Norse Gods and Heroes: Viking Mythology
Great Norse myths deal with grand themes: the creation of the universe, the wars and loves of the gods, the end of the world. They imagine that there are other worlds parallel to our world, where some mythological beings from dwarves to giants live, and that these worlds are called Midgard. The cultures of the gods are belligerent and imposing. The real and mythological worlds come together in Valhalla, the great hall of the chief god Odin, where the souls of dead heroes receive their unique rewards. The stories of the Norse gods were mainly narrated by word of mouth.
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Although some legends were written down by monks in monasteries in the 8th century, most of them were first recorded in the 13th century. By that time, the Norse travelers had even colonized Iceland. It was Icelandic writers who wrote down the traditions and mythological epics of the Norse people. One of the most spectacular of these writings is Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, who wrote down all that he could find about Norse myths, and Poetic Edda, of unknown author, which adds more stories to existing ones. Other Icelandic writers have also written prose epics that tell the stories of well-known Norse families, a mixture of mythology and history.
Genealogy of Scandinavian Gods
I realize this is a bit odd to take out a family tree. But to me, this is already a strange family. And also a rather unstable family. Many of these relationships are vaguely described, and in some cases the sources directly coincide with each other. The most primary and comprehensive source is “Norse Mythology – Snorri Sturluson”, and he is the closest one. Because it’s partly true but it’s never quoted, some of it is made up, and we can’t be sure which one is which. But since the only remedy I could do was either write from Snorri or leave half the explanations blank, I decided to write from Snorri. (This is so because this part is translated from a foreign source. The bibliography is available at the end of the article.)
Let us now move on to the individual explanations of all the above gods.
No, wait, there are some classifications first (or things that are close to the classification that medieval Scandinavians had).
Vanir: This is also the gods, but from a different tribe.
Jotnar: (singular jotunn): often referred to as “giants”, but probably much closer to the word “destroyers”. If the Aesir represents order and civilization, then Jotnar represents primordial chaos and destruction.
Now we can move on to the individual explanations of the above gods.
According to Norse mythology, it was the first being to take shape in the primordial chaos that came first and foremost. Well, he and a cow actually (see Auðumbla). It seems that everyone is a descendant of him, and we can all be sure that he is a descendant of someone. Pre-Christian European societies were not so fond of classifying/rationalizing their gods. At some point, Odin and his brothers killed Ymir and built the universe from his corpse.
The first of many gods about whom we actually know nothing. In this case, we know that his name is something like “dangerous hitter”, that he married Laufey and that together they made Loki. Based on that alone, I can guess that he is a disgusting person.
I was able to find out less about Lauvey. Only his connection with his son Loki has been mentioned, and even that is not entirely clear. Indeed, at some point Loki is referred to as “Farbauti and Laufey or Nal’s son.”
Aegir and Ran
Aegir and Ran were sea monsters living deep in the ocean with their nine daughters. Aegir was friendly, his hand was responsible for the high seas, while Ran was responsible for the seas that drowned the sailors. Sometimes they would organize parties for other gods.
Himingleva, Dufa, Blodughadda, Hefring, Udr, Hronn, Bylgja, Drofn and Kolga
These are all kinds of spirits of the waves or certain aspects of the ocean. Bright, transparent, etc. I think this is perhaps the god version of the vikings’ sea voyage, which tells how isolated the northern tribes were. Although I was also told that this was a racist mythology, but who knows?
Not much is known about him other than that his name is “disaster monger” and that he and Loki have made terrifying monster babies.
Jötunn? It’s not really clear.
Finally, someone we know something about. When I started looking for this, I thought Loki was an intriguing conspirator, or at least a clever joker. But it wasn’t. He was asshole. In short, in every story that tells about him, it says that he dishonored for no reason, got into trouble, and then (maybe) corrected things. He steals, whines, kidnaps, kills, and at some point shaves Sif’s head. There’s even a poem written by a folk poet that consists of pages about Loki diving into a festival and humiliating everyone. I don’t know who put Tom Hiddleston in this episode, but if it was me, I would choose Danny Devito.
