Are humans fated to fall within one of three different classes? According to the Eddic poem, Rígsþula, the answer is ‘yes.’
The Norse god Heimdallr, using the name Rigr, traveled amongst the folks and found food, lodging, and comfort along the road.
The first stop was with an ancient graybeard farmer and his wife. The shelter was rude and the food was poor, but apparently the hospitality was pretty good. Heimdallr slept in the couples’ bed and nine months later, Granny gave birth to the progenitor of the servant class, a boy named Þræll.
Heimdallr’s next conquest was at the nice home of a mature craftsman and his wife. Dinner was edible, and the hospitality was again top-drawer. Nine months after Heimdallr had departed, the wife delivered a bouncing baby boy named Karl. When Karl grew up, he was to give rise to the class of craftsmen, independent farmers and herdsmen.
At the end of the journey, Heimdallr stayed at the large, fancy home of Faðir and Móðir. There he enjoyed a sumptuous meal and in return he gave Móðir a son named Jarl. Jarl begat the warrior/royalty class. Later on, Heimdallr acknowledged Jarl as his son.
The common thread in this story seems to be the quality of the food. There is an old English adage — the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Heimdallr’s oats were sewn long ago, but what if the world were given a do-over? What if the graybeard couple had taken Heimdallr out for a bacon cheeseburger, chili fries, and a shake? Conversely, would it have made a difference if Faðir and Móðir had offered up a plate of spa food? I’m thinking things could have turned out a whole different way.
~ S.G. Rogers