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Article - 'Norse Mythology' by Angroth

An item about Miscellanious posted on Apr 27, 2004

Blurb

The basis of Norse Mythology.

Body

A Little Background
Norse myths were passed by people telling stories, usually bards whom would use the stories as another way to entertain their audience, be it in a tavern or to their lords. These myths were sometimes poems which the bards would tell or sing. They would do this so that they could have rhymes to create more of an impact to who was being told.
To get an idea of where the Norsemen travelled and told their stories, they had explored from Norway up to Iceland and Greenland, also back down to Britain and France. They also spread across to Finland, Russia and down to Germany, so yes it was quite a vast area (basically the whole of Europe).
Unfortunately is was about the 9th century AD that Christian missionaries came to Denmark. Slowly over the next few hundred years Christianity became more accepted and belief in the old gods died out (curse those bastards!)

The Nine Worlds
The highest plane of worlds were Asgard, Vanaheim and Alfheim. Warrior gods (Aesir) lived in Asgard, fertility gods (Vanir) lived in Vanaheim and Light Elves lived in Alfheim.
The middle plane of worlds were Midgard, Jotunheim, Nidavellir and Svartalfheim. Midgard was connected to Asgard by a great bridge named Bifrost, the guardian of this bridge was Heimdall (a god). Midgard was where humans live (Earth). Giants were said to either live in Jotunheim (inside a fortress), however some said they lived far across the ocean. Nidavellir was where the Dwarves lived. It was abundant with caves there and burrows, to which the Dwarves dwelled inside. Not too distant was Svartalfheim where Dark Elves lived. The humans could never leave Midgard because it was surrounded by an everlasting ocean to which housed Jormungand (a giant sea serpant). Jormungand was said to be so big that his body circled Midgard and he had to hold his tail in his mouth.
The lowest level was Niflheim (the Land of the Dead). It was an eternally dark, barren glacier ruled by Hel (Queen of the Dead).
Above all of the Nine Worlds was Yggdrasil, the giant ash tree. It had three large roots (each one for a level of worlds) which firmly held everything together.

The Tale of Creation
Before the world existed there was Niflheim found in the north, an icy land. To the south was Muspell, a land of fire. Ginnungagap was the vast emptiness separating the lands.
Out of Niflheim and into Ginnungagap flowed eleven rivers. These rivers filled the emptiness and froze. As the ice grew ever closer to Muspell the flames melted it. As the ice melted the drops formed two creatures. The first was Ymir (the Frost Giant) and the other was Audumla (a huge cow). Ymir drank Audumla’s milk to survive and Audumla licked the salty ice for nourishment. Whenever he slept, Ymir would sweat, and from this sweat came more Frost Giants.

One day, whilst Audumla was licking the salty ice, a large man shaped figure slowly began to appear in the ice. Audumla licked that spot for three days until the figure was freed. It was Buri, who before long had a son called Bor. Bor proceeded to marry Bestla (a Frost Giantess) and they had three sons, Odin, Vili and Ve. These were the first gods.
Ymir and his fellow Frost Giants were evil, and because of this Odin, Vili and Ve hated them. One day the brothers decided to kill Ymir, and in doing so his blood spilled out in torrents and swept away all of the Frost Giants except for Bergelmir and his wife. Bergelmir survived as he managed to escape into a hollow tree trunk. And so, all the Giants were decided from this pair.
Upon killing Ymir, Odin and his brothers took his body into Ginnungagap and used it to form the world. His bones and teeth were to make mountains and rocks, his blood became the seas and rivers, his skull made the dome of the sky and his brains become the clouds in the sky.
Vili and Ve found the roots of an ash and elm tree, they used this to create the first humans, The first man was Ask and his wife was Embla. The ash root was used to create Ask and the elm root was used to create Embla.
As all of this was going on, Ymir’s flesh was ever decaying, this enticed maggots to appear. The gods decided to change these maggots into small humans, named Dwarves. Four specific Dwarves had the task of holding up the sky, these were called North, South, East and West.
There was a Giant’s daughter who was called Night. She had a son named Day. Odin gave them a chariot and the task of circling the world every day.
Taking sparks from Muspell, the gods threw them into the sky, creating the sun, moon and stars.
There was a human named Mundalfair, he had a son and a daughter whom were so beautiful that he called them Moon and Sun after the planets created by the gods. The gods didn’t like this and made Moon drive a chariot drawing the moon while Sun guided the sun’s chariot. Sun followed Moon across the sky. They had to travel fast because they were forever chased by wolves who would eat them if they managed to catch up. Skoll was the wolf who chased Sun and Hati was the wolf who chased Moon. They were evil children of an ancient Giantess who lived in the Iron Wood on Earth.

