Is there an etching or drawing of Yggdrasil, the Norse Tree of Life, that is the oldest, or considered the most authentic? If so, what information was it based on?

  • 1
    I usually go by this one (which may not be considered the most authentic, but is certainly quite well known;) Great question, and welcome to Mythology! – DukeZhou Jul 27 '17 at 20:00

Some Norse myths are depicted on rune stones or other objects, but I am not aware of anything like that for Yggdrasil. The oldest depiction I know of is an illustration in a 17th century manuscript of Snorri's Edda (can be seen here), so it's quite a bit younger than the actual myth. Snorri's Edda is also the source that gives most details of the tree, even if it is also mentioned a few times in the poetry.

  • While shocking, that is very neat. I did not think of the possibility that the illustration might be the source of most of the details. Thanks for the info! – FreakinRocket Jul 27 '17 at 14:19
  • @FreakinRocket The illustration is not the source of most of the details, but the text it illustrates is. – andejons Jul 27 '17 at 14:26
  • oh right. Sorry, I misread your response. Thanks for the clarification! – FreakinRocket Jul 27 '17 at 14:47

The Ockelbo runestone has a depiction of Yggdrasil that is to my knowledge the oldest in existence.

Here is an image of the recreation.

  • Well, there is a tree, but as the other images seem to be connected to the legend of Sigurd, why should we suppose that it is Yggdrasil, and not the tree from which the birds spoke to him when he had slain Fafnir? – andejons May 22 '18 at 11:36
  • @andejons If the recreation is truthful to the original, isn't the fact there is a giant serpent surrounding the stone (i. e. the world) and tangled in the roots of the tree, and a bird at the top, a strong indication it is intended to be Yggdrasil? – plannapus May 23 '18 at 10:51
  • @plannapus Well, no: A bird in a tree is a motif on several runestones, but they are generally interpreted as one of the events in the Sigurd legend. There is also a figure holding out his thumb next to it, which reinforces this interpretation. The serpent surrounding the runes should rather be interpreted as Fafnir (at the very top, there seems to be an arm with sword wounding it). See Wikipedia for examples (In particular, the stone from Årsunda has a very similar set of tree, bird, and man with thumb, and not much else). – andejons May 23 '18 at 11:06

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