Vidofnir is the golden rooster, described within the Old Norse poem Fjölsvinnsmal‡. Vidofnir sits atop the world tree Mimameith, where it allegedly shines. Henry Adams Bellows, in his 1936 edition of the Poetic Edda, gives a translation of Vidofnir's name in his textual notes: "Tree-Snake", a perfectly reasonable name for a golden rooster.
Within the poem, Vidofnir is mentioned four times, and on those meagre lines rests Vidofnir's entire mythological and literary legacy. Standing before the gate of his destined beloved, Menglöth, the poem's hero Svipdag begins questioning the gatekeeper Fjölsvith. At length, he asks the giant to identify the glittering cock sitting upon the highest branch of Mimameith. Fjölsvith explains that the rooster is, as we know, Vidofnir, and that it allegedly shines on the world tree's branches. There is also brief mention of Vidofnir's tendency to vex the hell out of the jötunn Surt and his wife Sinmöra. Bellows, in his notes, elaborates further, stating that the two giants were, in fact, living in constant terror of the "cock's eternal watchfulness"(1).
Shortly thereafter, Vidofnir is mentioned again when Svipdag, now faced with a pair of massive, impassable hounds, asks Fjölsvith if there might exist some kind of meat capable of distracting the two beasts. Fjölsvith, as we might expect, tells Svipdag that there is, indeed; there is but one, sole source of meat capable of satiating the two hounds, and that meat can only be found within the wing-joints of Vidofnir itself.
Next, Svipdag asks the giant if there existed a weapon one could use to slay Vidofnir. There is, of course, explains Fjölsvith; the sword Lævateinn, itself crafted by Loki near the gates of Hel, and now kept by the giantess Sinmöra within a chest held by nine locks. Svipdag hypothesizes: suppose one were to head over and try to take the sword. What then? Fjölsvith's responds that, yes, one may well take the blade, that is, if one also happened to be carrying a very particular and rare gift for the giantess Sinmöra.
By this point, Svipdag realizes the rub. Exactly what, he asks the giant, would this gift need be? Why, Fjölsvith tells the hero, one would have only to retreive a golden tail-feather from Vidofnir itself. That alone would entice Sinmöra to relinquish the sword Lævateinn. The mind recoils.
And, here, Vidofnir's narrative comes to an end. Svipdag continues on toward Menglöth and his destiny, and the golden rooster, it would seem, is left still shining, still sitting, still terrorizing the lives of the jötunn with its eternal stare.
At this point, things become somewhat contentious.
For example, some are quick to assume that Vidofnir is simply an equivalent to Vethrfölnir, the hawk said to sit atop the eagle which is itself perched upon the very top of Yggdrasil. Even worse, there are now a number of sources online claiming that it's the unnamed eagle which is Vidofnir, and that just sounds like something someone made up.
Bellows, in his notes, suggests instead that Vidofnir is most likely an identical match for one of two roosters described in the poem Völuspa‡: Gullinkambi or Fjalar, whose crowing would wake the gods and the jötunn respectively, signifing the beginning of Ragnarök (there was also a third, unnamed rooster said to crow for the inhabitants of Hel, but suffice to say, nobody seems to give a shit what it's up to). In contrast to the Vidofnir/Vethrfölnir theory, the comparison to Gullinkambi the "Gold-Comb" is more-or-less self-explanatory; as for the other, maybe Bellows wanted to hedge his bet, and so threw Fjalar's name in there too. Furthermore, Norse mythology expert and writer Viktor Rydberg names the rooster Salgofnir‡, mentioned in the poem Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II‡ as yet another parallel to Vidofnir, a fact which Bellows further corroborates in his notes.
Beyond the Poetic Edda, the name Vidofnir can be found within the video games Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, and, more recently, Final Fantasy XIII, both of which feature weapons named Vidofnir.
- The Poetic Edda translated by Henry Adams Bellows (1936)
- Svipdagsmál translated by Eysteinn Björnsson
- The Poetic Edda translated by Benjamin Thorpe (1866)
- The Poetic Edda translated by Amos S. Cottle (1797)
- Our Fathers' Godsaga: Retold for the Young by Viktor Rydberg, translated by William P. Reaves (2003)