5 Obscure Facts about Ullr, Norse Mythology God of Hunting

Who is Ullr?

Ullr (pronounced “ULL-er”), is the god of archery, snow, hunting and skiing in Norse mythology. The origin of his name is unclear and is still under debate, with the most likely origin is that his name derives from the old Proto-Germanic *Wulþuz, meaning “glory”.

As for his appearance, the Norse Eddas describe him as being beautiful to look at, with all the accomplishments and characteristics of a strong warrior. For this reason, Ullr was often invoked by Norse warriors about to engage in single combat.

Ullr: Norse mythology god of archery and hunting
Ullr: Norse mythology god of archery and hunting

Besides his power as a warrior, Ullr is the most skilled archer and skier from Norse mythology, far beyond the skills of all others. For this reason, Ullr is also called the Snowshoe God, Bow God, Hunting God, and Shield God.

Ullr is the son of Sif and the stepson of Thor

The Norse mythological source texts clearly state that Ullr is the son of Sif, the wife of Thor, but the identity of his father is left unspecified.

Nevertheless, some historians have speculated that Ullr’s father might be the son of a jotunn called Orvandel-Egil, a brother of Thjazi, and father of Skadi. If this origin story is to be believed, Ullr is the cousin of Skadi.

According to the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus, Sif was first married to Orvandel-Egil, and Ullr, a half giant and half god, was born from this marriage.

After Sif’s separation from Orvandel-Egil, she married the god Thor, who adopted Ullr as his own son. Thus, after being adopted by Thor, Ullr gains all the rights and privileges of a high-ranking Aesir god.

Most notably, Ullr is given a dwelling in Asgard called Ydalir (“Yew Valleys”). This is similar to how Njord rules the seas from Noatun, and Frey rules the elves in Alfheim.

Ullr’s relationship with his step-father Thor isn’t explored at length, except a few mentions in the Prose Edda of Thor as “Ullr’s glorious step-father” and “his (Ullr) kinsman”.

Ullr rules Asgard instead of Odin.

In a tale recorded by Saxo Grammaticus, Odin was banished from Asgard for a period of 10 years following a series of disgraceful acts.

During that time, Ullr rules Asgard in Odin’s stead. Noteworthy in this regard is that Ullr was chosen as leader and other, better-known gods such as Njord, Thor or Frey. 

Part of the explanation for this is that Njord and Frey are gods with a peaceful disposition, that do not have the warlike tendencies to enforce their rule over the Aesir and Vanir gods residing in Asgard.

Ullr, by contrast, is a warrior deity, whom even Odin finds to be special. According to All-father, whoever shall reach into the fire will find “Ullr’s favour and that of all gods” (Grimnismal 42).

In any case, after Odin returns from his exile, Ullr relinquishes his role as ruler of Asgard.

This rotation of power between Odin and Ullr is taken a step further in a literary retelling of the Norse myths by H.A. Guerber. 

According to this retelling, Ullr replaces Odin as chief ruler of Asgard during the winter months, but is in turn replaced by Odin during the summer months.   

What are Ullr’s powers and roles?

As mentioned previously, Ullr was the Norse god of archery, hunting, winter, and skiing. In the cold and snowy realms of Scandinavia, where he was worshipped, this made Ullr a notable and important god.

Master of Snow and Winter: As a god of winter, Ullr possesses dominion over snow and ice. Ullr thus commands over winter landscapes but can also endure and navigate the challenges they present.

Archery and Hunting: Ullr is described as being the best archer among the gods and giants. Because of Ullr’s skill with a bow and survival abilities made him favored deity among hunters.

Skiing: For months at a time, vast portions of Scandinavia were covered with snow, so the ability to navigate it was crucial. Just as with archery, Ullr was said to be the best skier ever known.

According to Saxo Grammaticus, Ullr even had the power to transform a ski into a ship or simply use a pair of skis to traverse over water. 

Finally, Ullr could also transform his skis into a shield capable of warfare, which leads to the expression of “Ullr’s ship” or “Ullr’s shield”.

Finally, Ullr’s skiing prowess is so well known that even today he is considered the patron saint of skiing among both amateur and professional skiers.

Warfare: While not as prominently recognized as a war deity like Odin or Thor, Ullr’s association with shields (see “Ullr’s ship”) points to his martial aspect. Warriors might have invoked Ullr for protection in battle or for prowess in combat, much like they would with other warrior gods.

Oaths and Agreements: A lesser know role of Ullr is that of guaranteeing oaths and agreements. This function of Ullr appears in the poem Atlakviða, where the heroes Atli and Gunnar swear an oath by invoking Ullr’s ring.

Survival and Endurance: Finally, because of his connection to the harsh winter and hunting, Ullr is also a deity of survival and endurance. He embodies the spirit of perseverance required to thrive in the harshest of conditions, making him worthy of worship in the challenging climates of the Norse world.

What are Ullr’s symbols?

Bow and Arrow:

The bow and arrow is Ullr’s primary symbol, and signifies his prowess in archery and hunting. 

In a symbolic sense, the bow and arrow also represent precision, focus, and the ability to target one’s goals or desires effectively. As a divine archer, Ullr is the embodiment of these qualities.

Yew tree:

The yew tree is another symbol of Ullr. The connection between Ullr and the yew tree comes from Ullr’s home of Ydalir (“Yew Valleys”) but also the fact that yew wood was one of the best materials for crafting bows in the ancient world.

In a symbolic sense, the yew tree is linked with longevity and rebirth in various cultures. When connected to Ullr, the yew tree symbolizes endurance and the cyclical nature of life and seasons. 


Ullr’s association with skis symbolizes his dominion over snow and winter landscapes. For the Norse, skis were essential tools for navigating snowy terrain.

From a symbolic perspective, skis can symbolize agility, adaptability, and a harmonious relationship with nature. They represent the ability to move freely and effortlessly in environments that might otherwise be challenging or restrictive.


In Norse lore, a shield is sometimes referred to as “Ullr’s ship,” suggesting a strong association between the god and this protective implement. This hints at Ullr’s role in warfare or protection.

Symbolically, the shield represents defense, protection, and safeguarding. The shield also represents Ullr’s role as a protector or guardian, offering defense against both physical and metaphysical threats.


  • The Mythology of All Races – Eddic by John Arnott MacCulloch, Louis Herbert Gray
  • The Norsemen Myths and Legends by Guerber Helene Adeline
  • Asgard and the Norse heroes by Katharine Boult
  • Old Norse stories by Sarah Powers Bradish
  • Teutonic Mythology by Viktor Rydberg & Anders Rasmus Bjorn
  • Teutonic Mythology by Jacob Grimm
Atlas Mythica

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