Wanderers in mythology

Discussion in 'General Mythology' started by Everyman, Apr 22, 2012.

  1. Everyman

    Everyman New Member

    Hi Everyone. I'm new to the forum, and this is my first post.

    I've been trying to do some research into "wanderer" characters in mythology. I seem to remember years ago reading a book that mentioned a character who wandered the world and watched and recorded as ages came and went. I seem to remember the myth was Norse, but I can't find any reference to such a character. This is similar in concept to The Wandering Jew.

    Can anyone help me find similar characters in various mythologies? A character who wanders the land chronicling or watching as new ages begin and old ages end, either because that's his role or because he is cursed to do so?

  2. Rhonda Tharp

    Rhonda Tharp Active Member

    I am familiar with Gangleri from Beowulf. He was referred to as the Wanderer as he told his story about Beowulf's background and defeats. So Bards, poets and story tellers may be seen as wanderers. Shamans may also be considered wanderers in that they meditate on traveling to the world of the spirits/gods. Metaphorically, Hermes wanders between (as do other tricksters, such as Loki), the worlds of the gods and the mortal world. As he joins the worlds, he also separates the worlds, yet he fits nowhere. He is a traveler god, god of the crossroads and all. Don't know if that's what you were looking for :)

    Hope you enjoy it here,
  3. Myrddin

    Myrddin Well-Known Member

    Well, Odin of Norse mythology wandered among the humans as a character called The Wanderer; he dressed in a long travelling cloak with a wide-brimmed hat pulled down over his missing eye. May this be who you read about however many years ago it was? He is the only wandering character I know of in Norse mythology. It is an interesting concept that has been referred to the world over, so there are no dirth of such stories. Good luck in your search.:)
    Rhonda Tharp likes this.
  4. Caburus

    Caburus Active Member

  5. Caburus

    Caburus Active Member

    Islamic faith has a character called Khidr - the Green One (he dresses in green - a holy colour in Islam). Khidr is said by some to be the Hebrew prophet Elijah (9th Century BC), who rode to heaven in a chariot and didn't die. But most link him to a man in the time of Abraham, who unwittingly drank from the River of Life in Persia, and became immortal. He travels the world teaching wisdom and humility to those seeking enlightenment, acting as a messenger of God.
    Would the story of the Flying Dutchman fit? A ship and its crew doomed to wander the seas until Judgement Day?
    The Greeks had the prophet Tiresias. He came upon a pair of copulating snakes, and upon killing them was turned into a woman. Seven years later she came upon another pair of copulating snakes, and killing them was turned back into a man. Sometime afterwards the Gods Zeus and Hera were arguing over whether men or women gained the most enjoyment from sex. They appealed to Tiresias for an answer, as he had been both a man and a woman. He said that women did, and Hera was angry at the answer and blinded him. But Zeus gave him foresight as a compensation, and a lifespan of seven generations. Tiresias lived in the Greek city of Thebes, and witnessed the rise of fall of that cities dynastic family.
    Mexican folklore has La Llorona (the Weeping Women). She killed herself when she lost her children (different accounts say they were kidnapped, slain, drowned, or she killed them herself), but at the gates of Heaven she is asked their whereabouts, and is sent back to Earth to find them. She wonders the globe for all eternity, weeping and searching for the children she will never find. She is used as a boogey monster to scare children - You behaive, or the Weeping Woman will take you away!
    Myrddin likes this.
  6. Everyman

    Everyman New Member

    Hi everyone. Thanks for your replies. I'm not sure any of the characters mentioned are the specific one I remember, but I think any of them serve the meaning behind what I was seeking. At any rate it gives me a lot more to read. :)

    Probably the closest to what I remember is Odin, but I don't remember the character being a god. Plus this character survived to chronicle the final battle, whereas we know Odin dies. Maybe I'm just not remembering the story I read correctly.

    At any rate, thanks for your responses. Time to begin reading...
  7. Caburus

    Caburus Active Member

    Rhonda - I'm not familiar with Gangleri appearing in the original poem of Beowulf. Is that from a film/modern re-telling?
    Everyman - But anywho, Gangleri still might fit. He appears as the main character in the story 'Gylfaginning', from the Prose Edda of Snorri Stuluson. King Gyfli of Sweden (a man, and not a god) travels to Asgard to find out about the Aesir, but disguishes himself as an old man called Gangleri, and says that he has 'travelled trackless ways'. The name Gangleri means 'walk-weary'.
    He asks the Aesir about themselves, and he is told their cosmology and history, from before the time of Ymir through to the new world after Ragnorak.
    Gangleri didn't experience these tales, nor did he have to live throughout history recording the deeds. He may well have come home and had them written down, but it was all told to him by the gods from what they themselves had been told, had seen, or had prophesied.
    The Gylfaginning is here; http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/pre04.htm
    Ganglari is also a name used by Odin, but he is not the same person as Gyfli/Gangleri in Snorri's story.
  8. Alejandro

    Alejandro Active Member

    The Scottish Highlander character, from a 1986 Christopher Lambert movie which spawned a whole franchise including a cartoon series & some anime movies (& Sean Connery was in one of the live-action sequels too), is the only character I can think of bearing any similarity to the Wandering Jew in terms of wandering all over the world because he is cursed to live until the end of time, or at least for quite a number of human generations.

    But I suspect that the character you have in mind is from Irish mythology, namely Fintan mac Bóchra. Among the individuals who were not aboard Noah's Ark, Fintan and a certain magic hawk were the only survivors of Noah's Flood several millennia ago. Fintan survived the Deluge in the form of a salmon (I don't know if he transformed into this fish by his own power or by someone else's), remaining a year under the waters in a cave, later called Fintan's Grave, on Tul Tuinde, the "Hill of the Wave," near Lough Derg in Ireland. According to the Wikipedia article on him, 'He then turned into an eagle and then a hawk then back to human form. He lived for 5500 years after the Deluge, becoming an advisor to the kings of Ireland. In this capacity he gave advice to the Fir Bolg king Eochaid mac Eirc when the Tuatha Dé Danann invaded, and fought in the first Battle of Magh Tuiredh.

    'He survived into the time of Fionn mac Cumhaill, becoming the repository of all knowledge of Ireland and all history along with a magical hawk who was born at the same time as him. They meet at the end of their lives and recount their stories to each other. They decide to leave the mortal realm together sometime in the 5th century, after Ireland was converted to Christianity.

    'Due to his ability to shape shift into a salmon and his honorific title as, "The Wise", Fintan mac Bóchra is sometimes confused with a similarly named animal figured in Irish mythology more commonly known and referred to as the Salmon of Wisdom.'

    Well, I dunno if this's the guy you're looking for, since he seems quite favoured, rather than cursed, to live as long as he does... and for a dude who hangs around the same country for more than 5.5 thousand years, it'd be somewhat problematic to refer to him as a wanderer.
  9. Rhonda Tharp

    Rhonda Tharp Active Member

    Yes, I was referring to Kevin Crossley-Holland's retelling of Beowulf.
  10. Rhonda Tharp

    Rhonda Tharp Active Member

  11. Everyman

    Everyman New Member

    Thanks everyone for the additional replies. And thanks for the non-Norse characters as well. Though I do believe what I read was Norse, because I'm now remembering that Yggdrasil played a part. As I think more about this I'm remembering other minor details of the overall story. I'm going to have to do some digging because I think I wrote down the name of the book somewhere. I'm thinking now it was a fictionalized account of Norse myth, so likely some of the details I remember were embellishments of the Norse myth or the author may even have borrowed from other myths.

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