Ragnarok is the catastrophic destruction of theKosmosand everything in it – even thosegods. If Norse mythology is viewed as a chronological seriesstoriesOf course, the story of Ragnarok comes at the very end. For theviking, the myth of Ragnarok was a prophecy of what would come at some indefinite and unknown point in the future, but it had profound implications for how the Vikings understood the world in their own time. We will examine some of these effects below.
The word "Ragnarok" comes fromAltnordic Ragnarök, “fatefrom the gods." In an apparent play on words, some pieces are fromOld Norse Literaturealso designate asRagnarok, "Twilight of the Gods." The event was also occasionally referred to ascentury argument, “fate of mankind” and many other names.
Without further ado, here is the story itself:
The fate of the gods
Sometime - whenever theThe Norn, those inscrutable fate-mongers, bid it—let there be a great winter (Norsefimbulvetr, sometimes Anglicized as "Fimbulwinter") like the world has never seen before. The biting winds will blow snow from every direction, and the sun's warmth will dwindle, plunging the earth into unprecedented cold. This winter is meant to last for three normal winters, with no summers in between. Mankind will search so desperately for food and other necessities of life that all laws and morals will fall away and only the mere struggle for survival will remain. It will be an age of swords and axes; Brother will kill brother, father will kill son, and son will kill father.
The WolvesScoll and Hatiwho huntedthe sun and the moonthat have roamed the skies since the dawn of time will finally catch their prey. The stars will disappear too, leaving nothing but a black void in the sky.Yggdrasil, the great tree that holds the cosmos together, will tremble, and all the trees and even the mountains will fall to the ground. theChainthat restrained the monstrous wolfFenrirwill snap and the animal will run free.Jormungand, the mighty serpent that dwells at the bottom of the ocean and encircles the land, will rise from the depths and spill the seas over all the earth when it meets land.
These tremors will shake the ship Naglfar ("Nail Ship")) free from its berths. This ship, made of the fingernails and toenails of dead men and women, will sail effortlessly across the flooded earth. Its crew will be an army ofGiants, the forces of chaos and destruction. And his captain will be none other thanLoki, the traitor to the gods, who will have broken freethe chains in which the gods bound him.
Fenrir will run across the earth with fire from his eyes and nostrils, with his lower jaw on the ground and his upper jaw against the top of the sky, devouring everything in his path. Jormungand will spit his venom across the world, poisoning land, water, and air alike.
The dome of heaven will be split open, and out of the crack will come the fire giantsMuspelheim. Their leader shall become out, with a flaming sword brighter than the sun in his hand. As they march acrossBifrost, the rainbow bridge tooAsgard, home of the gods, the bridge will break and collapse behind them. An ominous horn blast sounds; This will beHeimdall, the divine guard, blows theMegaphonto herald the arrival of the moment the gods have feared.Odinwill be advisedthe head of Mimir, the wisest of all beings, for advice.
The gods will decide to go into battle, knowing what the prophecies predicted about the outcome of this clash. They will arm themselves and meet their enemies on a battlefield called Vigrid (Old Norse).Vigiðr, "Plane Where the Battle Rages").
Odin will fight against Fenrir, and by his side will be heindividual soldiers, the band of his chosen human warriors he has imprisonedWalhallajust for this moment. Odin and the champions of men will fight braver than anyone has fought before. But it won't be enough. Fenrir will devour Odin and his men. Then one of Odin's sons,Continue, burning with rage, will urge the beast to avenge its father. On one of his feet will be the shoe made just for that purpose; Crafted from every scrap of leather ever discarded by human shoemakers, Vidar will use it to keep the monster's jaws open. Then he will thrust his sword through the wolf's throat and kill it.
another wolf,Long, and the godTyrwill kill each other. Heimdall and Loki will do the same and put an end to the Trickster's betrayal once and for all, but cost the gods one of their best in the process. The GodFreyrand the giant Surt will also be the end of each other.Thorand Jormungand, those ancient enemies, will both finally have their chance to kill the other. Thor will succeed in felling the great serpent with his blowsHammer. But the serpent will have covered him with so much venom that he cannot stand much longer; He will walk nine steps before dropping dead himself, adding his blood to the already saturated earth of Vigrid.
