the dictionary of norse mythology


CREATION The mythology of each people has its own story of how the world was created. In Norse mythology, at the beginning there was a swirling chaos of mists and fog, freezing cold, howling winds, and terrifying fire. The following story of the Creation is from snorri sturluson's prose edda, his major sources being voluspa, grimnismal, and vafthrudnismal.The Chasm There was no Sun, no Moon, no stars, no land or sea. There was only a yawning chasm called ginnungagap.To the north of Ginnungagap was niflheim, land of cold mists to the south was muspellheim, the land of fire. From Niflheim's spring, hvergelmir, flowed the 11 poisonous rivers of the elivagar. They emptied into the chasm, froze, and filled it with ven-omous ice. From Muspellheim came sheets of fire that turned the ice into mists and dense fog.For millions of years fire and ice interacted with each other until at last there came sparks of life. The first life took the form of a huge, giant, ymir, and a gigantic cow, audhumla, that nourished Ymir with her milk. She in turn licked the salty stones around Ginnungagap for nourishment.As Audhumla licked at the icy, salty stones around Ginnungagap, she uncovered the hairs of a man's head. Soon she uncovered the entire head and finally the whole body of a handsome, humanlike creature. He was buri, the ancestor of the gods.Buri produced a son named bor, who married a giantess, bestla, who gave him three sons, odin, vili, and ve, the first gods.Meanwhile, as Ymir slept, hordes of hideous giant children sprouted from his body. They were the hrimthurssar and jotuns.Odin and his brothers, the sons of Bor, quarreled with the unruly gang of giants. Finally they attacked and killed Ymir, the father of them all. Immense floods of blood spurted from the fallen giant and drowned all the frost giants except bergelmir and his wife, who rode out the flood on a hollowed tree trunk, the first boat.Odin, Viii, and Ve dragged Ymir's huge body to Ginnungagap, and there they set about creating the worid. They made the earth from his fiesh, mountains and hiiis from his bones, and rocks and bouiders from his teeth. His curiy hair became ieafy trees and aii vegetation. The iakes and seas and oceans were made from his biood.Sky Then they made the sky's dome from Ymir's skuli and flung his brains aloft to make the clouds. Snorri says the four dwarfs nordi, sudri, austri, and vestri held up the four corners of the sky. The four points of the compass, North, South, East, and West, are named after these dwarfs. The gods took sparks and embers from Muspellheim's fires and made the Sun, Moon, and stars.Jotunheim The sons of Bor gave the new gener-ation of giants, the race founded by Bergelmir, the land named jotunheim. They bade the giants stay there.Midgard Then they put Ymir's eyebrows around a green piece of land, forming a pleasant enclosure they called midgard, or Middle Earth.Night and Day Once the gods had created the world and placed the Sun and Moon in the sky, they made night and day.nott Night was a beautiful giantess with a dark complexion and hair of midnight black. She was the daughter of narfi, one of the first giants. She married three times. Her first husband was naglfari, father of aud. Her second was annar, father of fjorgyn 1. With her third husband, delling, she had a fair son named dag Day.The gods sent Nott and Dag up into the heavens in horse-drawn chariots to ride around the world. They created darkness and light, as one followed the other through the skies.Nott drove first, with her lead horse, hrimfaxi. The froth from his bit fell to Earth as dewdrops.After Nott came Dag with his horse, skinfaxi. His golden glow lit up the heavens and the Earth.Sun and Moon The gods placed the Sun and the Moon in chariots, drawn by splendid horses. The horses were driven by sol and mani, the daughter and the son of a man from Midgard whose name was mundilfari.Sol's horses were arvakr and alsvid. A shield, svalin, in Sol's chariot protected her from the Sun, whose brilliant rays would have burned her to a cin-der. Mani's horse was aldsvider.Mani, the man of the Moon, stole two earth chil-dren to help him drive his chariot. Their names were bil and yuki.sun and moon could never pause in their jour-neys across the heavens, for they were forever pursued by the terrible wolves skoll and hati. Each month Hati, it was said, took a bite out of the Moon and tried to gobble it up. But the Moon escaped and grew whole again. In the end the wolves will devour both Sun and Moon and cast the world into darkness at ragnarok.The First Humans The first man was ask Ash and the first woman, embla Elm. The first three aesir gods, Odin, Vili, and Ve, created them.The gods were walking along the seashore when they saw two tree trunks lying at the edge of the water. The forms of the trees were beautiful. Odin breathed life into them. Vili gave them the ability to speak and think. Ve gave them warmth and color and movement.The gods gave them Midgard in which to live. All human beings were descended from them. heim-dall later created the different social classes of men and women.The Dwarfs The gods made gnomes and dwarfs from the grubs in Ymir's rotting corpse. They gave them human form and endowed them with brains, but they were ugly, misshapen little creatures, greedy and selfish. The gods gave them svartalfheim, the dark realm underground, and put them in charge of the earth's treasures of gold, other precious metals, and gems. The dwarfs were master smiths.See also treasures of the dwarfs.Asgard The gods created for themselves the beautiful realm of asgard, home of the Aesir gods. It was linked to Midgard by bifrost, the rainbow bridge, and it was sheltered by the great World Tree, yggdrasil, which touched all the worlds.

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