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Heimdall is a deity in the Norse pantheon. He is best known as the Watchman of Asgard, who will blow his great horn Gjallahorn to alert the gods to the beginning of Ragnarok. He is one of the twelve most important gods of Asgard.

Heimdall's name is pronaounced "HAYM-dahl", with "heim" rhyming with "name".[1]

Description

Appearance and personality

Heimdall is a man, seven feet tall, with a great beard. He wears a horned helmet and gleaming white armor.[2]

Heimdall is admired by the other gods of Asgard for his charm and wit.[3]

Heimdall is lawful good in alignment,[1] though by some accounts he is lawful neutral.[3]

Titles

Heimdall has many titles. He is called The Bright God; Guardian of Bifrost, or Guardian of the Bifrost Bridge; Watchman of Asgard; Golden Tooth; and The Ram.[2][1] He is known as Eagle-Eye.[3]

According to Skaldskaparmal in the Prose Edda, Heimdall is called the Son of Nine Mothers; Watchman of the Gods; the White God; Foe of Loki; and Seeker of Freyja's Necklace.

He is known by the alias "Rig", meaning "King".[4]

Abilities

As a deity, Heimdall's powers are great and numerous. He is immune to many effects which harm mortal beings, including old age, disease, death effects, disintegration, paralysis, poison, stunning, transmutation, and planar banishment.[1]

Heimdall has many powers related to his duty as a watchman. He canot be snuck up on except by a more powerful deity such as Thor or Odin. He can see through illusions and disguises. He can see, hear or sense at a range of 15 miles from himself, any of his followers or holy sites or artifacts, and any location where his name or titles are spoken. He can uniquely extend his senses even further to see or hear up to 30 miles from himself, or to penetrate any magical or physical barrier, including up to 150 feet or 1,500 feet of smoke or fog.[1] It is said that Heimdall could hear the wool growing upon a sheep.[5]

He is exceptionally strong in battle, especially against giants and in fighting with the longsword. His strikes are deadly and wound his opponents. He is particularly resistant to magic and physical injury, and can destroy by touch any weapon or item used against him in battle in the past day. He can inspire courage in his allies.[1]

He can change shape to assume another form.[5] He can cast numerous spells, including aid, blade barrier, calm emotions, hold monster, power word kill, shield of law, and spiritual weapon.

He can create magic weapons, armor, and items which enhance perception, although he cannot create truly legendary items such as Mjolnir.[1].

Portfolio

Heimdall is a god of watchfulness, sight, hearing, and loyalty. He has power over the domains of good, law, and war.[1]

He automatically senses any attempts to reach Asgard as soon as they begin.[1]

Worship

Dogma

The followers of Heimdall believe in the virtues of self-discipline, responsibility, and obedience to legitimate authority.[1]

Worshipers

While the people of Midgard typically worship the Norse pantheon as a collective group, Heimdall is particularly petitioned by sentries and guards. He is followed by fighters, paladins, and dwarves.[1] Watchful rangers also follow him.[6]

The followers of Heimdall seek to emulate his sense of duty to stand lookout and protect their communities.[1] Many rangers perform this duty.

Notable followers

Followers of Heimdall include:

  • Duke Rowan Darkwood, ranger priest of Heimdall and Factol of the Fated[7]

Clergy

Heimdall's clerics often train as rangers or fighters. Some are also paladins or monks, though these are less common.[1]

Duties of the clergy include dilligent preparation for conflict and accumulation of intelligence. They avoid over-ingulgence in food and drink in order to be alert on guard. They carefully scrutinize visitors to their temple.[1]

Clerics of Heimdall often serve as bodyguards for important nobility, a duty which they perform with legendary dedication. They also hold bridges to be sacred, and are sworn to avenge the destruction of one. They are reknowned for their good sight and night vision.[8]

Holy sites

Heimdall's temples are dedicated to the defense of the local community. They include watchtowers, and have arrowslits in the walls and easily barred doors. Such defensive fortifications are usually well-appreciated by the locals.[1]

The temples include war rooms where plans for potential future battles are laid out.[1]

Holy symbol

Heimdall's holy symbol is a depiction of Gjallahorn, a large curved horn which Heimdall will blow to warn the gods that the end of the world at Ragnarok has begun.[1]

Favored weapon

Heimdall favors the longsword.[1]

Relationships

Family

Heimdall's parentage is disputed. By some accounts, he is descended from giants. By others, he is the offspring of all nine daughters of the ocean deities Aegir and Ran.[1] His father is believed to be Odin.[8]

While Norse myth names Heimdall as the son of nine mothers, it is not clear whether those are the nine daughters of Ran. The poem Voluspa en skamma describes a god, possibly Heimdall, born to nine giantesses: Gjalp, Greip, Eistla, Eyrgjafa, Ulfrun, Angreyja, Imth, Atla, and Jarnsaxa. Skaldskaparmal in the Prose Edda calls Heimdall a son of Odin.

