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Introduction to Norse Mythology

Updated on November 8, 2013

The civilization of the Norse.

Many people know Norse mythology as the religion and belief of Viking people of northern Europe. They lived in present Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Germany etc. Instead of a vast empire or kingdom, they resided as different clans or tribes. They ruled these areas from about 7th century to 13th century AD. But the Norse Mythology or Scandinavian mythology existed even before Vikings came. They may have existed before AD.

Norse mythology was tagged "pagan" in later 14th century by Christian missionaries of Britain which was not a Norse area. Norse myth began to go extinct during that type and many gods and figures of Norse became saints and figures of Christianity. The personality of Jesus Christ has similarities to god Baldur the White.

What is mythology?

Mythology is defined as a collection of beliefs, tradition and legends of a particular society or religion. Many will tell you mythology means superstitious beliefs but is actually a faith of an individual ,society or civilization which is mostly classified as "wrong" by science.

Norse, Greek etc. are the example of classical mythologies. Their main components are creation legend, gods and heroes.

Norse mythology

Norse mythology or Scandinavian mythology is myth of Norsemen. It is a very vast mythology like that of Greece. Many may take that this myth is same to Celtic myth of Ancient England and France, but they are very different except a few similarities in gods.

Norse mythology was creation by people of Northern Europe where it is very cold. This environmental factor has a huge effect upon the mythology of Scandinavia. They describe their gods and heroes wearing thick fur clothes unlike of Greek where they are mostly shown naked.

Even the Hell in Norse myth was described as a very cold and cruel place unlike most other myths which have it hot and fiery.


The Creation Myth

It is said in Norse mythology that before anything; soil, human, god or water existed, there was Ginnungagap, a dark abyss which separated Muspelheim; homeland of eternal fire and Niflheim; homeland of death and cruel cold. Then, it is said that, from Niflheim, came twelve streams of cold ice and from Muspelheim came a stream of fiery lava. They two met in the mid-way and formed large amount of vapor which formed a giant mass of frost. Then the frost melted later on and a giant called Ymir was born.

Then in later evening the wandering Ymir fell asleep near the land of Muspelheim which was very hot. Then, due to heat he sweated. From his sweat two giants like him were born out of his armpit.

Then from the remaining mass of the frost from where Ymir had came from, a giant cow was created. Then Ymir and his other giant children begun to feed themselves from the milk of the cow Audhumbla. Then the cow, to nourish herself, began to lick a salty ice block in front of her. From licking and thinning the ice block, she uncovered the first Aesir god, Buri. Then Buri had a son named Bor who married with one of the giantess and gave birth to Odin, Velle and Ve.

Later these three gods united with other gods thinking that giants were a danger to gods and killed the giant Ymir. The blood produced from Ymir's body was so much that it formed the seas and drowned all other giants except two who became ancestors of other frost giants.

From Ymir's skins and muscle, Odin made the soil, from his hair the plants. From his bones they made mountains and hills. From the grubs in his corpse, they made dwarves.

The contribution

Whose contribution to creation of human was most important in your view?

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Creation of humans

It happened that three gods, Odin, Vili and Ve were walking in beach when they encountered two logs. One was of Ash tree ans another of an Elm tree. Then they thought that they would give these lifeless things life. Then Odin gave them spirit and life. Vilie gave them motion intelligence and Ve gave them speech, feelings and shape.

Thus first two humans; male Ask and female Embla were created.

The Nine world

Instead of only heavens an earth, there were nine world in Norse mythology. They were:

  1. Vanaheim: Home of the Vanir gods who were older than gods in sorcery and magic
  2. Alfheim: Home of the Light Elves who were magical and good creatures
  3. Svartalfheim: Home of the Dark Elves who were magical but treacherous creatures
  4. Nidavellir: Home of the Dwarves who resided underground and couldn't be in sun which could change them to stone.
  5. Jotunheim: Home of the Giants who were evil and enemies of gods.
  6. Asgard: Home of the Aesir gods
  7. Niflheim: World of Fog
  8. Muspelheim: The Land of Fire
  9. Midgard: Home of the Humans, the Earth

A Norse Question

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The list of top Norse gods

Note: The Asgardians weren't as organized as the Olympians of Greece. Even among themselves, they had different races.

  • Odin, All father. God with one eye, king of gods and father of Thor.
  • Frigg, goddess of marrige and motherhood, wife of Odin.
  • Thor, son of Odin, god of strength and lightning
  • Hel, goddess of death, daughter of Loki
  • Loki, treacherous god of fire and mischief
  • Mani,god of moon
  • Sol, goddess of sun
  • Tyr, god of war
  • Baldr, god of innocence, peace and beauty
  • Bargi, god of poetry and music

Immortality of Norse gods

A very important note. Norse gods were not completely immortal. They could be killed by injury and would age and die if not for the sacred apple they eat called Golden Apples.

Ragnarok, the Dooms Day

In Norse mythology it is mentioned that the end of the world would come and end the ages of gods. In a poem describing this, it is fully mentioned what will happen in the time of Ragnarok.

It is said that Ragnarok started when Odin and Frigga's beloved son Baldr was killed treacherously by Loki. The cause of Ragnarok will be three children of Loki, Midgard serpent, Fenrir the giant wolf and goddess of death, Hel.

It is said that Odin will be the first to be killed by Fenrir the wolf. It is said that there would be earthquakes in all nine world. Hel will bring with her the unhonorable dead from underworld to attack the gods. The brave dead warriors of Valhalla will fight side by side with the gods. Mighty serpents, dragons and giants will rise against the gods and destroy many of them.

The world tree Yggdrasil which acted as a backbone to nine world will shake from its root itself. Then the fire giant Surt will set fire to nine world and everything will sink to bottom of the boiling sea.

But Norse mythology says it will not be the end of the world. Again life will return. New gods will be back and all creature shall return upon the face of new world.

All hail Odin, may we reside forever in the halls of Valhalla!


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    • Clinton1998 profile imageAUTHOR

      Abla Hulla 

      6 years ago from China

      Thanks for the comment and book suggestion, Alan. I will try do do as you suggested. This hub was meant to be just a short intro and over view and I have missed a lot of important points. Thanks!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      6 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Interesting approach to the mythology of the northern world, but you need more than the bare bones to breathe life into this overview. You need to personalise it or else it just reads as if it had been 'lifted' from an encyclopaedia.

      Baldur was the 'White God', the 'pure', as you mention. He was also the presagent of Christianity amongst Norse folk, a sort of parallel to Jesus.

      It was the attempt to bring Baldur back from the clutches of Hel, and the reluctance of Loki in disguise as the giantess Thokk to weep for Baldur that precipitated Ragnaroek. It had been foreseen - seemingly by Odin himself - that their world would end and that a new one would result from their demise. The end was no one dramatic event but the gradual abandonment by Scandinavia of their old gods and the conversion first of Denmark, then of Norway and lastly of Sweden.

      You've got plenty of material to develop here, Clinton. There's a book published by Penguin written by Kevin Crossley-Holland called the "Penguin Book of Norse Myths - Gods of the Vikings", ISBN 0-14-025869-8, then also there's the "Edda" (the Prose Edda) by Snorri Sturlusson, translated from the Icelandic MS and edited by Anthony Faulkes available from Everyman ISBN 0-460-87616-3. These volumes give an insight into the 'living, breathing' world of the Norsemen before Christianity diluted their culture.


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