Eventually, Loki manages to annoy everyone enough, and they chain him to a cave where poison has forever fallen on his face. His wife Sygin (undepicted) was loyal enough to stay with him and block as much poison as he could with a container. Wikipedia says that the name is “successful lover” in the old Norse language, which may be true. Loki knew this, or it may be ironic, because the girl had looked after him forever in prison. But I’m not sure about either of them, because when you turn something from something millennials, they can go through some kind of drift.
The story here tells the story of someone who consented to build a solid settlement for the gods in exchange for Frejya, the sun and the moon. The gods set an unrealistic deadline in the hope that the builder would fail and that his work would come for free. However, Loki convinces them to use the worker’s horse. Of course, it turns out that the horse is a horse with superpowers (called Svaðilfari), so that the work moves super fast and the gods get super angry. They order Loki to fix the problem, and Loki perceives it as “having sex with a horse.”
Heimdall is the watcher of the god. It stands at the end of the magnificent rainbow bridge and watches the Ragnarok (apocalypse) state. When Ragnarok arrives at the door, Heimdall’s job is to blow his pipe with his last force so that everyone knows about it. I don’t know what the pipe looks like, but this was my favorite illustration.
Fenrir is a scary big bad wolf who spends most of his time eating things he shouldn’t eat. Finally, the gods managed to deceive him and chain him forever by making claims that you cannot get rid of a group of chains. I know these are important and big myths that are deeply important to most people, but sometimes I really feel like I’m reading a third-grade book. Anyway. On the third attempt, they used special unbreakable chains, but Fenrir became suspicious and asked someone to put his hand in his mouth as collateral. And in this way Tyr lost his hand. During Ragnarok, Fenrir is freed, takes a good portion of earth and eats it, and kills Odin.
Jormungand is one of the coolest statements I’ve ever heard about the end of the world. None of that “water pours out until there’s nothing left” thing is in that. The Scandinavian world is surrounded from all directions by a giant snake monster. Thor spends some of his time fishing for him and actually manages to catch him somewhere, but gets in the way because of the fear that the nearby giant Thor has triggered Ragnarok.
Jötunnn, I think
Hel helheim, also known as niflheim, also known as the Scandinavian underworld, rules the underworld. He is depicted with semi-dead-looking, bluish skin. Scary corpse lady? Obsessive gothic? I’ve never heard anyone say that vikings drive a ton of eyeliner before. But regardless of the outward appearance, from what I’ve heard, Hel actually looks like a pretty cool lady. His land is obviously beautiful enough and provides food and shelter for the dead. On several occasions he even offered to bring the people back to life, though there were a few limits, and as far as I know, no one was able to do so.
Loki’s eight-legged son/ Odin’s eight-legged horse.
In other words, it is not absolutely true that Ymir was the first entity to exist. Previously, it was attached to a primordial super-cow called Audumbla. The first thing Ymir did was drink Audumbla’s milk (if you believe what’s in the picture, he drank it directly from its source), and the first thing Audumbla did was lick a block of salt.
Tyr is one of the interesting ones. He’s mentioned enough in stories, lyrics, and place names probably because he was an important person at some point. He may even be the leader of the gods, but he fell off the agenda when these things began to be written. The best explanation I can find is that because the culture and the way people worship have changed, so have the gods they worship. Tyr is old, Odin is new.
But I really have to explain this guy, right? Tyr is the god of justice, law and vows. So is Odin, but where Odin’s sole purpose is want, inspiration, knowledge, and where he’s often a quiet old bastard, Tyr is more concerned with the law, responsibility, and valuing that is beneath your power.
Mimir is the god of wisdom and knowledge, and more important for two reasons. First, Odin sacrificed an eye in Mimir’s well in exchange for inner wisdom. Second, at the end of the Aesir-Vanir War, he was sent to live with Vanir as a hostage, where he was beheaded. But that’s okay, because Odin mummies his head with magical herbs and now he’s there for him, giving him advice.
I guess Jötunn.
Odin is Vili and Ve’s mother. That’s it.
Jötunn I think.
There is very little information about it. The only place he is mentioned is that Bestla or Biri is on Odin’s ancestral list.
All right. There’s something cool about Buri. Remember the block of salt that Audumbla licked? He was in Buri. I’m not sure if her mother makes this cow, but I know it’s enough to tie them up in the family tree.
