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The Three Norns

  • Urd or Urdar
  • Verdandi
  • Skuld

The norns were three goddesses in Norse mythology who spun the Web of Fate while sitting under Yggdrasil, the at the center of the earth.

How It's Used

“GREAT PLATES: The Commuter tries not to see the hand of fate in every traffic move, but it's hard when twice you've found yourself behind a car with the license plate '3 NORNS.' Norse mythology buffs will remember those are the goddesses of destiny, similar to the three fates of Greek lore who measured out humans' life spans. The Commuter has tried not to cut off the 3 NORNS, and hopes the goddesses will return the favor.”

—The Commuter Triangle, “Swingers Can't Get On Track,” The San Francisco Chronicle, September 5, 1997.

"How is it that a musical about a sharp-shooting female will run considerably longer, with the very same star, as one based on a beloved Shakespeare classic? Is it subject matter that determines success or failure in the musical theater? There are certain subjects in literature and history positively guaranteed to be totally unfit for the musical stage. Any self-respecting theater practitioner would know in a sniff that the following are ludicrous choices for musical comedy: the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the bloodthirsty murderous barber Sweeney Todd and the sinking of the Titanic. Yet they have all been considerably more successful than the late nonlamented 'Lear, My Dear.'

"Why? Let's say the the Three Norns -- the three goddesses of the past, present and future who play with mortals' destiny—got together for lunch at Sardi's and over a dish of cannelloni got a little tipsy and gave those shows their blessing. This may seem nonintellectual, nonanalytical and evasive in the extreme, but there is no other explanation...except of course for the skill and imagination and artistry of the creators who stubbornly refused to listen to reason."

Betty Comden and Adolph Green, "Sink or Swim? Tipsy Goddesses Decide," The New York Times, December 12, 1998, p. B7.

"The opening of the third act is a wonderfully potent invention, too: when the Wanderer seeks out Erda (the rich-toned, wonderfully eloquent Patricia Bardon), he finds her in a retirement home, watching television with a trio of equally elderly ladies. Those other inmates are unmistakably the Three Norns, and what they watch on TV is a sea of flame that could be the magic fire guarding Brunnhilde or, equally, the conflagration that will bring the end of the world. The scene ends with Siegfried and the Wanderer throwing the old ladies out of their chairs; they are left to stare into the void while the orchestral interlude unfolds. Siegfried goes off to find Brunnhilde more or less where she had been left by Wotan in The Valkyrie, but without the distracting gaggle of paparazzi and admirers."

—Andrew Clements, "Opera: Siegfried: The main event: Coliseum, London," The Guardian (UK), November 8, 2004.

"Like most of [Liz] Lerman's creations, the roughly 40-minute 'Small Dances' unfolds as a blend of dance, music, theatrical imagery, and sociopolitical text. Lerman sifted through reams of documentation, drawing on material from Nazi Germany, Bosnia, South Africa, and Rwanda, including poetry and radio news clips.

"Dancers portray a variety of characters, including a forensic anthropologist, a reporter, testifiers, and Raphael Lempkin, who coined the word 'genocide.' Three 'Norns,' whom Lerman describes as 'the crones of Norse mythology who gave legal advice to the gods,' act as a sort of conscience for the piece, reflecting the unsettled complexities of the issues. 'They are our moral compass,' Lerman explained."

—Karen Campbell, "Dance Illuminates Issues of Genocide," The Boston Globe, November 3, 2005, p. F1.

“The three fates of Norse mythology—Past, Present and Future—transform themselves into swans when they want to travel, Kenneth Rae explains as he holds a silver pendant that his father, Jack, designed.”

—Terese Loeb Kreuzer, “Highland bling; ancient viking spirit provides inspiration for scottish artisans,” The Toronto Star, March 1, 2009.


Related on eAlmanac
The Three Fates

Beyond eAlmanac
Wikipedia article on the Three Norns

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