Norse Mythology has always been very intriguing and sometimes inspirational. Odin, Thor, Loki, some of the most known names today. Some of the factors that kept those characters and myths popular may be Marvel. Comics and movies inspired by those old Scandinavian tales. But, of course, the keyword here is “inspired”. Mainly because the characters from the comics are nothing alike those from the myths.
I have noticed that the origin of the Norse World is a little… confusing even for those who have done their research. There are some opinions on how the Norse World is constructed, what is the Yggdrasil and how does the Bifrost work. In this post I want to narrate and explain as simple as possible how the Norse World was created and how you can picture it.
First of all there was nothing; no earth, no sky, no stars. Only two worlds. The mist world named Niflheim to the North. And the fire world called Muspell to the South.
Niflheim, the mist dark world, had a Well at the center where seven poisonous rivers cut through the mist. Niflheim was colder than cold full of clouds and poisonous fog.
Muspell, to the South, was a world of fire. Everything there burned. A world covered of molten lava. In Muspell, at the edge of the flame, ehre the land ends, stood Surtr. A flaming giant who existed before the gods. He stands there now holding a flaming sword. It is said that at Ragnarok, only then Surtr will leave his station.
Between Muspell and Niflheim was a void. From the North, rivers of the mist world were falling in this void, while from the south rivers of lava were falling both like cataracts. That void was called Ginnungagap, the “yawning gap”. Over time, the ice from the North met the sparks from Muspell and at that moment from that impact, air was made!
The fire melt the ice and in those melting waters, life appeared! A person, both female and male, bigger that worlds awoke. This great giant creature called itself Ymir. But Ymir was not the only living thing to be formed by the melting ice. There was a hornless cow, which Ymir then named Audhumla. The cow licked the salty blocks of ice for food and drink, and she produced milk that nourished Ymir.
At some point while the cow was licking the blocks of ice she formed with her tongue the shape of a man who came to life. This was Buri, the ancestor of the gods. Ymir slept and in its sleep gave birth to a male and a female giant who emerged from beneath Ymir’s left arm, and a six-headed giant from Ymir’s legs.
Buri took a wife from these giants and together they had a son named Bor. Bor then married Bestla, a daughter of a giant, and together they had three sons, Odin, Vili and Ve.
Norse World Creation
Those three brothers after realizing they lived in a void, somewhere and nowhere, between fire and mist, they decided that something that something should be created. It was then, when they killed Ymir. There was no other way to make worlds. They stabbed the great giant. The blood that gushed out of Ymir’s corpse were the fountains, oceans and seas that came to be. Everyone in Ginnungagap at that moment drowne. All the giants except two survived; Bergelmir, Ymir’s grandson, and his wife who in the future became the ancestors of all the giants. They lived at the edge of the world, beside the deepest seas.
Odin and his brothers made land from Ymir’s flesh, Mountains from Ymir’s piled up bones. The rocks are fragments of Ymir’s skull and teeth. The sky was the inside of Ymir’s skull and the clouds were once Ymir’s brains. While the stars are sparks that flew from Muspell’s fires.
In the world, which was named Midgard, Odin, Vili and Ve were looking for sights of life. They found two logs, sea-tossed that had floated there on the tides. The first was a log of ash wood from the ash tree. The second was a log of elm wood. The three gods took and stood the logs. Odin breathed life into them. Vili gave them will, intelligence and drive. And Ve carved the logs giving them shape of people. At the end he carved the one male and the other carved female. Last of all they gave them names. The man called Ask, or Ash Tree and the woman they called Embra of Elm. Ask and Emra were the father and mother of all the mortal humans.
Yggdrasil is the mighty ash tree, the most perfect and beautiful of all trees. It grew between the nine worlds and joins all of them. It is said that after Ymir’s death it grew so large that became the biggest of all trees and its branches are above the sky. Yggdrasil is so large that its roots are in three worlds and it is fed by three Wells.
The first root is actually the deepest and it goes into the worlds of mist, Niflheim. It is fed by the well in the center of Niflheim in the waters where the dragon Nidhogg lives.
The Second root goes to the realm of the frost giants to the well that belongs to Mimir, the most wisest giant of all.
The Third root goes in the Well of Urd. Which some say it is placed in Asgard. The Well of Urd id a place where three sisters live, who are wise maidens, and tend the Well and make sure that the roots of Yggdrasil are cared for.
The Yggdrasil after growing so big, became the only “bridge” between all the worlds mainly because it connects all of them. The world tree can be climbed. There is a creature who does that, a squirrel named Ratatoskr. But gods do not climb the world-tree. They travel between worlds using the Bifrost, the rainbow bridge.
You may have already heard of the nine worlds but lets present them:
Asgard, home of the Aesir gods
Alfheim, home of light elves
Nidavellir or Svartalfheim, home of the dwarfs who are also called dark elves
Midgard, the human world
Jotunheim, where the frost and mountain giants live
Vanaheim, home of the Vanir gods
Niflheim, the dark mist world
Muspell or Muspellheim, the flame world
And a world which took the name after its ruler, Hel
In conclusion, it is hard to precisely illustrate the nine worlds and the Yggdrasil. That is why many artworks may are incorrect even though they are respected efforts giving an image of the ash tree. Maybe in the future we can make a post analyzing the outer image of Yggdrasil.
The Origin of the Norse Mythology is quite fascinating and also mysterious to be fair. As it is hard to fully understand the concept of the co-existence of the nine worlds with an ash tree which connects them all. But that is the beauty of myths. Ancient stories that tried to explain something unknown to them. The origin of the world and their gods and religion. A story, which by all means cannot be taken literal. But, I hope, after this analysis, we all earned a better understanding of the Norse Mythology’s Origin.
Neil Gailman’s “Norse Mythology” was a book that helped a lot for this posts syntax. Many references in the mythological factor were coming from this book.
The Poetic Edda, a great book with collection of old Norse Poems, helped significantly for the variety of norse myths and their better understanding after reading them from their original form.
Be sure not to miss the next weeks original story which is inspired by the Norse Mythology. It will be called ” The Child of Ragnarok”!