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Essay/Term paper: Zeus and odin

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Greek Mythology

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Zeus and Odin Zeus is the ruler of the Greek gods. He is the son of Cronos

and Rhea, in fact the only son of these two to survive to adulthood. Zeus had

been hidden by Rhea so that Cronos would not swallow him like he had all of

his other offspring; he had been warned that one of his children would

eventually overthrow him. Rhea sent Zeus to the island of Crete where he was

raised. Zeus eventually killed his father. After he killed Cronos, he restored life

to his brothers and sisters. He then drew lots with his brothers Poseidon and

Hades to see who would become ruler of the various parts of the universe.

Zeus won the draw and became the supreme ruler of the gods. He is lord of

the sky, the rain god. His weapon is a thunderbolt, made for him by the

Cyclopes under the direction of Hephaestus, which he hurls at those who

displease him. He married a succession of spouses with whom he had many

children including: Athena, The Fates, Ares, Apollo, Artemis, and Hermes.

His last, and most well-known wife is Hera but he is famous for his many

affairs. Odin is the leader of the Norse gods and has a myriad of names

including Allfather, Ygg, Bolverk (evil doer), and Grimnir. He also has many

functions within the myths including being a god of war, poetry, wisdom, and

death. However, he is not considered the "main" god of each of these

functions. Odin's symbol is his magical spear named Grungir which never

misses its mark. He also owns a magic ring called Draupnir which can create

nine of itself every night. It was this ring that Odin laid on his son Balder's

funeral pyre and which Balder returned to Odin from the underworld. Odin

also has two wolves, Geri and Freki, and two ravens, Hugin (thought) and

Munin (memory). He sends his ravens out every day to gather knowledge for

him. Odin was destined to die at Ragnarok; Fenris-Wolf swallowed him.

Knowing his fate, he still chose to embrace it and do battle, showing the true

warrior ethic. He is the god of warriors and kings, not the common man.

Among his children are:Thor, Hermod, and Balder. He is married to Frigg, the

goddess of marriage. The first obvious similarity between Zeus and Odin is in

their appearance. Both are very large men, but they are not depicted as fat

men. Both look very powerful and foreboding. They also are both shown as

having beards. A beard represents manliness, in a very basic way as facial hair

is something that every man can have. In this sense the beard as a signature

feature of these gods brings in a sense of attachment to the people within the

societies that worshipped them. If they had a different signature feature, for

example wings, this would remove the gods from the common man. The

beard is something ordinary people can relate to. It may also be of note that

the stereotypical view of Vikings and Norsemen almost always includes

beards on the men. Maybe they were trying to emulate their head god or

maybe the god was "created" in the image of the ordinary man. Here is the

direct comparison. Zeus and Odin were respective rulers over the gods in

their mythologies. Zeus was known for upholding the law and social order. In

fact, one of his titles was Zeus Horkios which literally means "the Guarantor of

Oaths." This is quite similar ot Odin's recording of all the laws, contracts and

agreements onto his spear which he was bound to uphold. They both had their

palaces in the sky to some extent. Mt. Olympus was very high (in the

mythologies; the real Mt. Olympus is a mountain, but not very high.) It is also

important to note that when the three brothers (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades)

were deciding which part of the world each would get, Zeus chose the sky.

There are many stories of Zeus looking down from Mt. Olympus into the lives

of other men. This is also the case with Odin. He could watch other people,

gods and mortals alike, from his throne Hlidskialf in Asgard, Asgard being the

palace in the sky where the gods met. So there are distinct similarities

between Asgard and Mt. Olympus: both were in the sky, both allowed for the

observation of the rest of the world, both were the meeting place for the gods

in their respective mythologies. The actions of the two gods are very important

to look at as well. Zeus is well-known for going off into the world of mortals

and trying to have "relations" with the mortals. Often times he would change

shape in order to accomplish this. He took such forms as a bull, swan, golden

shower, and a quail, for example. This shape-shifting was also a typical action

of Odin. He changed himself into animals occasionally, such as a snake or an

eagle. (Interestingly, Zeus is often depicted as an eagle!) But, more often than

not, Odin changed himself into "The Wanderer." In this form he was known to

wear a long grey cloak and a wide brimmed hat that covered or cast shadows

over his missing eye. In this form he attempted, on many occasions, to have

"relations," often spawning offspring. There is one story of Odin and Rind

where Odin must change his shape multiple times to meet the needs of Rind

who he is wooing. He transforms from captain of her father's army to a smith

to a warrior and finally is accepted into her arms only after taking his natural

form as a god. This raises one important difference between the two: the

attitudes of the two respective wives of the gods, Hera and Frigg. Hera is

well-known for her jealous and vengeful reactions to Zeus actions. However,

Frigg does not have the same reaction. To see the development of this

thought, see the wives' page. Another commonality of the two gods is their

interaction with mortals. In both their visiting and aiding of these mortals Zeus

and Odin identified certain people that they considered great and offered them

their assistance. This supports the theory that these mythologies, because they

were serving generally less-advanced societies (industrially, socially and

intellectually), created gods who would come down and physically interact

with mortals, gave the gods a sense of tangibility to the society. At this point

could a society have been able to accept a flawless, omnipotent being,

especially one on a cosmic level, rather than a physical level? If a god could

come to a man and physically aid him, that would be an incentive to believe

and worship. Both of these gods have a specific symbol of power. Zeus has

his lighting bolt, and Odin has his spear. Both of these items have a somewhat

negative interpretation. Lighting is a destructive force and a spear is a weapon

used to kill. In our society, gods are usually displayed to have a very positive

light surrounding them and a weapon may seem strange to us as a symbol of a

god. We must also see that the gods both used their respective weapons by

throwing them. Maybe this is the beginning of the thoughts of a cosmic entity

-- the gods did not have to be physically there, but could project their

intentions from afar. The fact that both of these symbols were destructive in

one form or another raises a few questions: Were these cultures looking for a

destructive god? Were they still at a state that a primitive personification of

man was desired as a god? Were these societies looking at chaos and

destruction as being more important in the society than order? It may be that

the fear that they invoke will have people thinking that they can be punished,

and if they are punished it will not be a simple slap on the wrist, but rather a

spear or lightning bolt hurled at them. So I believe that this fear was used

when the myths were being originally fashioned so that one would be

intimidated to believe and worship. One last thing to be considered about

these two gods, and their manliness, is that both of them were very fertile.

They were both fathers to many offspring, thus spreading their wonderful

qualities around to other beings. What I think these societies needed was a

powerful man, one who was warlike, strong, large, intimidating and prolific.

This was they type of god that one in those times could fear and respect, and

therefore worship fairly easily.  

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