WHAT IS OLD NORSE MYTHOLOGY?

The Old Norse Mythology is rather fascinating. The ones acquainted with the world of Tolkien can to some extent recognize themselves when dealing with this mythology. According to the old tales a man with the name of Gylfe, king of Svithiod, once entered the home of the gods and there he was told how the world begun. He met with three beings which had the names: Hög (High), Tredje (Third) and jämnhög.

They told him how the world had been created and how everything was done. In the beginning there was the abyss (Ginnungagapet), North of this there was Nifelheim, the world of cold where Cold and Darkness rules. Frosty mists rose from the cold well of Hvergelmer. In the south there was the hot Muspelheim, a place where the being Surte ruled with a flaming sword. The mists from Hvergelmer formed the frozen stream of Elivågor which flowed in to the Ginnungagap and filled it with ice. But at the same time flares from Muspelheim fell into the abyss and the falling drops which became the result of the mix of flares and ice formed two giant beings: A cow with the name 'Audhumbla' and a giant named 'Ymer'. Ymer got his food from the cow by means of four mouths which he used to milk the cows four nipples. Audhumbla in turn lived on the white frost onto the rocks.

Her warm breath created a man called Bure which by some mysterious way managed to get hold of a wife (it is not described how) and they where the first of the Asa dynasty of which Odin, Vile and Ve would be the greatest.

Ymer on his side created several different creatures. From his left arm a lovely couple sprung, from which the three fates Urd, Verdandi, Skuld (Guilt) and the wise Mimer came. His feet on the other hand created a three headed monster which became the ancestor of the Rimtusarnas evil giant family.

Odin, which destiny had chosen to become the one who would fulfill the creation, killed the giant Ymer (with help from his two brothers) and used his body as a ground for the new world. His blood became the sea (Where all the Rimtusarnas but one drowned). His skull became the sky. The bones in his skeleton became mountains, his brain the clouds and his tissues was grinded in the great mill 'Grottekvarnen', around whose main axis the universe turned, to become the dirt. The mill was driven by the giantesses Fenja and Menja. Ymers Eyebrows became a wall against the inhabitable surroundings. This new world was called Midgård.

The world down under was divided into three kingdoms each one with its own well. Hvergelmer, Mimers well and Urda well.From the Ginnungagap a large ash with the name 'Yggdrasil' grow. The branches of Yggdrasil covered all the then known world. In Hvergelmer the dragon Nidh”g lies and gnaws on the rots of the tree. Mimers well on the other hand is the well of wisedom, guarded by Mimer, Odin once gave his right eye for a drink of the water in this well.

At Urdawell which is guarded by the three fates the gods have their conferences each day. They ride daily over the bridge Bifrost, a bridge which shimmers in all the colours of the rainbow and is watched by the god Heimdal (also called Rig), nine mothers and nine sisters son and beholder of Gjallarhornet which is Nordic tales last trump. Heimdal sleeps lighter than the bird, sees one hundred travel days in each direction from his castle Himinbjorg and has such sharp hearing that he can hear the grass and the wool grow.

Once when Odin and his brothers where out taking a walk at the shore of the sea in Midgård, he found two Sceptring trees with the names Ask and Embla. They set them free from the earth and gave them blood, power of motion, intelligence, will, fantasy and spirit. They where formed after their own appearance. From this couple the whole humanity evolved. The fate Urd gives every human a being called Fylgia at birth . This being are to follow her throughout his/her life.

Odin's wife is called Frigg, and his sons are called Thor and Balder. Thor is the strongest of the gods and is always in war with the giants. He is armed with his 'strength belt' Megingjord and the hammer 'Mjölner' which like a boomerang always return to his hand after a throw. He is traveling through space in a wagon which is pulled by the goats 'Tandgniostr' and 'Tandgrisner'. About his fights with the giants there is a lot of fascinating stories which have the character of folklore tales and which most certainly never have been accepted by the believing. As the god of thunder he enjoyed respectful worshiping from the believers which can be proved by among other things the surviving names on villages (Thorsvik) and in other words like 'tordön' (The sound of lightning), torsdag (Thursday).

