A Brief Guide to Norse Mythology
Norse mythology and religion is the cornerstone of the Northern Germanic tribes. This mythology follows no scripture and was handed down generation to generation through poetry. The current knowledge of Norse mythology is based on the Eddas and other medieval texts.
Norse mythology is not as widely popular as Greek and Roman mythology, but its stories are just as interesting.
According to Norse Mythology, the universe is composed of nine worlds attached to the branches of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. Each of the nine worlds contain different creatures and are dominated by certain Norse gods. The nine worlds are as follows:
- Asgard – The realm of the gods, Norse mythology’s major gods such as Odin, Thor, and Frigg reside here. Asgard also has Valhalla, home of the soldiers in Odin’s eternal army.
- Vanaheim – Home to goddess Freya and other nature gods, Vanaheim is a world filled with lush meadows. Folkvanger, a land for the undead, is also located here.
- Midgard – Midgard is the human realm. It is located close to the trunk of Yggdrasil, making it a useful entry point to other worlds.
- Alfheim – Home of the light elves, Alfheim resembles Midgard the most, except in Alfheim, there are no humans, and there is no night. This realm is ruled by the god Frey.
- Jotunheim – This is the realm of the giants. Jotunheim is mountainous and snowy. It also has half-frozen rivers and lakes.
- Nidavellir – This world is located underground and is populated by the dwarves. The only natural light in this realm comes from a special glowing moss.
- Muspellheim – This is the realm of fire giants and demons. Surt, the lord of the fire giants rules this world
- Niflheim – This realm is made of mist, ice and fogs. This is also the realm of frost giants.
- Helheim – Souls who don’t go to Valhalla or Folkvanger end up in this realm. Helheim is filled with souls who died of sickness or old age. Hel, the goddess of dishonorable death, rules this realm.
The pantheon of Norse mythology consists of many gods and goddesses who rule over the nine worlds. There are three clans of deities in Norse mythology: the Aesir, the Vanir, and the Jotun.
The Aesir is the main tribe. They live in Asgard and maintain the order of the cosmos. Among them are Odin, the All Father; Thor, the god of Thunder and protector of Asgard; Loki, the god of mischief; and Frigga, the goddess of marriage and motherhood.
The second tribe, the Vanir, is more associated with the natural world. Among the Vanir are Freya, goddess of love, beauty, and battle; Frey, the god of fertility; Njord, god of the sea, wind, fish and wealth; and Nerthus, sister of Njord.
The Jotnar or giants are the third tribe. They are enemies of the Aesir and the Vanir. Among the Jotnar are Hel, ruler of the underworld; Skadi, goddess of winter; Ran, goddess of the sea; and Surt, lord of the fire giants.
Besides the gods, goddesses, and giants, Norse mythology also tells of several enchanted creatures.
Fenrir is a gigantic wolf who swallowed Odin during Ragnarok. Jormungandr is a sea-serpent who is wrapped around Midgard. Hugin and Munin are two ravens (thought and memory) who are informants of Odin. Ratatosk is a squirrel who resides in the branches of Yggdrasil.
The Influence of Norse Mythology
Today, Norse mythology is present everywhere. With the exception of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the names of the days in all refer to the Norse gods. (In order: Tyr, Odin, Thor, and Freya/Frigga. The other days are named after the Roman god Saturn, the sun, and the moon.)
While the whole of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is fictional, certain Norse influences are obvious. The world in which the novels take place is called Middle Earth (Midgard), and Norse creatures such as elves, dwarves, and giants are present.
One of Marvel’s superheroes is the god of Thunder himself, Thor. He also possesses the magical hammer Mjolnir. In the comics, other Norse gods such as Odin, Lady Sif, and Loki make an appearance. Loki is Thor’s main antagonist in the comics.