Norse and Finnic Mythology Pages »» Finnic Kings »» Sumble »» Written/revised: 05-2008


Other names: Mimir, Sökkmimir, Ölvaldi, Alvaldi, Ilvaldi

Areas of rule: ('Northern Vandalia') Finland, Kvenland?

Approximate time: 100 AD

According to Messenius, Sumblus (a Latinized form of Sumble) ruled the Northern Wends (Baltic Finns) around year 100 AD. He is said to have been the father of Finland's original name Suomi.1 Interestingly, sumbl was also an eminent drinking ritual amongst the Viking- and Merovingian-age Germanic races, involving solemn offerings of gifts or oaths by a drinking-horn filled with mead. Viktor Rydberg attests that this very king might have been the origin of the custom.

Commonly sumbl is described as a ritual with a distinct formula, parts of it being connected to ancestor worship and inheritance traditions. There are several versions to the routine, but commonly it involved the passing-around of a special cup, called braga[r]full, 'the best cup' or 'promise-cup', after feasting. The previous seems more plausible in the context regarding the first word bragr, which stands for 'best, foremost'. If this custom is directly borrowed or inherited from the Baltic-Finnic peoples, among which festivities with ceremonial mead-drinks from a horn had great significance (for instance Ukon vakka), the expression might etymologically lead its way backwards thus: bragr --> brar[g]az, --> paras (f.ex Ove Berg explains that the r-ending was a dialectal transformation from az), which is a Finnish word of the exact same meaning. To give some additional insight, Rydberg's theory connects Sumbl to the Frost Giant Mimir who owned the well of sacred mead whence Odin drank and acquired wisdom.

Otherwise Sumble, when not associated with Mimir, has his longest account in Gesta Danorum. The story in itself is quite straightforward, so it is quoted in the following. It suffices to say that Gram was contemporarily the king of the Danes.

Many other deeds also King Gram did. He declared war against Sumble, King of the Finns; but when he set eyes upon the King's daughter, Signe, he laid down his arms, the foeman turned into the suitor, and, promising to put away his own wife, he plighted troth with her. But, while much busied with a war against Norway, which he had taken up against King Swipdag for debauching his sister and his daughter, he heard from a messenger that Signe had, by Sumble's treachery, been promised in marriage to Henry, King of Saxony. Then, inclining to love the maiden more than his soldiers, he left his army, privily made his way to Finland, and came in upon the wedding, which was already begun. Putting on a garb of the utmost meanness, he lay down at the table in a seat of no honour. When asked what he brought, he professed skill in leechcraft. At last, when all were drenched in drunkenness, he gazed at the maiden, and amid the revels of the riotous banquet, cursing deep the fickleness of women, and vaunting loud his own deeds of valour, he poured out the greatness of his wrath in a song like this:

"Singly against eight at once I drove the darts of death, and smote nine with a back-swung sword, when I slew Swarin, who wrongfully assumed his honours and tried to win fame unmerited; wherefore I have oft dyed in foreign blood my blade red with death and reeking with slaughter, and have never blenched at the clash of dagger or the sheen of helmet. Now Signe, the daughter of Sumble, vilely spurns me, and endures vows not mine, cursing her ancient troth; and, conceiving an ill-ordered love, commits a notable act of female lightness; for she entangles, lures, and bestains princes, rebuffing beyond all others the lordly of birth; yet remaining firm to none, but ever wavering, and bringing to birth impulses doubtful and divided."

And as he spoke he leapt up from where he lay, and there he cut Henry down while at the sacred board and the embraces of his friends, carried off his bride from amongst the bridesmaids, felled most of the guests, and bore her off with him in his ship. Thus the bridal was turned into a funeral; and the Finns might learn the lesson, that hands should not be laid upon the loves of other men.

After this SWIPDAG, King of Norway, destroyed Gram, who was attempting to avenge the outrage on his sister and the attempt on his daughter's chastity. This battle was notable for the presence of the Saxon forces, who were incited to help Swipdag, not so much by love of him, as by desire to avenge Henry.

GUTHORM and HADDING, the son of Gram (Groa being the mother of the first and Signe of the second), were sent over to Sweden in a ship by their foster-father, Brage (Swipdag being now master of Denmark), and put in charge of the giants Wagnhofde and Hafle, for guard as well as rearing.

The story continues with Hadding's further adventures and him later becoming king of Denmark. The Sumble excerpt bears resemblance to the Eddic tale about the giant Thymr stealing Thor's hammer and thereafter demanding Freya as his bride. Loki and Thor dress up as women and travel to Thrymr's wedding feast, where the disguised Thor claims to be Freya herself. Eventually he kills the giant and his whole court in the celebrations, returning home with his reacquired weapon.

Messenius's Latin text quite much summarizes that of Saxo, but adds the approximate timing and clears up Sumble's area of dominion.

C. Circa annum, Sumblus Venedarum rex borelium, promissa 100.
Gramo Scondiae domino, filiâ Signe, illum Venelandiae inhiantem, fibi
reddit amicum.
Gramus Signem inaudiens, Henrico Saxonum regi desponsatam,
occiso in nuptiis corrivali, & illâ in Daniam abducta, suscepit ex
ipsa Hadingum.

1Sumble or Sumbli
		   A Finnish king, who supposedly has given Finland [Suomi] its name.
-- Ganander, Mythologia Fennica


Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus, book I
Johannes Messenius, Scondia Illustrata Tomus X
sumbl @ Wikipedia
Viktor Rydberg, Teutonic Mythology