Norse Mythology is the shared Mythology of the various European cultures that collectively make up the Vikings, including the actual Norse, the Danes, the Swedish, the Scandinavians, and even the Anglo-Saxons.
- 1 About the Mythology
- 2 /tg/ Relevance
About the Mythology
Like the Greeks, there's a god for every aspect and their most hated enemies are humanoid creatures called Jotun (Jætter), often translated to Giants in adaptations, who the gods/goddess also related to. They come in all sizes, from mostly humanoid to the size of mountains; from humans with big noses to actual beasts. The Norse mythos contains a lot more references to snow, winter and wolves than the Greek one. This is somewhat unsurprising, as those things are much more common in Scandinavia than they are in Greece.
- Odin - The king of the gods. The All-Father, the One-Eyed Wanderer, and Patron of Shamans and Berserkers. He wasn't actually the first of the gods, but rather he is named "All-Father" for slaying his tyrannical grandfather Ymir and creating Midgard (Earth) from his body and bones. His stories are full of sacrifice in the pursuit of higher wisdom, such as hanging himself on the World Tree, Yggdrasil in order to be granted the knowledge of runes and giving up his eye to drink from the Well of Wisdom. He has two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, which deliver him news of the nine realms every day, as well as two fucking huge wolves, Freki and Geri, which he uses as guard dogs/hunting hounds. His major schtick is trying to prevent Ragnarok. He also has a sick-ass spear called Gungnir, which will never miss its mark. Known for being wise, but also manipulative. Not a god you should underestimate, by any means.
- Frigg- Wife of Odin. The Matron of the Aesir and Odin's wife. Sort of a power-behind-the-scenes, she is just as wise and manipulative as her husband but much more subtle and slow-moving in her plots. When she appears she seems more like the kind of person who looks to the greater good. She's a goddess of the housestead but in the distant, measured manner. Unlike her version in the Greek Pantheon, Hera, she isn't vindictive in any way and seems to take her husband's infidelity in strides.
- Thor - Son of Odin, the God of Thunder, Storms and Oak Trees, the Protector of Mankind, and arguably the most popular god, even in the Viking Age. (No, his popularity isn't really due to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, that came much later.) He wields a mighty warhammer named Mjolnir, and uses it to great effect. Out of all the Norse gods, he's probably one of the most bro-tier, although it's ill advised to piss him off (as several giants and dwarves could attest, were their heads not smashed in). He's so unbelievably OP that even when he thought he'd lost against Utgard-Loki (no relation to Loki, btw), Utgard-Loki had to admit defeat because Thor almost destroyed the world by accident. Prophesied to die fighting the world serpent Jormungandr.
- Loki - The Trickster God, the Deceiver. Unfortunately, the Norse had a rather dim view of tricksters and deceivers, so he's usually a villain in the myths. Probably doesn't help that he and his children are responsible for killing several gods (It also probably doesn't help that the Christians writing down the Norse myths identified him with Satan). Responsible for many shenanigans, including turning himself into a mare and fucking a stallion, getting pregnant from said stallion, and giving birth to an eight-legged horse that Odin rides as a mount (part of a crazy scheme to defraud a contractor, no less), killing the near-invincible god Baldur (see below) as a prank, and being Odin's blood-brother. Yes, you read that right, Odin's brother, not Thor's. Essentially That Guy of the Norse pantheon, complete with uncomfortable sexual stuff involving animals and betraying his party members.
- Freya - Goddess of Fertility, Erotic Love, Magic, and War (in case you haven't noticed, the Norse really loved to fight). She claims half of all warriors slain in glorious battle, bringing them to her meadow of Folkvangr. The other half are chosen by Odin and become Einherjar, the Chosen Slain, where they will feast and fight in Valhalla until Ragnarok, where they will all charge the wolf Fenrir and die. She is among the most powerful of the Norse gods, but originally came from the Vanir alongside her brother and dad.
- Freyr - God of Fertility, Harvest and Farmers. Brother of Freya but quite a lot more mellow. He's a protector of the homestead and its prosperity. Some translations make him the god of "half-men", which is still disputed to be anything from men who don't own a homestead to actual gay dudes.
- Baldur - Son of Odin and Frigg. God of light, joy and the sun, said to be the most beloved of all the gods. Frigg asked all things to swear an oath not to harm Baldur, save for the mistletoe bush, which she thought to be harmless. Loki, being a spiteful jackass, took advantage of this oversight and arranged for Baldur to be slain by a mistletoe dart.
- Høder/Höðr - The God of Cripples. Very unimportant - only known for being tricked into shooting a mistletoe-arrow at his brother Baldur, which killed him.
