Norse mythology is also known as Germanic mythology and it’s specific to the north-Germanic culture.
Vikings would gather and share stories of Gods and Heroes who experienced love, war, betrayal, and victory.
These stories began centuries ago but are still relevant today.
The most popular mythical character is Thor, the Norse god of thunder, lightning, and rain.
Norse mythology is mostly oral tradition and it’s rarely written down. Whatever we’ve gathered comes from monks trying to document their culture.
These are the most influential Norse myths.
The Creation of the Cosmos
This Norse myth explains how the world was created.
In the beginning, there was a giant abyss called Ginnungagap. Nothing existed in this abyss. It separated two of the nine worlds in Norse mythology.
On one side of the abyss was Muspellheim, the world of the fire giants, while the other side of the abyss was Niflheim, the world of fog, cold, and mist.
The frost from Niflheim met the fire from Muspellheim in the abyss of Ginnungagap and created Ymir, the Norse hermaphrodite giant and the first mythical creature to exist in Norse mythology.
Because he was a hermaphrodite, he could produce asexually, with most of his offspring forming from his legs and his armpits.
A cow appeared as the snow melted and began to lick the salt in the ice. As she licked, Buri was uncovered from the snow; thus the first Norse god was born.
The first tribe of Norse gods and goddesses were known as the Aesir tribe. Buri’s lineage continued for generations, with one of his children being Odin, the ruler of the Aesir tribe and wanderer of the cosmos.
Through all of this, the world was finally created when Odin killed Ymir and created the world from his corpse.
The ocean was formed from his blood, the dirt was formed from his bones, skin, and muscles, the sky was formed from his skull, the plants were formed from his hair, and the clouds were formed from his brain.
Four dwarves representing north, south, east, and west held up Ymir’s skull to form the sky.
Finally, man and woman were created from two
tree trunks and they were named Ask and Embla. They were protected from the
giants by a fence that went around their home in Midgard.
The Myth of Ragnarok
From the beginning of time, we now travel to
the end: Ragnarok.
The myth of Ragnarok tells the story of the end of times for the cosmos. The Apocalypse
The myth of Ragnarok always comes at the end of every chronological order of myths. The Vikings believe that Ragnarok was a clear warning of what was going to come at the end of times.
Ragnarok means the “fate of the gods, the
twilight of the gods,” and “the fate of mankind.”
The myth tells the story of a Great Winter that comes upon the world. The winter will be more unbearable than anyone has ever seen.
During the Ragnarok
The winter would last three times as long as a normal winter, and there would be no warmth from the sun at all.
It’d bring out the worst in everyone, resulting in a great famine and a large loss of life. Every element that holds the cosmos together will crumble. Gods, mankind, and every living thing would be gone forever during Ragnarok.
While Ragnarok described a clear ending to the cosmos as the Norse knew it, the Vikings had two versions of this myth.
One version described the cosmos ending and never being reborn, while a second version says the world is reborn with Thor’s sons surviving the end of times.
The myth of Ragnarok was very significant because it brought a sense of inspiration and unity between the tribes of the North.
The Myth of Odin’s Eye
Odin was the ruler of the Aesir tribe and he lived in Asgard with the other Norse gods and goddesses.
From time to time, Odin would visit the earth, also known as Midgard, to oversee that everything was the way it should be.
The Wise God usually walked with a cane. Sometimes he would travel by way of his 8-legged horse named Sleipnir.
One day, Odin decided that he should gain True Wisdom, as True Wisdom would allow him to see anywhere anytime without having to travel.
In order to have True Wisdom, Odin would need to travel to Midgard and drink from the well that was guarded by Mimir. Odin packed a bag and left for Midgard the next morning to drink from Mimir’s well.
Odin began his journey to the well, telling himself that the giant would not let him drink and asked himself what he would have to do to gain permission for a drink.