Countless mortal humans are descended from Heimdall. According to the legends of Midgard, Heimdall once spent a night at each of three families' houses, and blessed them according to how well he was treated at each. Thereafter from those families were descended the three social classes: nobles, free peasants, and serfs.[1]

Several of the great kings of Denmark can claim descent from Heimdall.[5]

Enemies

Heimdall and Loki are mortal enemies. Loki considers Heimdall overly self-righteous; while Heimdall has nothing but contempt for the trickster Loki.[3]

Heimdall is fated to slay Loki at Ragnarok. Heimdall will himself die of his wounds shortly afterward. Loki will attempt to forestall this by stealing Heimdall's sword, but it will not change his fate.[1]

Allies and minions

Heimdall is a valued guardian of the gods of Asgard.

He rides a great horse, named Gulltop.

Heimdall's divine proxies include Olaf Trollslayer, a lawful neutral human fighter with the ability to see at a distance of 30 miles; and Sven Trollslayer, a human fighter of equal repute who can hear a spider's footsteps.[3]

Artifacts

Heimdall is best known for Gjallahorn, the horn which shall wake all of Asgard for the final battle at Ragnarok. It is so loud that it can be heard even in Midgard and distant Niflheim. Mortals within one mile of the horn when it is blown are stunned for several minutes, and possibly deafened. All Aesir and Vanir automatically hear the horn when it is blown, and only Heimdall is sufficiently skilled to reliably blow the horn correctly.[1] When blown at Ragnarok, it will finally break.[3] It is often kept at the Well of Mimir.[9]

Heimdall wields a legendary sword, called Hofud, whose name means "head".[5] Loki will steal this at Ragnarok.[1] It is a vorpal sword with the ability to slay frost giants when wielded by Heimdall himself.[5]

His armor is pure white and glows as a gem of brightness.[5]

Realm

Heimdall's hall in Asgard is called Himinbjorg, whose name means "Cliffs of Heaven".[10] It stands by the Bifrost bridge at its highest point.[1][5] It is located outside of the wall of Asgard, and constitutes a great city dotted by tall watchtowers manned by the legendary einherjar warriors.[3]

Visitors to Asgard via the Bifrost bridge must pass through Heimdall's domain. The city outskirts are inhabited by the Doksmid clan of dwarves, known for their blacksmithing.[3] A portal to Himinbjorg is found in the Rowan Academy of Training.[11]

Publication history

Original D&D

Heimdall first appears in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), p.27-28.

AD&D 1st edition

Heimdall appears in Legends & Lore (1e) (1985), p.103 and Deities & Demigods (1e) (1980).

AD&D 2nd edition

Heimdall is detailed in Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.181 and the Planescape sourcebook On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.146.

D&D 3rd edition

Heimdall appears in Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.179-180.

D&D 4th edition

The Norse pantheon does not appear in D&D 4th edition.

D&D 5th edition

Heimdall is one of twenty Norse gods listed in the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014).

Creative origins

Heimdall appears in Norse myth.

In the Poetic Edda, the poem Voluspa begins by referring to humankind as "children of Heimdall". The poem later describes Heimdall blowing the Gjallarhorn before the great battle at Ragnarok. Heimdall's hall Himinbjorg is named the poem Grimnismal. In For Skirnirs, Skirnir mentions that Heimdall is well known as he is seen by all when he stands guard.

In Lokasenna, in which Loki insults the gods, Heimdall advises Loki to have better self-control. Loki retorts by criticizing him for having to stand all the time as a guard. Thrymskvitha calls Heimdall the handsomest (or whitest) of the gods; it is Heimdall who suggests Thor should disguise as Freya to steal back Mjolnir from the giants.

Rigsthula details the myth of the god Rig, described as an alias for Heimdall. It describes him as a wise and strong god, who fathers children with three women when he stays with their families, making Heimdall the ancestor of all three social classes of people.

Reception and influence

The character of Heimdall appears in various forms in recent works of fiction.

Heimdall is the protagonist of the 1991 computer roleplaying game Heimdall and its 1994 sequel Heimdall 2: Into the Hall of Worlds.

He appears in the 2016 young adult novel Magnus Chase: The Hammer of Thor, where his Gjallar horn takes the form of a smartphone, and his sword as a selfie stick.[12]

Heimdall appears in the Marvel universe. In the 2011 Marvel movie Thor and its sequels, he is played by Idris Elba.

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.179-180.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Legends & Lore (1e) (1985), p.103.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.146.
  4. Origins of the Norse Pantheon, Dragon #29 (Sep 1979), p.34.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), p.27-28.
  6. Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.164.
  7. Planescape Campaign Setting, A DM's Guide to the Planes (1994), p.72.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.181.
  9. Plane facts on Gladsheim, Dragon #90 (Oct 1984), p.37.
  10. Plane facts on Gladsheim, Dragon #90 (Oct 1984), p.36.
  11. The Factol's Manifesto (1995), p.62.
  12. [1]Heimdall: Norse God of the Selfie[/url], 2018.
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