The Tale of Odin
Odin was an Aesir (warrior gods). He was the first god, and the father of all other gods. Nonetheless, Odin was not only Aesir but also Vanir (king of gods). He created humans, all living creatures and made the Earth and sky itself. Unfortunately not much is known of what happened to his brothers Vili and Ve.
Odin was a great king. Gods and humans alike feared his anger, which despite his role, was not always justified. Sometimes he would use his power in bad ways merely to please himself. Because of this he was respected and worshipped by nobles and kings, rather than being loved by everyone.
Being the god of battle, Odin was the sole person to start wars on Earth, which he did by throwing his spear down. Warriors would try their hardest in combat to please him, as it was he who decided who won the battle. However he was known to be unpredictable and could grant a victory to the unexpected side.
Little do most people know, Odin was not only the god of battle but also the god of wisdom and poetry. He made a deadly journey to Jotunheim to obtain the Mead of Poetry. On occasion he would allow a human to sip from the it and therefore become a great wise poet. He constantly sought extremely hard for wisdom and paid dearly for his knowledge. He had to face death (but with his powers returned) for knowledge of the dead. It was due to this that magicians worshipped him.
Those who died in bed or of a disease were taken by Hel, those lucky enough to be slain in battle were taken by Odin into his great hall known as Valhalla (Hall of the Slain). Odin was the god of death but Freyja entertained the dead warriors.
Valhalla was in Asgard. These chosen heroes spent the day fighting and every evening was a feast where they could drink with Odin. Valhalla’s walls were made of golden spears and its roof was made of golden shields. The hall was large enough to hold 800 men and it had 540 doors.
Valaskjalf (Shelf of the Slain) was Odin’s other hall, here he sat on his great throne with Frigg by his side. Here, on his throne he would watch over the Nine Worlds. He had two ravens (Huginn and Munnin) which flew across these lands and gathered any news, they would whisper to him, helping him in his task.
Odin had female warriors that carried out his will. These were the Valkyries. They swooped over battle on horses helping in battles. They chose heroes to fill Valhalla. A man chosen by a Valkyrie was said to see one just before they died. When they weren’t fighting in battles, the Valkyries were as servants and would serve the meals to the warriors in Valhalla.
Odin’s wife Frigg was the Queen of Gods. She cared for all humans, especially woman and their children. Frigg gave birth to Odin’s son Balder (who died a tragic death). Balder was a kind god and Frigg mourned terribly. Many woman sympathised with Frigg but she was lucky enough to have their other son Bragi to survive and marry Idunn.

The End of the World
Loki stayed away from the gods after killing Balder. After a long time of mourning, the gods eventually decided that it must stop. So Aegir and Ran held a feast. Thor was off fighting Trolls, and Loki was not invited, either way he was still avoiding the gods, minus those two, everyone was there.
Half way through the feast Loki came. He hated the sight of the gods and mocked them all, telling all of their secrets in the process. After this Thor came. Loki insulted him too and then fled the feast. The gods were angry with Loki and decided to hunt him. Loki became a salmon and swam down a waterfall to escape but by now the gods knew Loki’s tricks and caught him in a net.
The gods knew death was too good for Loki and thought it would be best to make him suffer. First they turned Loki’s son Vali into a wolf and let him tear apart his brother Narvi into shreds. Then they tied Loki across sharp rocks in a cave deep in the mountains. Skadi proceeded to place great snake on the ceiling which dripped venom from its fangs into Loki’s face and eyes, inflicting great pain. The gods didn’t enjoy doing this but thought it was a just action.
Loki’s evilness and Balder’s death told the coming of the end of the world. This was known as the Doom of the gods and was called Ragnarok and even to this day Ragnarok has yet to come.

There were many predictions of Ragnarok and it was thought that the quarrels between the gods and Giants will slowly grow more and more fierce and frequent. There was to be constant war all over Earth and even families will slay eachother. Midgard is to freeze thus killing all humans (except two who climb up Yggdrasil for safety). Skoll and Hati will finally catch the sun and the moon and devour them leaving the Earth in eternal darkness.
Loki and Fenrir will break their chains and join sides against the gods. Jormungand will heave himself out of the waves and invade the land making the Earth shake. Loki will then lead an attack on Asgard. The Giants and flame creatures of Muspell will join his force. Hel will bring her army of dead souls to fight alongside Garm and all other evil creatures.
Heimdall’s horn (Gjall) will sound the warning across all Nine Worlds. The battlefield will be Vigard and there the gods will face their enemies and they will one by one destroy eachother. Fenrir will kill Odin and then be killed by Vidar, Odin’s son. Loki and Heimdall will kill eachother and Thor will destroy Jormungand only to die from its venom. Finally, Garm and Tyr will die fighting eachother as will countless others in the final battle.
Surt will fling fire in all directions and evidently destroy Asgard and Migard. The Earth will sink into the sea and all life will vanish. And so Ragnarok will have taken place, the end of the world.

Despite the world ending there is still hope. The Nine Worlds will be gone but Yggdrasil will survive. The land will rise up again from the Ocean and a brand new Earth will form. The couple who fled the battle and went up Yggdrasil (Lif and Lifthrasir) will climb down to the Earth and renew the human race.
Before the sun was swallowed by Skoll she will have a daughter who will return to light the world after Ragnarok. With the coming of light, plants and animals will soon reappear.
Surprisingly enough there will be survivors among the gods. Vidar and Vali are said to survive. Modi and Magni (Thor’s sons) will find the great Mjollnir and carry on. Balder, Nanna, Hod and Honir will be revived and start the new race of gods who will live in peace.