Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Places and realms in Norse Mythology

"Asgard Saga" is a series of books telling the stories of Norse Mythology. The first part has already been released and is available at and Amazon (and more will follow soon.) In it, you will meet various characters, all derived from the tales, Vikings have told about Aseir, Yetten, Vanes and a whole bunch of strange creatures. You will meet Thor, Odin, Freya, Mimer, Loke and elves, humans and giants.

Norse Mythology is rather complicated in the way these entities interact with each other and as to whom is blood related.

This post is meant as background material, or a guide if you will, giving you a better understanding of Norse Mythology, its characters and its view of the world. You will be provided with explanations: where do we find these myths? how do the different creatures relate to each other? what is the context in which the stories originated?

As I move forward with the writing of the Saga, I will post more, so that you will be able to get a basic understanding of it all.

First, let´s have a look at how the world is percieved according to Norse Mythology:

Places and realms

Illustration of Niflheim shamelessly stolen from
Niflheim: A realm far north, where the Ice Dragon Nidhug sleeps. "Nidhug" can be directly translated to "Eager to strike" or "Will bite" - Niflheim probably means "home of the cold," which is rather fitting, as this realm is cold and dark.

Muspelheim: Opposite of Niflheim in every respect, Muspelheim is guarded by a create by the name of Surt. "Surt" directly translated means "Sour" and is probably referring to the soil being of such a nature, that nothing can grow there. I have yet to figure out, what Muspelheim really means, so the only thing, I can reveal at this point is that the ending "heim" means home - as in home of. But I suppose you already figured that out.

Obviously Ginnungagab cannot be illustrated,
but this illustrates the creational myth
Ginnungagab: The space between Muspelheim and Niflheim. Ginnungagab can be translated to something like "the gap of nothing," which is exactly what it is: A whole lot of nothing. As the cold from Niflheim meets with the heat from Muspelheim in Ginnungagab, the first creatures of the world emerges.

Midgard: After creating humans, Odin and his brothers, Vile and Ve, built a fence to protect the humans from the Yetten and this area is called Midgard, which simply means "Place in the middle."

One of Loke´s children is the Midgard Serpent, which surround Midgard waiting for Ragnarok to begin. Then it´ll have an important role to play, before the world is doomed and re-created

Utgard: Everything outside Midgard is Utgard, which means "Place Outside."

Another shamelessly stolen illustration,
this one is from marvel,
Asgard: The home of the Aseir. They built it right after building the fence around Midgard. Asgard is placed over Midgard and thus represents Norse Mythology´s equivalent to Greek Mythology´s Olympia.

Vanaheim: Home of the Vanes. Only the name of the place can be derived from the early texts of Norse Mythology

Jotunheim: Another word for Utgard - or perhaps a specific place in Utgard, where the Yetten live.

Bifrost: The bridge connecting Midgard to Asgard. It is guarded by Heimdal, whose ears are so sensitive that he can hear the sound of grass growing. He lives in his house at the top of Sky Mountain.

An interesting detail is that while Bifrost is often depicted as a rainbow, like this illustration here, scholars today believe this is a misconception of the modern world. Instead they believe Bifrost to be the mythical object trying to explain - not the rainbow - but to explain the Milky Way.

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