Fjorgynn is Frig’s father. I wish I could say more, but I don’t.
Vili and Vé
Here are two more people we know very, very little about. They are referred to as the brothers of Odin, and a long history trace shows that they were quite important at some point, but there are not many primary sources mentioning them at the moment. We know that Odin, Vili and Vé are interested in inspiration, consciousness, intention, sacred things. And we also know that they all gathered to beat Ymir at the beginning of everything. It could also be a fabrication of Snorri Sturluson, though.
Depending on which source you look at, Hoenir is either a fearsome war leader or a complete idiot. He is the most famous story about him, and Mimir was given to Vanir as a hostage during the Aesir-Vanir war. Vanir looks at Hoenir and thinks, “This guy looks like a leader,” and starts asking him questions to make decisions for them. Unfortunately, when everyone gets involved, it is revealed that Hoenir has Mimir’s brain while her body is there, and that Hoenir refuses to make any decisions when Mimir is not around to advise her. So Vanir cuts off Mimir’s head. The poor man can’t even breathe.
Frigg is a kind of mother spirit, the famous lawyer of Seidr, the traditional Scandinavian form of divination that also involves knitting. Frigg is quite similar to Freya. In fact, people believe that they were the same goddess in ancient traditions and were divided in two with the advent of Christianity. If they are right, then Frigg and Freya are one of a kind of born gods.
Odin blows my mind. He is the only definitive leader of the gods, which makes me think of him as a great, powerful, serious, or, you know, someone with leadership qualities. He may not be a wargod, but at least on the same course. But it’s not at work, or at least it may not be what you expect. Odin is sometimes associated with war, but it has more to do with wisdom, intelligence, learning, and magic. In most of the stories told about him, he travels alone and does things like swap his eyes for wisdom or hanging himself to sacrifice himself for himself. But later, Odin sounds like a post-modern confrontation in the land of the gods. In the meantime, if you want a battle story where Odin is the main character, try Neil Gaimon’s American Gods. I read it last year and I loved it.
Jord is the personalized version of the world. It seems to have been used in an alternative way with a more general concept of the world. I don’t know what that means in his relationship with Odin, but Thor was born, who am I to judge, right?
Goddess of pleasure. She died of grief after the death of her husband Baldr. Or, according to another version of the story, she is not dead and never marries Hodr because she loves him more.
Poor Baldr. I had heard him called the Norse Jesus, but only because he died. If you’re at a party and the subject somehow comes down to Norse mythologies, and it’s the kind of party where you can’t talk about Loki and A Horse, I’d prefer that.
Baldr was definitely the beautiful god of brightness, love and light, and everyone loved this man very much. And everything was perfect, until one night his mother, Frigg, dreamed of his death. He asks them not to go to everything that exists and harm Baldr, and everything promises not to harm Baldr. Except for mistletoe, because it is small and harmless, Frigg does not feel the need to ask him. Maybe you’ve already guessed how it turned out.
One night the gods play their favorite game, throw something at Baldr and let nothing hurt him. Except for Hodr, who is blind, and Loki, who is denyo. Loki asks Hodr to shoot an arrow at Baldr, and even he gives him the mistletoe arrow. And Baldr dies that way, Hodr is killed and avenged, and Loki finally does something bad enough to be shackled forever.
The blind god I mentioned who came to the game to kill his brother Baldr. Or, according to another story, the winner of Nanna’s race with Baldr for her love. Or, as my friend said, “It’s really been a Game of Thrones. Only Hodor didn’t have a beard.”
Bragi is the god of poetry and the most civilized god among the Norse gods. It’s so poetic that there are runes in its tongue.
Idunn is responsible for taking care of the fruits that the gods eat to improve their morale. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, here’s my favorite Idunn story:
Odin, Loki and Hoenir come across a camel named Thjazi and decide to share their food with him. Denyo gets into a fight with Loki Thjazi (over who will buy the best quality pieces of meat). Thjazi transforms into an eagle and catches Loki with his paws. He flies upwards and threatens Loki until he promises to bring him Idunn and its fruits. Later, when everyone returns home, Loki tricks Idunn into the forest and waits for Thjazi to kidnap him.
