He shared it as the way he shared runes or the Mead of Poetry to other gods. But sometimes, I see the sacrifice Odin made was a little bit selfish because he did it for the good of himself and to fulfill his own ambition. But that is what I like in the myth. Even the supreme god had a kind of shortcoming. No one is perfect and even Odin. But the contribution of Odin was needless to say and it was so huge.
Meanwhile, Kvasir and Mimir was kind of born to be intelligent. They didn’t need much effort to better their knowledge because their knowledge was right in their mind ever since their birth. Maybe because they were just the supporting characters so it was not too necessary to focus on how they got their wisdom. But somehow they embodied a lesson that each of us interpret differently. Whoever the wisest in Norse mythology, the lesson we learn is knowledge is powerful and sacrifice to gain it is valuable.