- Heimdall - The watchman of the gods, the Guardsman of the Bifrost and the whitest of the gods-- don't you look at us like that! (Seriously, he was known as the "shining god" or "brightest god", and is the guardian of Bifrost, a literal rainbow bridge - the exact meaning and translation of his status is a matter of some debate, though thankfully not in that sense.) Heimdall is known as the son of Nine Mothers - just how this works is never expounded on. There's... very little else to be said about him beyond that he's watching everyone, everywhere, at all times due to his super senses so keen he could hear grass growing on the other side of the world. He and Loki are going to kill each other come Ragnarok.
- Njord - God of the Sea, Fishing and the Wind. Father of Frej and Freya, but otherwise unimportant; lives far away in a tower by the sea.
- Tyr - The One-Handed God of Justice, Warfare, Strategy and Government. How does he have only one hand, you may ask? Well, let's just say... when a giant wolf demands your hand as payment for the gods binding him in unbreakable tethers, and you're known for keeping your word... well...
- Sif - The Goddess of the Hearth and Home, wife of Thor. There's little information on her, but she has golden hair. Like, literally hair made of gold, gifted to her by Loki to make up for the fact that he cut her hair in the first place.
- Bragi - God of Music, Bards and Entertainers. Not a lot is know about him, other than he's engaged to Idunn.
- Idunn - Provider of the Golden Apples, magical apples that give the gods their youth. There's evidence that she was never a goddess, but instead a fey-creature or an elf who's a retainer within the Valhallan court.
- Skadi - Goddess of winter andfucking skiing. Only notable because she's a jotun inducted into the pantheon as repayment for the death of her father, who had been slain after he manipulated Loki into kidnapping Idunn on his behalf. She demanded she be allowed to take an Aesir husband as part of her weregild; she was hoping to snag Baldur, but wound up choosing Njord by mistake. They ultimately got divorced because they couldn't stand each other's favoured territory.
- Hel- Goddess of Death, and ruler of the underworld which shares her name. She is often described in the myths as half- beautiful woman and half-scary corpse with an eternally gloomy expression (which would be understandable if you were assigned to be queen of all the dead souls in the nine worlds). It is debated among scholars and modern pagans on what it is exactly mean by "half-and-half", ranging from her looking like a stunning pale visage to her being a literal half skeleton. Along with Jormungandr and Fenrir, she is one of Loki's children with Angroboda, and was placed in charge of Helheim when she was just a child. She rules over those who did not die in battle, and will fight alongside her father come Ragnarok.
- The Valkyries - Adaptations only, they're forces of nature at best in the original myths.
- Fafnir - Son of Hreidmar who is cursed by Andvari's gold and becomes a fuckhuge dragon, yo.
- Sigurd - Also known as Siegfried, this top bloke single-handedly slew Fafnir and had a tragic romance with the Valkyrie Brynhildr.
- Grendel - Technically from Beowulf, this guy is the son of Cain and is "harrowed" by the sounds of singing from the King Hrothgar's mead-hall Heorot. One day he snaps and attacks the hall, continuing to attack it every night for twelve years. Did we mention he consumes the men he kills?
Other important things associated with Norse Mythology
- Yggdrasil - The World Tree. An actual gigantic tree, but also a sort of metaphysical highway linking nine universes - it is the core of the Norse Mythology, and it has always existed. Those realms are: Asgard (Home of the Aesir,. Vanaheim (Home of the Vanir), Alfheim (Home of the Elves/Dwarves; there isn't much destinction in Norse mythology between Elves and Dwarves), Niflheim (Land of Ice and Fog), Musphelheim, (Land of Ash and Fire), Midgard (realm of mortals/Earth), Jotunheim (Home of the Giants), Svartalfheim (realm of the Dark Elves/Dwarves), and Helheim (realm of the Dead). Encasing Yggdrasil is the Ginnungagap, the chaotic abyss from which all life sprung from. Four stags called Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr, and Duraþrór run among its limbs, feeding on the leaves. A great serpent called Nidhogg lies within its roots and gnaws upon them, and an eagle perches upon its top. The squirrel Ratatoskr runs up and down its trunk, carrying insults between the two.
- The Norns - These are the three sisters who preside over the fate and destiny of gods and men, much like their Greco-Roman counterparts. They reside near Yggdrasil's roots at a great well of knowledge, and their names are Urd (What Once Was), Verdandi (What Is Now), and Skuld (What Shall Be).