Balder on the other hand was the god of battle but got some of the characteristics of Christ when the Christian faith became known in the Nordic countries. There is no certain proof that he really was the focus for some serious worshipping. Any way, the story about Balder is rather fascinating. In Snorre Sturlassons Edda he was portrayed as Balder the kind. He was residing in his stronghold Breidablick. He was the kindest and the justice of the gods. He was therefore loved of all the living beings in the world. Therefore his mother took a promise from all the living not to hurt him and cause of this Balder was invulnerable. The gods therefore used him for target practicing, the arrows they used just bounced of him. But there where one plant which his mother had forgotten to ask and that was the mistletoe. One of the creatures in the 'inner circle' around the gods was the devious Loki (who really was of a giant family although he had been taken up by the gods) who when he realized the mistake made by Balders' mother, quickly made an arrow of the mistletoe and instructed Balders' blind brother, Höder, to shot it in a certain direction. The arrow hit Balder and he was promptly killed. The following story reminds a bit of the Greek story where 'Persefone' and 'Prometheus' gets in more or less the same situation. The chocked gods tried to get Balder back from the kingdom of death. But failed due to the sly Loki which had disguised himself as an old woman with the name Töck. Loki got his punishment, he was caught in the river when he was trying to escape in the shape as a salmon. He was chained with his sons (Nares) Bowels to a rock just under a jut where a viper constantly drips his venom on the poor fellows face. Sigyn, his beloved, stays with him and tries to ease the pain by collecting the venom in a bowl but when the bowl is full and she i away to empty it Loki gets the poison in his face and he trembles in his agony, and with him the rest of the world.

Some of the creatures which stems from Loki is Fenrisulven and Midgårdsormen. Midgårdsormen was thrown in to the sea where he grew rapidly so that he eventually encircled the earth and bit himself in the tail. Fenrisulven on the other hand was adopted by the gods (which proved to be a big mistake). The playful puppy soon grew into a monster which strength and hostility threatened the other gods. Therefore they tried to bind him with a chain (with name Gleipner) made of iron which he promptly ripped apart. They made a new leash made of, among other things, the beard from women, the roots of the mountains, the sound of steps from a cat, the spit from the bird and other equally rare materials. This very soft and thin rope was shown to Fenrisulven and he was offered to rip it apart. Fenrisulven, which suspected foul play, was rather reluctant to take the offer. Only when the god Tyr put his hand in to his mouth did he allow the rope to be pulled over the head. When he found out that he was tricked he thus in anger bit the hand of Tyr and that's the story behind Tyr's lost right hand...

There are other gods in the family, Like Brage (The god with the long beard) which sits at home in his fathers stronghold and uses his time to drink beer and write poems. There is 'Forsete', son of Balder, who is the god of justice and lives in the heavenly hall Glitner. The silent Vidar which rules over the lower regions where the last battle will be held.

Njord, son of a allegory daughter to Mimer with the name Natt (Night) and brother to Odins' wife Frigg, belongs to a different breed called vanerna and is in the beginning in Asgård as hostage. He is the god of richness and the protector of sailors. He commands the weather. His wife the skiing Skade is born in the mountains. Therefore she doesn't like beeing in Njords Stronghold 'Noatun' as she can't stand the screaming of the sea gulls. On the other hand Njord can't stand the howling from the wolfs in Skades mountains. Therefore they are living separately. Njords son is named Frej (or frö), and he rules over the fertility on earth. Frö:s sister, Freja (or Fröja) which resides in the castle Folkvang, most fittingly rules over love.

These brothers and sisters have rather complicated marriage relations. But Frejas husband seems to be Svipdag or Hermod while Frej after some persuasion managed to get a fair looking giantess with the name Gerd.

Of the dynasty of the vanerna was furthermore Nanna, which became wife to Balder (she got a crushed heart when he was killed).

Other gods and godesses comes from the dynasty of elfs which in turn can be divided in to dark elfs and light elfs. Only the light elfs are of any importance in this matter.

To this dynasty belongs, among other, the fairheaded Sif, wife of Thor in the wooden castle Bilskirnir (the greatest of all timbered houses) int the land of Trudvang. They had sons with the name of: Magne and Mode. Idun, wife of Brage, which made the wonderful apples which gave the gods their eternal youth. Ivalde, which in the beginning of time was the guardian against the Rumtusarerna at Elivågor. He had a son , Valand (or as he also was called: Limping Valand or Völand), which was a blacksmith an whom one of the sadest edda stories is about. The seagod Ägir which is related to the giants but nevertheless has good relations to the gods and his wife the unfaithful Ran which brings unhappiness to the humans.

To the gods one also counts, Billing and Delling, which is the morning glow and the sunset. The young maid Geifon, the literary Saga which guards the mead of wisdom which comes from the river of Sökvabäck and fills the horn of the moon.

Please visit the stories section for more stories regarding Norse Mythology.