Famous Men of the Middle Ages
The Gods of the Teutons
In the little volume called The Famous Men of Rome you have read about the great
empire which the Romans established. Now we come to a time when the power of Rome
was broken and tribes of barbarians who lived north of the Danube and the Rhine took
possession of lands that had been part of the Roman Empire. These tribes were the Goths,
Vandals, Huns, Franks and Anglo-Saxons. From them have come the greatest nations of
modern times. All except the Huns belonged to the same race and are known as Teutons.
They were war-like, savage and cruel. They spoke the same language--though in different
dialects--and worshiped the same gods. Like the old Greeks and Romans they had many
Woden, who was also called Odin, was the greatest of all. His name means "mighty
warrior," and he was king of all the gods. He rode through the air mounted on Sleipnir, an
eightfooted horse fleeter than the eagle. When the tempest roared the Teutons said it was
the snorting of Sleipnir. When their ships came safely into port they said it was Woden's
breath that had filled their sails and wafted their vessels over the blue waters.
Thor, a son of Woden, ranked next to him among the gods. He rode through the air in a
chariot drawn by goats. The Germans called him Donar and Thunar, words which are like
our word thunder. From this we can see that he was the thunder god. In his hand he
carried a wonderful hammer which always came back to his hand when he threw it. Its
head was so bright that as it flew through the air it made the lightning. When it struck the
vast ice mountains they reeled and splintered into fragments, and thus Thor's hammer
Another great god of our ancestors was Tiew. He was a son of Woden and was the god of
battle. He was armed with a sword which flashed like lightning when he brandished it. A
savage chief named Attila routed the armies of the Romans and so terrified all the world
that he was called "The Scourge of God." His people believed that he gained his victories
because he had the sword of Tiew, which a herdsman chanced to find where the god had
allowed it to fall. The Teutons prayed to Tiew when they went into battle.
Frija (free' ya) was the wife of Woden and the queen of the gods. She ruled the bright
clouds that gleam in the summer sky, and caused them to pour their showers on meadow
and forest and mountain.
Four of the days of the week are named after these gods. Tuesday means the day of Tiew;
Wednesday, the day of Woden; Thursday, the day of Thor; and Friday, the day of Frija.
Frija's son was Baldur; who was the favorite of all the gods. Only Loki, the spirit of evil,
hated him. Baldur's face was as bright as sunshine. His hair gleamed like burnished gold.
Wherever he went night was turned into day.