- Sleipnir - As noted above, Loki got fucked by a stallion while disguised as a mare. Well, in truly horrifying mythological fashion, he gave birth to an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir, who later became Odin's favourite warhorse. Family reunions must've been awkward in Asgard.
- Fenrir - Another one of Loki's animal children, and the aforementioned giant wolf whom bit off Tyr's hand due to Odin and the rest of the Aesir-Vanir binding him out of fear. He's prophesied to eat the sun and then kill Odin during Ragnarok, only to be slain by his son, Vidar.
- Jormumgandr - Yet another Loki spawn, the World Serpent. Basically, a snek so fucking huge that he can encircle all of Midgard when he bites his tail. Prophesised to annihilate Midgard and then fight Thor to the death during Ragnarok.
- Nidhogg (Níðhǫggr; A.K.A.: Malice Striker) - A dragon/serpent/wyrm/giant snake who gnaws at a root of Yggdrasil. It is often portrayed as a horrific monster that resides in Hel, in a place called Náströnd, where it chews (not swallow it immediately and be done with it, mind you, so it's much slower and painful) the corpses of criminals, or those that were considered criminals in the ancient Scandinavian societies: guilty of murder, adultery, and oath-breaking. Because of that, it is generally associated with the loss of honour and the status of a villain. It is often using Ratatoskr, a squirrel as a messenger to exchange insults with an hawk called Veðrfölnir that lives on the upper part of the Yggdrasil.
- The Jotunn - Usually called "Giants" or "Frost Giants" in the US, Jætter or Jotunn are the personification of nature's chaos to the gods' personification of human order. Many of them are barbaric or even evil, but they aren't automatically Chaotic Evil - though they are almost always Chaotic. They live in most other planes, though they are by far most numerous in Utgard. They tend to hate the gods because Odin killed their primordial father, Ymir, who the entire world is made out of. Notable Jotunn are Loki and Skadi above; Utgard-Loki, a powerful lord in Utgard who humiliated Thor by convincing him to wrestle with a personification of old age and tricked Loki into participating in an eating contest with the embodiment of fire, and Surtr, king of the fire jotunn, who leads the charge during Ragnarok and succeeds in killing off most of the gods.
- The Vanir - Rival god pantheon of the Aesir which we know little about. The Aesir and Vanir fought a war at some point but eventually made peace and exchanged captives to keep it. These captives are Freya, Frej and Njord. Due to these three gods being fertility gods who are among the least masculine gods (compared to the likes of Thor or Tyr, this is understandable), some researchers propose that the Vanir represented feminine virtues to the very warlike and masculine Aesir. Says a lot about the Vikings that they didn't even flesh out the Vanir pantheon, let alone worship them.
- Mjölnir - Thor's Hammer. Could return to him when thrown like a boomerang, but has a rather short handle because of Loki messing with its creation.
- Lævateinn - A really powerful sword.
- Gram - Sigurd's Sword, used to kill Fafnir.
- Gungnir - Odin's Spear.
- Megingjörð - Belt of
Basically, in the early world's life cycle, a being known as Aurgelmir aka Ymir was born in the cold and misty region of Niflheim. He was created from a drop of water that was formed when the ice of Niflheim melt by the heat of Muspelheim, a nearby southern region known for its hot temperature and fire titans.
The drop of water that created Ymir was speculated to be a liquid substance known as Eitr, a substance that is known for being the origin of all living things, as well as being venom that could be produced by serpents, even by the likes of Jormungandr the world serpent.
At the time, Ymir was so huge he was the entire world. From his armpit, its sweats gave birth to many Jotun or Frost Giants. There was also a giant cow, Audhumla, the udder of which Ymir frequented. Then that giant cow accidentally created a god by just licking a salty rime-covered rock, Buri, who then "begat a son" - fuck knows how. This son, Bor, had a wife Bestla who gave birth to Odin and his brothers. Odin does not like the Jotun since they come out of Ymir's stinking armpits like rats and they eat a lot, so he and his brothers Vili and Ve killed Ymir. Ymir was so fuckhuge that his blood caused a massive flood that killed most other jotun right there!. Odin then used Ymir's body to forge a new world. The death of Ymir also brought forth many life forms without Odin's touch, like the Dwarves, who were basically Ymir's corpse maggots. Then like the Greek gods, Odin formed a government of deities from each aspect of daily life. And then Ragnarok will come.
While there many mythologies that have different telling of the dwarf race, we will be talking about the Norse version.