The Three Questions
On his way, Odin found the wisest giant who asked the disguised Odin what he was doing in Midgard. Odin asked the giant if he could ask him a question, to which the giant made Odin answer three riddles.
If he did not answer the riddles correctly, the giant would behead Odin and eat it for dinner.
Odin was desperate so he reluctantly agreed to
the terms and listened to the questions.
One by one, the giant asked Odin three
questions, to which Odin knew the answer to all three. As he answered, Odin was
relieved, but the giant was disappointed, for he wanted to have Odin’s head for
Having answered the riddles correctly, Odin
asked the giant his question: “What will I have to give Mimir to have
permission to drink from the well?”
The giant told him that Mimir would request his right eye.
Odin Losing His Eye
Odin was reluctant; that was a lot to pay for the price of wisdom. He asked the giant once more if there was anything else he could give Mimir, to which the giant replied that there was not.
The giant continued by telling Odin that no one has ever been able to give their right eye to Mimir for the price of wisdom. Odin understood and began his journey towards the well, thinking of how he would be giving up his right eye for wisdom.
When he finally made it to the well, he saw Mimir standing guard who was waiting for him.
As Mimir had all wisdom, he knew who Odin was and why he was there. Odin told Mimir that he requested permission to drink from his well. Mimir told Odin that he must give him his right eye if he wanted to drink from his well.
Odin thought about his eyes. They were blue and gave him the perfect vision. He did not want to lose his eye, but he was wise and realized that he would still have one eye even if he gave the other one away.
The God agreed and painfully removed his right eye from his head and gave it to Mimir. Mimir then handed Odin a large horn that was filled with water from the well of wisdom.
Immediately after drinking the water, Odin was able to see everything. He could see the past and the future. As he was a Norse god, Odin was able to understand what he could do to help mankind.
Not only was his wisdom what he needed to be able to see both Asgard and Midgard anytime, but he could also see what others may need from him in order to live happily in harmony.
The myth of Odin’s eye tells the story that
sometimes you must sacrifice something that is important to you for the greater
good. In this case, Odin must sacrifice his eye for an enhanced perception of
the cosmos, the gods, and mankind.
The Myth of Thor Losing His Hammer
We finish out this list of the best Norse
myths with some humor.
One morning, Thor awoke to discover his hammer was missing. Thor’s hammer was powerful, as it was the only weapon that could protect the Asgardians from the giants.
With his hammer missing, Asgard was vulnerable to the giant’s attacks, so Loki, Thor’s brother, went to find the hammer. Loki could shapeshift, so he transformed into a falcon and flew to the homeland of the giants, as they would be the ones who would benefit the most if Thor’s hammer was stolen.
Loki was right and discovered the hammer had been stolen by the giants. He transformed back to himself and asked Thrym, the chief of the giants if he could have Thor’s hammer.
The giants declined, saying that they buried the hammer eight miles underground, and they would only return it to Thor if Freya, Thor’s wife, would be brought to Thrym for his bride.
Loki returned to Asgard and delivered Thor with the message, to which Thor forcefully declined.
They gathered in council to decide how to get Thor’s hammer back. One of the counselors suggested that Thor could dress up as Freya to trick Thyrm into giving them the hammer.
Thor refused but eventually gave in, as he knew the giants will eventually destroy Asgard without the protection of his hammer. Therefore, Thor was dressed in a beautiful gown and Loki accompanied him to the giants.
Upon arrival, Thor almost blew his cover. He ate large quantities, drank many drinks, and gave glaring stares with his eyes.
Loki was able to convince Thrym that she was lovestruck over him, which is what gave her a strong appetite and fierce glares.
When the ceremony commenced and the hammer was customarily placed in Thor’s lap, he grabbed the hammer and killed Thyrm and the remaining guests before returning back to his home of Asgard.
The stereotype of the violent and cruel Vikings is still being perpetuated.
But some of the most influential myths come from Mother North. To this day, from TV shows, movies, language, philosophy, etc the best Norse Myths are having on big impact to our culture.