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In chapter 36 of the Gylfaginning, it is said that:

The sixth is Freyja, who is ranked with Frigg. She is wedded to the man whose name is Oder; their daughter's name is Hnos, and she is so fair that all things fair and precious are called, from her name, Hnos. Oder went far away. Freyja weeps for him, but her tears are red gold. Freyja has many names, and the reason therefor is that she changed her name among the various nations to which she came in search of Oder.

There are a few other mentions of Oder (commonly called Óðr) in Norse mythology, but I can't seem to find an explanation for this journeys.

Why does Óðr travel?


Note: There are theories that Óðr represents Odin, who travels frequently - which would solve the problem - but I am interested in any information that does not rely on those theories.

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The main issue here to answer this question is that we don't know anything about Óðr. He is only mentioned in :

  1. the paragraph you quoted from the Gylfaginning;
  2. stanza 25 of the Völuspá:

Þá gengu regin öll á rökstóla,
ginnheilug goð, ok um þat gættusk:
hverr hefði lopt allt lævi blandit
eða ætt jötuns Óðs mey gefna.

which translates to:

Then sought the gods | their assembly-seats,
The holy ones, | and council held,
To find who with venom | the air had filled,
Or had given Oth's bride | to the giants' brood.

  1. In Snorri's Skáldskaparmál:

Ok hér hefir Einarr enn kennt svá Freyju at kalla hana móður Hnossar eða konu Óðs, svá sem hér:

  1. Eigi þverr fyrir augna
    Óðs beðvinu Róða
    ræfrs, eignisk svá, regni
    ramsvell, konungr elli.

which translates to:

And here Einarr has further periphrased Freyja so as to call her Mother of Hnoss, or Wife of Ódr, as standeth below:

The shield, tempest's strong roof-ice,
With tear-gold is unminished,
Eye-rain of Ódr's Bed-Mate:
His age the King so useth.

the latter part being taken from a skaldic poem: Einarr Skúlason's Øxarflokkr.

He also appears in a small amount of other skaldic poems but every time, as in the few examples above, as a kenning for Freyja (i. e. Freyja being referred to as "Óðr's wife").

So, basically, he is only known as married to Freyja and as being on a "long trip", so there seem to be no original source explaining which trip he is undertaking.

As you mentioned there has been a lot of speculation on Óðr being in fact Óðin, and Freyja being Frigg but as Hollander (1950) mentions in his article The Old Norse God Óðr, the fact that Freyja is weeping for him and go on a search for him, doesn't really fit the association as Frigg knows all fate, including that Óðin dies during Ragnarok, (so why would she weep for him?) and that Hnoss would not be their only child.

As a side point, and to make things more complicated, the adjective óðr can be found frequently in skaldic poetry as it simply means furious.

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