Sleipnir - Odin’s Horse
Commonly, Odin is depicted on his High Throne with a pair of ravens perching on his shoulders and a pair of wolves under his feet. Thereby, the famous and constant animal companions of Odin were the ravens and wolves. Odin, however, was in possession of another mighty animal, whose name was Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse.
Sleipnir meant “the slipper” in Old Norse. He was an eight-legged grey horse. Sleipnir was given to Odin by Loki Norse Trickster. The most interesting part about Sleipnir must be his background.
Sleipnir was the child of Loki and Svadilfari. Long long ago, a giant with great building skills and strength came to Asgard and offered to build the wall protecting Asgard. The builder said he would finish the wall within three seasons and the Gods must give him Freya, the sun, and the moon. The Gods (actually Loki’s idea) agreed to give the builder the payment as long as he finished the task within one season without any help from men. In fact, the Gods firmly believed that the giant builder could not accomplish the task; thereby, they hilariously wanted to test the giant.
Contrary to the gods’ belief, the giant builder constructed the wall without any difficulties and even at an incredible speed. The only one helping the giant was his stallion Svadifari who did the work twice as much as the giant did. The gods were worried that the giant would finish the task in time and they would lose Freya, the sun, and the moon to the giant. Then the gods decided that Loki was to the one to bear the responsibilities. And as usual, Loki came up with some tricks.
On one night, Loki shapeshifted into a special mare. The mare (Loki in disguise) managed to distract the stallion from finishing the task. The result, of course, was that the giant did not finish the task in time, getting angry with the gods though being killed quickly afterward. And Loki and Svadifari after the chasing gave birth to the little horse called Sleipnir. Interestingly, Loki (as a mare) was the mother of Sleipnir.
Months later, Loki turned up at Asgard and presented the horse Sleipnir to Odin as a gift. Being the Aesir chief god, Odin needed a supernatural and mighty ride that could bring him through the Nine Realms. Sleipnir was the most suitable in this case as he got the blood of the best horse (Svadilfari) and the giant/god (Loki)*. He could gallop over the sea and through the air as well as on land. No horse in Norse myth could outrun Sleipnir. He was able to go to Helheim; he once carried Hermod and Odin there. At Ragnarok, Odin rode Sleipnir to attend his final battle.
*Whether Loki was a god or a giant remained a mystique. Though Loki dwelled in Asgard with the gods, his origin was traced back in Jotunheim, land of the giant. Many claimed that Loki with his fast talk persuaded the gods to admit him into Asgard and he was the offspring of two giant.