Then the remnants of the world will sink into the sea, and nothing will be left butthe emptiness.creationand everything that has happened since will be completely undone as if it never happened.
Some say this is the end of the story - and all stories for that matter. But others believe that a new world, green and beautiful, will rise out of the water. Vidar and a few other gods –Vali,Baldur,Hodder, and Thor's sons Modi and Magni - will survive the demise of the old world and live happily in the new. A man and a woman, Lif and Lifthrasir (Old Norselifeandlife fights, “life” and “pursuit of life”), will have been hiding from the catastrophe in a place called "Forest of Hoddmimir" (Hoddmímis holt), and will now come out and populate the lush land they will find themselves in. A new sun, daughter of the previous one, will rise in the sky. And all of this is headed by a new, all-powerful ruler.
The meaning of Ragnarok to the Vikings
As the above suggests, two versions of the myth of Ragnarok appear to exist in the Norse sources. In one of them, Ragnarok is the final end of the cosmos, and no rebirth follows. In the other thereisa rebirth. What to make of this conflict?
in my bookThe Viking Spirit: An Introduction to Norse Mythology and Religion, I contend that the no-rebirth version is the older, purely pagan view, and the reincarnation story is an addition that developed under Christian influence only late in the Viking Age. Ragnarok had been reinterpreted to describe the religious transformation the Viking world was undergoing, in which the old godswaractually die, but also have been replaced by something else. A relatively short article like this is not the place to present this argument and the evidence for it, as I do in the book. So if you want to see my reasoning, read the book. Half a chapter is dedicated to this topic. But here's the gist: the rebirth adjunct comes from only three late sources, one dependent on the other two, while all previous mentions of Ragnarok only speak of destruction and never any sort of rebirth.
What would such a belief have meant for the Norsemen?
Imagine you are a Viking. You live in a world that you know will one day be wiped out. The gods themselves will perish with it. Nothing of value is spared - not even thatmemoryof everything that ever had value. How does such a world look to you in the present moment, considering that the seeds of that ultimate destruction have already been sown and that the world is inexorably heading toward that final, defining moment? Wouldn't that cast a dark hue of tragedy, futility, and futility over the world and all that transpires in it? In fact, it's hard to escape the conclusion that this is the casewarhow the Vikings saw the world on one level.
But Ragnarok had another meaning for her, one that complemented but also altered this tragic view of life.
The Myth of Ragnarok was not only a prophecy about the future, revealing much about the underlying nature of the world along the way, but also served as a paradigmatic model for human action. For the Vikings, the story brought inspiration and encouragement rather than hopelessness. Just as the gods will one day die, so will every single human being. And just as the gods go forth and meet their fate with dignity, honor, and courage, so can men. In this view, the inevitability of death and misfortune should not paralyze us, but instead spur us on to adopt noble attitudes and perform noble deeds—the kind worthy of being told by bards many generations after our death.
Looking for more great information about Norse mythology and religion? While this site offers the ultimateonlineIntroduction to the subject, my bookThe Spirit of the Vikingsoffers the ultimate introduction to Norse mythology and religionPeriod. I also wrote a popular list ofThe 10 Best Norse Mythology Books, which you will likely find helpful in your pursuit.
Turville-Petre, E.O.G. 1964. Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia. p. 280
Simek, Rudolph. 1993. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. p. 226
Ebenda p. 361
Ebenda p. 189
This retelling is based on three sources: Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda (Gylfaginning, chapters 51-53) and the poems Völuspá and Vafþrúðnismál in the Poetic Edda.
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Geri and Freki – symbolic meaning
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