In the beginning there was nothing but a void. Then two regions appeared. The southern was Muspelheim, full of fire, light, and heat. In the north Nifelheim came to be. It was made of arctic waters, mists, and cold. In between the two realms stretched a yawning emptiness, Ginungagap. Sparks and smoke from Muspelheim spilled into the gap and met layers of rime and frost. Out of the melting ice, Ymir, the giant, emerged. The cow Audhumla suckled him, and he grew fast and strong. Then Ymir gave birth to man and woman out of his left armpit. The first Jötnar sprang from his legs.
Audhumla licked the salty ice and released Buri. His son, Borr, begat three sons: Odin, Vili, and Ve. When they were ready, they killed Ymir and the Jötnar, except two.
Odin, Vili and Ve used Ymir’s body to make the land, his blood became the sea. Then the three Vanir raised his skull to create a dome, they called the sky. His bones became mountains, his hair grew as trees, but Odin used his eyebrow as fence against the Jötnar.
Thus, the world came to be. The brothers Odin, Vili, and Ve caused time to begin. They placed two orbs in the sky: the sun and the moon and made them orbit the world.
Then Odin found two young giants, Sol and Mani. They were beautiful, and Odin decided to let them drive the chariots, belonging to the sun and the moon. To make sure they’d keep a steady pace Odin set two wolves to pursue them across the sky, and devour them if they caught them.
Yggdrasil, the World Ash, holds the world together: the roots envelop all the spheres. They also keep different areas separated. At the bottom is the realm of the dead, called Helheim. Hel, who is Loke’s daughter, reigns. Her region is dark: a realm of shadows and hunger, covered by one of the big roots. A wellspring, Hvergelmir, which is infested with snakes, bars the way to Nifelheim. Here the dragon Nidhogg gnaws Yggdrasil’s root. The gods convene at a place known as Domsted. The Norns, Urda, Skulda and Verdandi, live at Domstead. They tend the tree and spin the threads of fate. The root, which runs beyond Domsted supports Midgard, where humans live. The third root supports Jotunheim, the realm of the Giants.
The earth is a circle of land surrounded by ocean. In the ocean resides the world serpent, Midgårdsormen. In the centre of the land stands the World Tree, Yggdrasil. Its roots descend to the underworld, and its branches support the sky.
It is well known that Valhalla forms the playing ground for death heroes. Shield maidens carry the dead from their battles and give them new life. This is where the cauldron of resurrection comes into its own. Each day the heroes fight their old battles again, and each evening the shield maidens submit the dead to the cauldron. This way, they can feast through the night, drinking mead from the goat Heidrun’s udder. She stands atop the roof of Valhalla and feeds from the leaves and branches of the tree.
The gods, the Aesir, live in Yggdrasil’s top branches: their realm is known as Asgaard. Their greatest foes, the Vanir stay in Vanaheim.
The Giants, the Jötnar, have their abode in Utgaard in Jotunheim, which is placed beyond the ocean that surrounds Midgard.
© HMH, 2017