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Basic Information

In Norse Mythology, Rán is a Vanir sea goddess with an unpredictable and dangerous personality. Rán is married to Ægir, a sea-giant, and together they have nine daughters (see Nine Daughters of Ægir) who are waves. However, that marriage doesn't stop Ran from having all sorts of affairs.

"Affairs" is actually the polite way to put it. Rán carries a large magical net, which she uses to catch both fish and men. When someone drowns, it is said that Rán has taken them. Those who die at sea do not go to either Valhalla nor Niflheim. Instead, they end up in Rán's bed, or the bed of one (or more) of her nine daughters. Yep, she kills men, then has sex with them for eternity. The old norse were a little kinky.

Rán and her family lived in an undersea cave lined with gold. Rán apparently really loved gold. They say that vikings would carry some gold on them when sailing, in case Rán seized them. It's unclear whether the idea was that you could bribe her or distract her with the gold and thus escape, or if the gold gift was to get her to keep you in her home when she was otherwise done with you. I'd be a little worried that sailing with gold would attract her attentions, but maybe that was the point. Rán's bed is certainly better than Niflheim.

Rán's part in Myths:

Rán and her net shows up as a minor player in a few different myths.

  • The net was invented/made for Rán by Loki to help her catch fish, which is ironic given the trouble the net causes him later.
  • In the story of Fafnir, Loki borrow's Rán's net to capture Andvari the Dwarf and force him to give cursed gold to Fafnir.
  • After Baldr's death and the long mourning that follows, Rán and Ægir throw a feast to try to cheer up the gods. This fails when Loki crashes the party.
  • Rán's net is used to catch Loki (who had turned himself into a salmon to swim away from the Gods). He is then locked in a cave and punished with venom.

Rán is probably the grandmother of Heimdall. Heimdall is described as being the child of nine mothers, and at other points in poetry he's described as the son of nine waves. Rán is a sea goddess who has nine daughters. So it's implied she's his grandmother, but none of the surviving myths spell it out with 100% clarity.


3. Website: Godchecker
4. Non-Fiction Book: Usborne Illustrated Guide To Norse Myths And Legends by Evans and Millard

Game and Story Use

  • Loki or some other wily trickster or villain is on the loose. Only the Net of Rán can catch him, but to get the net the PCs must risk drowning.
  • Rather than a goddess, Rán is a terrifying spirit or mermaid that rapes and murders men.
    • The PCs are called in to investigate a string of suspicious combination sexual-assault/drownings along the Scandinavian coast.
    • The PCs are traveling by ship across the sea, and Rán is just one encounter along the way.
  • Rán the goddess might be a difficult encounter thrown at the party in a fairly adult game exploring mythic themes. The PC's ship is attacked by sea itself, and everyone has to make saving throws to avoid drowning. As soon as someone fails, they are pulled overboard by a wave / net, and the storm or tsunami stops. There's no sign of them on the surface. Sometime later, the "drowned" PC wakes in a golden bed in an undersea cave. In typical mythical fashion, Rán falls in love with them, and will eventually let them go though it breaks her heart to do so. In this way, we cast Rán in a light similar to Circe or Calypso of Greek Mythology. She probably gives them some sort of gift or treasure when she sets them free, and this gift later proves vital to the PCs completing their quest.
  • For a post-modern spin, you could cast Rán as a recovering addict. She tries desperately to resist her temptations to pull men off of the decks of ships and take them to her bed.
    • If one of the PCs has a character with an addiction flaw, Rán could be a background character at their Twelve-Step program / AA group. You put her in a supporting role across half a dozen sessions before revealing she's a goddess with a ver dramatic addiction.
  • Rán's cave is full of gold. The PCs might just seek it out to raid or steal.
  • Rán's cave could serve as an alternate underworld for sailors and mariners, fulfilling the same sorts of plot considerations as Helheim, Davey Jone's Locker, Heaven, or Hell.
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