After Odin murderfied Ymir and killed a bunch of giants through blood floods (see above), maggots came out and were festering on Ymir's flesh. Yes. These corpse maggots are the precursor that Odin turned into the dwarfs we all knew and love, at least according to the Prose Edda. They have the talent of mead brewing, metal smithing and making magical artifacts, including many iconic weapons like Thor's hammer and most importantly Odin's spear, Gungnir. (Does the Warhammer Dwarven god Grungni sound familiar suddenly...?)
Norse dwarves are also known to be denizens of Svartalfheim along with the svartalfar, who are often conflated with dwarves and dokkalfar (the 'original' dark elves) to the point of being the same. At least one instance occurs of dwarfs turning to stone if exposed to the sun for too long, not unlike some Nordic accounts of trolls.
There are four known dwarfs in the mythologies: Austri, Vestri, Norðri, and Suðri (which means “East,” “West,” “North,” and “South”), and each are tasked with holding up their respective corners of the sky, AKA the Atlas treatment with less punishment and more "best suited for the job".
In Norse myth, they were demi-god like beings whose sole purpose is to be more beautiful and superior-than-you. They are described as "more beautiful than the sun", with their demi-god status apparently linked to the gods of Vanir and Aesir. Their lord is a Vanir god called Freyr, who rules the elves’ homeland, Alfheim. They commonly cause humans to suffer illness, but have the power to cure any illness only if sacrifices are offered to them. Bunch of dicks. It is also possible for humans to become elves upon death, and elf and human can also interbreed; the mix of human and elf is described as having the look of a human, but possessing extraordinary intuitive and magical powers.
Also known as "Fate of the Gods", "Twilight of the Gods", Götterdämmerung The seemingly ubiquitous "end of the world" event - The Book of Revelation, the Flood of Noah's Ark fame, and Jesus' death and return are comparable, and Greek myth has the Titanomachy, but the former is more of a case of "all according to God's Keikaku", whereas Ragnarok counts as "NOT AS PLANNED", and the latter is more a case of a victorious revolution, rather than Ragnarok's being straight up disaster for everyone involved. The event itself may or may not be a product of Christianization, which "naturally" marked the end of Nordic "pagan" believes and promises a new beginning not unlike that promised by Christian doctrine's post-return of Jesus arc.
How the fuck did it start and why?
It is said that Odin was the one that had foreseen this event through his empty right eye socket, and beheld three "signs":
1. The death of Baldur.
3. Two wolves in the sky swallow the sun and the moon, and even the stars disappear and send the world into a great darkness.
Frigg had several dreams about Baldur's death, and this depressed her to the point Frigg decided to make 'everything in the goddamn world take a vow not to hurt her precious sunshine-faced boy - and they all complied, too! All but one...
When Loki got the wind of the spell's weakness - mistletoe, which she already considered soft and harmless - the cunny fuckwit thought it was pretty funny, and made a spear, arrow or dart out of mistletoe using his magic. Since Baldur was immune to every other object, his brother gods made a sport of hurling whatever they could think to at him for shits and giggles. This gave Loki the perfect impetus to carefully place his magic spear into the hand of Höðr, a god who was blind and killed Baldur with it. Höðr was then blamed for Baldur's death, which Odin avenged by fucking a giantess and conceiving a god named Váli, who grew in one day just to kill him.
The second sign, a winter that lasts three years with no summer in between, has yet to come according to legend. The name of these uninterrupted winters are called “Fimbulwinter”; during these three long years, the world will be plagued by wars, and men will kill their kindred.
The End Times
A beautiful red rooster named “Fjalar” (meaning “All-knower”; sometimes translated as "Hider/deceiver") will warn all the giants that the Ragnarok has begun. Two other such roosters, one sooty red and one golden (unnamed and named “Gullinkambi” respectively), will warn the dishonourable dead in Hel and all the Gods in Asgard. Garmr, Norse myth's equivalent to Cerberus, breaks loose from his bindings before the entrance to Hel and runs free as the mortal beings of the world begin to wage war on one another.
Around the same time, Jormungandr begins thrashing about violently in the ocean; this causes massive waves that, in turn, cause Naglfar (a ship built from the fingers and toenails of the dead) to break its moorings, carrying an army of the dishonoured dead and numerous Jotun, led by the Frost Giant king Hrym. Loki, having somehow escaped his bindings underground, takes up the helm of Naglfar and promptly sets course for Midgard. The fire jotnar of Muspelheim also decide they want in on the fun and promptly begin their own march to Midgard, led by their king, Surtr. Somewhere during all this, a pair of wolves born from Fenrir eat the Sun and the Moon.