When the other gods realize what he’s doing, they threaten him with all sorts of terrible things so that he can capture Loki and bring Idunn back. He also transforms into a hawk and flies to Thjazi’s house, transforming Idunn into a cookie and carrying him on his back as the eagle chases Thjazi behind them. The other gods see their arrival and take a position to burn the eagle Thjazi to ashes.
So in a nutshell, Loki kidnaps a goddess to save her own life, and then she goes back to saving her life again, and as a result, someone who is not Loki dies.
He looks like the god of justice, law, and government, but so little has been written about him that all we know is that.
Sif had golden hair that didn’t come to the road and he loved them. But then Loki cut it all off while he slept. Did I mention that he is Denyo? Loki is a complete denyo yes. Anyway, the god Thor goes crazy and goes to kill Loki, but Loki saves the collar by promising Sif that he will find a better hair. Now Sif has a wig made of gold.
Thor has a pretty strong personality. He is the god of thunderous storms, oak trees, healing and blessing, but rather a god of total trouble. Angry and dignified. But he’s not very wise, and when he has a problem, the only solution he resorts to is to keep hitting until the problem is over. There is also a famous hammer named Mjolnir.
And there’s also a story that steals and hides Thor’s hammer and only mentions that if Freya marries him, he will give it back to Thor. In this story, Thor is forced to dress up as the opposite sex and pretend to be the bride until she reveals the hammer at the wedding, and then he takes the hammer and hits everyone to death.
There is no information about him other than that he and Thor had sex.
Goddess of mountains and winter phenomena such as skiing. Did you know that they were skiing in medieval Scandinavia? I didn’t know it either, but after a few google searches, I felt like I was the last person to find out about it.
Anyway, after the gods kill Thjazi, his daughter Skadi appears and demands compensation. There are parts of this story where Loki ties one end of the rope to his balls and the other to a living goat for play. But in the original part, Skadi takes Njord as her husband and they go to live together. The problem is that Njord lives on a sunny beach, while Skadi lives in a dark, cold place on the mountain. And they both separate because they can’t bear to live in each other’s place. I don’t know if it’s called divorce, because I don’t know how things work in viking marriages. But I still decided to call Skadi the goddess of divorce.
The rich, dignified god of the sea. Obviously, she was very rich and had the most beautiful legs. He married Skadi and then divorced her.
I have no idea what Ullr is. It was important at some point, but we don’t tell you how it survived to this day. It’s like saying, “All this stuff was going on, and Ullr was there, you know, there’s this Ullr that we all know.”
And that’s all we know about him. I also found someone who said he had a lost story on the shield that told me he crossed the ocean.
Modi, Thrud, Magni
Obviously their names mean “Frustrated,” “Strength,” and “Strong,” so I drew them as bodybuilders.
All I know about Gerdr is that Freyr finds him really, really hot. He was so fiery that when he went to ask for a girl for himself, he gave him his sword, which fought on his own.
Freyr was the god of reproduction, harvest, wealth and peace. Clearly the gold plate is depicted with a destructible ship or a disastrous erection. While reading about him, I came across some explanations of Freyr’s prophets and prophets, who drove the chariots of gods from city to city, such as the medieval party bus filled with statues of him, who were partying everywhere he went.
The beautiful goddess of love and reproduction (anthropologist of sex). He was also an oracle and weaver, and ruled warrior virgins (Valkür). They are likely to be the same god as Frigg, but I’ve already gone into a lot of detail about him. So we don’t need to repeat that here.
Some people have theorized that Odr is the same as Odin, but he has another name. Some people have also theorized that the two gods were actually divided into two by their servants. I don’t know anything.
All right, it happened! Mostly, we told it. I didn’t include everyone, but if the explanations I gave are too few for you, you can investigate what I didn’t include here. For example, Loki’s two brothers, Byleistr and Helblindi. Who were they? What did they represent? Did they matter? Did they have anything to do with each other? Were they the product of a lover who failed to remember the folk song? It makes you wonder. But it’s possible, isn’t it?
I don’t know what else I’d do. Maybe I’ll get into some female history. I just learned about Nancy Wake and she’s become something like my hero right now.
Edit: I definitely recommend visiting sites that tell about Norse mythology. I’m not an expert, so I can’t tell you much about it, but I think they’re really interesting.