Hermann, Pernille, Stephen A. Mitchell, and Jens Peter Schjødt, eds., with Amber J. Rose. 2017. Old Norse Mythology—Comparative Perspectives. Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature 3. Cambridge, MA: Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_HermannP_etal_eds.Old_Norse_Mythology.2017.
Baldr and Iraj: Murdered and Avenged
- A murder of a half-brother by two other brothers in conjunction who make complementary contributions to the act.
- The inhibition of immediate revenge by the presence of a kinship tie.
- A revenge killing by an avenger who was not yet conceived at the time of the murder.
The two stories also share the mythic context of a family of gods.
The heuristic value of modeling
The Indo-European two-Eras model and the Old Norse and Iranian murder-and-Revenge protagonists
|Prior generations||Auðr hin djúpúðga|
|Youngest generation||Þórðr gellir|
Table 1. Auðr hin djúpúðga and representatives of three following generations.
|The living||male ego|
Table 2. An apical ancestress and three following generations, divided into eras of the living and the dead.
|Old gods||Generation of primal being|
|Young gods||Generation 4|
Table 3. The posited eras and generations among the Indo-European gods in prehistory.
|Eras||Regnal Series||Years of Reign||Kings|
Table 4. The first six kings in the regnal series of the Shahnameh.
|Young gods||Jamshid, Zahhak, Feraydun, Salm, Tur, Iraj|
Table 5. The succession sequence related to four generations and two divine eras.
|Óðinn, Vé, Vili|
|Young gods||Baldr, Loki, Hǫðr|
Table 6. The Old Norse murder triad shown in relation to the two eras.
This multiple union of Frigg and three gods does not result in offspring whereas comparable mythological stories of a female lying with three males concern the begetting of the young king (Bek-Pedersen 2006: 332; Lyle 2012a: 59–68, 77).  Although this completion of the narrative is not included in the corpus, the most likely young-king figure, Þórr, shorn of royal attributes, is given a compensatory cosmic birth as son of a primal being, the Earth.
Feud as a binding motif in the Scandinavian context
|Father||Kinsman aged 90|
|Victim and murderer||Vilinn||enemy|
Table 7. The oppositions in the Rök stone runic inscription.
|Victim and murderers||Baldr/Balderus||Loki or Gevarus, Hoðr/Høtherus|
|Avenger||Váli or Bous|
Table 8. The oppositions in Snorri and Saxo.
The deaths of Iraj and Jamshid
|Victim and murderers||Iraj||Salm, Tur|
Table 9. The Iraj story murder-and-revenge protagonists.
|Victim and murderers||Jamshid||Zahhak, Feraydun|
Table 10. The reconstructed Shahnameh murder-and-revenge protagonists.
The fettering of Loki and Zahhak
We can usefully refer to the last revision of Dumézil’s book on Loki, where he argues for the two-murderer scheme (1986: 102–22), and also to a recent comment on the subject by Joseph Harris, who finds the one-murderer scheme the more likely at an early stage in the story’s life (2010: 98). It is clearly still a live issue. If the Iranian parallel is accepted, it supports the view that the two-murderer scheme is primary.
The last statement may give us pause. If there is one thing that has emerged as a consensus on myth in the century since Carnoy was writing, it is that epics may contain myths and that stories about human heroes may reflect the actions of the gods. Jaan Puhvel, appositely, applies this insight to the Shahnameh in a chapter on “Epic Iran” (Puhvel 1987: 117–25, esp. 118–20).
The specially begotten Avenger as first king