Recognising that shit is now officially going down in Midgard, Heimdall blows his horn as loud as he can while Odin chats with Mimir's severed head to try and gain any last minute advice. Warned by the blast of Heimdall's horn, all the Einherjar (warriors who died honourably) in Valhalla realise that the war has started. This will be the battle to end all battles, and all the Einherjar from Valhalla and Folkvangr (Einherjar, but overseen by Freya rather than Odin) will pick up their swords and armor to fight side by side with the Aesir against the Giants.
Odin rides forth on his horse Sleipnir, with his eagle helmet equipped and his spear Gungnir in his hand, leading the enormous army of Asgard with all the Gods and brave Einherjar to the battleground in the fields of Vigridr. Naglfar arrives on scene, bringing with it Loki, Hrym's Frost Giants, and all the dishonourable dead once contained within the realm of Hel. The sky itself promptly splits in two, allowing the fire Jotnar to ride forth across the Bifrost (breaking it in the process); Surtr leads them, wielding a sword brighter than the sun as he blasts fire in all directions. Yggdrasil itself shakes violently, and everything, everywhere fears.
Things open on a high note with Odin being swallowed whole by the great wolf Fenrir, only to be be avenged shortly after by his son Vidar, who jams Fenrir's jaws open with an immense shoe and then either stabs it in the heart, or full-on tears its head in half. Thor and Jormungandr beat each other senseless, with the God of Thunder ultimately killing the Midgard Serpent - his victory, however, is short-lived, as Jormungandr's poison proves fatal to him after Thor takes nine steps away from the snake's corpse. Garmr and Tyr kill one another in battle; Loki and Heimdall join in on the mutually-assured destruction party shortly after by also killing each other. Freyr battles Surtur and loses (due to lacking his sword, which he gave away as part of his courtship of a Giantess), and the battle ends with Surtr setting fire to all the Nine Realms, with everything being incinerated or submerged into a boiling sea.
Finally, the great dragon Nidhogg arrives, scavenging corpses from across the battlefield before departing - whether to chew upon the corpses at its home in Hel, or to bear them to Gimle (the post-Ragnarok Norse heaven) depends on the translation.
The End of Another Beginning
Everything looks pretty FUCKED UP, I know - but while most of the Gods will perish in the mutual destruction with the Giants, it is predetermined that a new world will rise up from the water, beautiful and green. Before the battle of Ragnarok, a couple by the name Líf and Lífþrasir (meaning life and lover of life) will find shelter in the sacred tree Yggdrasil. As foretold by the wise Jotunn Vafþrúðnir (Odin's intellectual rival), they consume mourning dew as food during the Ragnarok. When the battle is over, they will become the Norse version of Adam and Eve and repopulate the earth again, providing the sole comfort Odin could ever find in his foresight.
The few Gods who survive, as well as the resurrected Baldr and Höðr, will go to Idavollr (the ancient altar and meeting site for the gods), which has remained untouched. There, they build new houses - the greatest of the houses is named Gimli, and bears a roof of gold; it is here that the survivors of Ragnarok and the righteous dead will dwell. There is also a new place called Brimir, at a plain called Okolnir (“never cold”), where those who are good and pure of heart shall dwell. It is in the mountains of Nidafjoll, placing it curiously close to both Hel and the nesting grounds of Nidhogg.
But there is also a terrible place, a great hall on Nastrond, the shore of corpses. All its doors face north to greet the screaming winds. The walls are made of writhing snakes that pour their venom into a river that flows through the hall. Oath-breakers, adulterers, and murderers - considered the worst of criminals in Norse society - are forced to wade through these freezing rivers of snake venom; any unlucky enough to be outside of this hall reside in the spring of Hvergelmir, where Nidhogg harasses and chews upon the bodies of the dishonoured dead for eternity.
Any game that has any connection to the Vikings is going to make use of Norse mythology in some way, shape or form.
In Dungeons & Dragons, the plane of Ysgard is basically a mixture of Asgard and Jotunheim, with overtones of Valhalla. The Ratatosk are a race of squirrel beastfolk inspired by the squirrel of Yggdrasil - which itself is a part of the Great Wheel cosmology (somehow). Fensir are based on Nordic trolls, whilst D&D's giants have their roots in the division between normal, frost and fire giants in Norse mythology. The dwarf race has varying levels of ties to Norse mythology, whilst the duergar take their name from a variant of an alternative Nordic word for dwarf ("dvergar").
The Midgard setting was based around Norse mythology, and then added non-Nordic regions to the world.
Making your own shit
Being one of the most well-known mythologies in Western society, outside of Classical Mythology, there's always interesting things you can do by looking at Norse lore and tinkering with the parts, especially if you do research into the more obscure regional variants like Danish or Scandinavian.