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Sif is the Asgard goddess married to Thor, the god of thunder. She is called “the loveliest of women” in the Prose Edda by Icelandic author Snorri Sturluson. Known for her long, golden hair, which plays a part in several major stories, Sif is a goddess of the land and Earth, and is associated with fertility and bountiful harvests.
Who is Sif?
The goddess Sif takes her name from the singular form of the Old Norse word sifjar which is related to the Old English word sibb, meaning affinity, connection by marriage, or family.
With that in mind, Sif’s main role in the Asgardian pantheon appears to be simply being Thor’s wife. In most of the myths with which she’s connected, Sif appears as a passive character, with little agency.
Sif’s Golden Locks
According to the story, Loki decides it’d be funny to cut off the long, golden hair of Sif. He comes across Sif while she’s sleeping and quickly cuts of hair. When Thor sees Sif without her golden tresses, he immediately knows it’s Loki’s doing. In anger, Thor confronts Loki about this.
Loki is forced to go to the dwarven realm Svartalfheim to find a replacement wig for Sif. There, the cunning god finds not only another set of golden locks, but he also gets the dwarven blacksmiths to craft Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, Odin’s spear Gungnir, Freyr’s ship Skidblandir and golden boar Gullinbursti, and Odin’s golden ring Draupnir.
Loki then brings back the weapons for the gods, and gifts Thor with Sif’s new golden wig and with Mjolnir, which would become a highly important weapon and a symbol of Thor.
Sif as a Faithful Wife
Through most Norse myths, Sif is portrayed as a faithful wife of Thor. It bears pointing out that she has a son from another father – Ullr or Ull to whom Thor acts as a step-father. Ull’s father was said to be Urvandil although who or what that is is left unclear.
Sif also two children from Thor – the goddess Þrúðr (Old Norse for strength) and a son by the name of Lóriði, who took after his father. Thor also had two sons from other women – the gods Magni (mighty) and Móði (wrath).
Despite all those out-of-wedlock children, neither Sif nor Thor was viewed as unfaithful by the authors of Norse myths and legends. Instead, they were usually given as an example of a healthy marriage.
Sif as the Prophetess Sibyl
In the prologue of Prose Edna by Snorri Sturluson, Sif is also described as “a prophetess called Sibyl, though we know her as Sif”.
This is interesting because in Greek mythology, the sibyls were oracles who prophesied at holy sites. It’s very possible that this is not a coincidence as Snorri wrote his Prose Edna in the 13th century, possibly inspired by Greek mythology. The name Sibyl is also linguistically similar to the Old English word sibb which relates to the name Sif.
Symbols and Symbolism of Sif
Even with all her other deeds in mind, Sif’s main symbolism is that of a good and faithful wife to Thor. She was beautiful, smart, loving, and faithful, despite the small matter of having a son from another man.
Aside from symbolizing a stable family, Sif is also associated with fertility and a bountiful harvest. Her long golden hair is often associated with wheat and the goddess is often portrayed in fields of wheat by painters.
Sif was also worshipped as a goddess of the Earth and the land. Her marriage to Thor, god of thunder, the sky and agriculture, may be symbolic of the connection between the sky and the earth, linked by rain and fertility.
Importance of Sif in Modern Culture
The goddess Sif can be seen in quite a few modern pop-culture works in addition to all the artistic works from medieval and Victorian times. Most famously, a version of her called “Lady Sif” is portrayed in Marvel comics and in the MCU movies about Thor.
Played by actress Jamie Alexander in the MCU, Lady Sif is depicted not as an Earth goddess but as an Asgardian warrior. Much to the chagrin of many Marvel fans, in these movies, Lady Sif never got together with the god of Thunder who was instead more interested in the earthling Jane.
Aside from the MCU, different versions of the goddess can also be seen in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard novels by Rick Riordan. The video game franchise Dark Souls also featured a wolf companion to Knight Artorias, called Great Grey Wolf Sif.
There’s also the Sif glacier in Greenland. The goddess is also said to be the inspiration behind Hroðgar’s wife, Wealhþeow in the poem Beowulf, a poem that still yields movies, games, and songs to this day.
The two most important pieces of information we know about Sif is that she is Thor’s wife and that she has golden hair, which can be a metaphor for wheat. Apart from this, Sif doesn’t play an active role in the myths. Regardless, Sif was an important goddess to the Norse people and her associations with fertility, earth, family and caregiving made her a revered deity.