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Norse Mythology. Intro to Myth. Background. “Norse” refers to Danes, Norwegians, Swedes (a.k.a. “Vikings”) The Viking Age was 780-1070 A.D. Vikings spread from Scandinavia to Iceland, Greenland, Ireland, Scotland, Russia, and North America Norse myths reflect the nature of the Viking people.

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norse mythology

Norse Mythology

Intro to Myth

  • “Norse” refers to Danes, Norwegians, Swedes (a.k.a. “Vikings”)
  • The Viking Age was 780-1070 A.D.
  • Vikings spread from Scandinavia to Iceland, Greenland, Ireland, Scotland, Russia, and North America
  • Norse myths reflect the nature of the Viking people
the viking raids
The Viking Raids
  • The first Viking raid that has been recorded in Britain was at Lindisfarne on June 8, 793 A.D.
  • Lindisfarne is an island off the coast of north-east England.
  • England had by that time been introduced to Christianity.
  • The monastery on the island was a center for evangelizing in north England.

The Vikings slaughtered many; they drowned others in the ocean and took some with them as slaves.

  • The Norse pagans stole most of the treasures in the church.
  • This extremely violent raid was a shock.

Most of  the raiding Vikings had no scruples what so ever.

  • This can be somewhat explained by their belief and worship of the Aesir, the gods of Asgard.
  • The Vikings believed they had no say as to how long they would live.

The three Norns who resided under Yggdrasil had the power to decide the life span of every living being.

  • They spun the thread of life.
  • The Norns decided on what day every human would die.

The Vikings also believed that the courageous men who died during a battle would spend their afterlife with Odin or Freyja.

  • The Valkyries would come and fetch brave warriors who died in battle and bring them to Asgard.
  • The goddess Freyja received half of all the dead warriors and the chief god Odin received the other half.

There was no paradise for those who tried to live in harmony or the “do-gooders”. Anyone who did not die in battle was sent to live with Hel. She ruled the world of the dead. Her territory was a depressing and gloomy place.

  • There was yet another place the Norsemen could end up spending their afterlife. This place was reserved only for those who drowned at sea.

They would spend their afterlife with Ran and Aegir at the bottom of the ocean.

  • Ran loved gold.
  • Everyone who brought gold with them would be secured good treatment in their afterlife should they drown at sea.
  • Elder Edda or Poetic Edda: a group of poems by various authors that were probably written in the tenth century
  • Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson
    • Written around 1200 A.D.
    • Includes retellings of most of the poems from the Elder Edda
    • Influenced by Christianity
  • “The World Tree”
  • World is separated into 9 realms on three levels
  • Most important: Asgard (home of the gods), Midgard (home of men), Jotunheim (home of giants), and Hel/Niflheim (home of the dead)
  • Asgard and Midgard are connected by Bifrost, the rainbow bridge

In the first level was:


the home of the Aesir


the home of the Vanir.

Alfheim, the home of the Light Elves.


In the middle was Midgard “Middle Earth”

the home of the Humans.

Midgard connected to Asgard by

Bifrost -- “The Rainbow Bridge”


the home of the Dwarfs.


the home of the Dark Elves.


the home of the Giants.


inside somewhere under the ground were Helheim

home of the dead.

Muspelheim was to the south, it was the home of the fire Giants and Demons.

Niflheim was to the north

sir and vanir
Æsir and Vanir
  • Two races of gods in Norse mythology
  • Æsir are the more war-like gods: Odin, Frigg, Thor, Balder and Tyr
  • Vanir are the more peaceful fertility gods: Njord, sea god, and his children, Freyr and Freyja
  • These clans battle, exchange hostages, etc.
  • Son of Bestla and Bor, brother of Vili and Ve
  • Father of Balder, Tyr, Heimdall, and others
  • The All-Father, God of Battle
  • Dwells in Valhalla, where he welcomes courageous warriors after death
  • Possesses Gungnir, a great spear which he can use to start wars
  • Rides Sleipner, the eight-legged horse who is the fastest steed in the world
odin the one eyed god
odin - the One-Eyed God

It is easy to recognize Odin. He is the god with only one eye. It was told that Mimir was the wisest of them all. Mimir guarded a magical well, named Mimir’s Well. It was told that anyone who drank the water from that well would gain the wisdom of Mimi. Odin was willing to go to any length for a slip of water from Mimir’s Well. Nothing could stop him. When he was offered to drink water from the well in return for an eye, he didn’t hesitate. Odin sacrificed an eye and rejoiced as he drank the water of wisdom.

  • God of Thunder, strongest god
  • Son of Odin and Jord (Earth), husband of Sif
  • Protects Asgard, battles giants
  • Owns the war hammer, Mjolnir, which, when thrown at a target, returns to the owner
  • Also owns a belt which boosts his strength and a pair of special iron gloves
  • His chariot is drawn by two goats, which he can eat and resurrect
  • God of innocence, beauty, joy, purity, and peace
  • Son of Odin and Frigg
  • Killed by a trick of Loki
  • Will return to rule after the end of the age
  • Son of giants, father of the Fenris-Wolf, Midgard serpent, Hel, and Sleipner
  • Married goddess Sigyn, had two sons
  • Trickster hero/god, neither fully good or bad
  • Able to change shape and gender
  • Never worshipped by men
  • God of single combat and heroic glory
  • Once thought to be head of the Norse pantheon, later said to be son of Odin
  • Sacrificed hand to bind the Fenris-Wolf
  • Wife of Odin
  • Goddess of marriage, motherhood, fertility, love, household management, and domestic arts
  • Has the power of prophecy but does not tell what she knows
  • Is said to have woven or spun the clouds
freyja lady
Freyja – “lady”
  • Daughter of Njord, the sea god, and twin sister of Freyr
  • Goddess of love, sex, beauty, prophecies and attraction
  • Owned the necklace Brísingamen, and a cloak of feathers, which let her change into any bird
  • Rides in chariot drawn by cats
  • Often desired and fought for by gods, giants, and dwarves
freyr lord
freyr – “Lord”
  • Son of Njord, the sea god, and twin brother of Freyja
  • Fertility god; rules over rain, shining of the sun, and produce of the fields
  • Marries a giantess, Gerd
  • Rides a boar with golden bristles
  • Has a magical sword and a magical ship
heimdall gold tooth
Heimdall“Gold Tooth”
  • Guardian of the gods and Asgard
  • Blows the horn Gjall if danger approaches
  • Stationed at Bifrost, the rainbow bridge
  • Extremely acute senses, does not sleep
  • Son of nine different mothers
the norns
The Norns
  • Three women: Urd (fate), Verdandi (being) and Skuld (necessity)
  • Weave the tapestry of fates in which each person's life is a thread, even the gods’
  • Live by a root of Yggdrasill
  • Guard the spring of fate
the valkyries
The Valkyries
  • “Choosers of the Slain”
  • Always female
  • Give victory in battle according to Odin’s will
  • Servants in Valhalla
  • Origin, names, and powers differ according to various myths