Most of our primary sources for Norse mythology lie in texts and manuscripts written and compiled in Iceland. These texts include the Prose Edda, compiled by Snorri Sturlusson – a historian, poet and politician, in around 1220 AD and the Poetic Edda a collection of poems originating from various anonymous sources.
Even though the Christianization of Scandinavia has more or less reduced the Old Norse religions to only a handful of peoples practicing it, our fascination with entities like Thor, Odin and Loki, persist. The pop culture has played its part in bringing the beautiful and enthralling world of these warrior gods to the attention of young adults who have taken a keen interest in the subject.
So here is my humble attempt at laying down the most basic groundwork for the Worlds and some of the Entities in Norse mythology before you start your own journey exploring the depths of this intriguing world of ice giants and dark elves.
The Norse realm is considered to be made up of Nine Worlds.
- Asgard: The abode of Gods and Goddesses lies in the middle of these supposed Nine Worlds. The Gods are called Aesir and the Goddesses Asynjur. Odin, the noblest and chief God in the Norse pantheon, is the ruler of Asgard.
- Midgard: Like Asgard, Midgard is located in the middle of these worlds. But unlike the home of the Gods which lies high up in the sky, Midgard is located on the ground. This is the world of humans and trolls.
- Jotunheim: Home of the Giants – the sworn enemies to the Aesirs of Asgard. Apparently, the world of Jotunheim was created from the corpse of the first giant known as Ymir. It is believed that Odin himself, along with his brothers Vili and Ve killed Ymir.
- Vanaheim: This is the home of Vanirs – another branch of Gods who lie more on the spiritual side than their Aesir counterparts. Vanirs are known for their sorcery, magic and divination skills. Vanaheim is mentioned only once in the Poetic Edda and no one is absolutely certain where exactly does this world lie.
- Alfheim: This world is home to the Light Elves and is location right next to Asgard. The Light Elves are minor Gods in their own right and watch over nature and fertility.
- Muspelheim: This is the land of fire, covered with molten lava flames, and black smoke. Muspelheim is home to the Fire Giants who are ruled over by a giant named Surtr – another sworn enemy of the Aesirs of Asgard.
- Svartalfheim: The world Svartalfheim means ‘dark fields’. And under these dark fields dwell the Dark Elves or the Dwarves. These dwarves are expert craftsmen and are credited to have made Thor’s hammer and Odin’s spear among other iconic Norse weaponry.
- Helheim: Like the Abrahamic religions, Helheim or hell, is reserved for the dishonourable, the cruel and the wicked. It is a very grim and cold place ruled over by a Goddess named Hel.
- Niflheim: This is the coldest and darkest of all the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology and aptly named the world of eternal ice.
- Odin: The ‘Father of All’, Odin rules over Gods and Men from his seat in Asgard. He holds the famous spear called Gungnir and rides the steed called Sleipnir.
- Thor: Son of Odin and wielder of the hammer Mjolnir, Thor is the most popular of all Gods in Norse mythology. Fiercely loyal and unshakeably courageous, he is the protector of Asgard.
- Loki: Now here is a very interesting character. Loki’s personality and motives have often triggered endless debates. A grey character with no particular loyalties, he is the offspring of a giant called Farbauti and a lesser known goddess called Laufey. He has been mentioned both helping and attacking the Aesirs.
- Vili and Ve: Vili and Ve are Odin’s brothers.
- Tyr: Another son of Odin and the God of War.
- Heimdall: The ‘Whitest of all Gods’, Heimdall rides the golden maned horse Gulltoppr, blows the huge horn called Gjallarhorn and has golden teeth. He is known to have great divination power and keeps watch over Asgard.
- Haenir: One of the Aesirs and the one who helped Odin create humans.
- Freyr: One of the most important Gods on the list, Freyr is also presented as a Vanir in Prose and Poetic Edda. He is the son of the sea-God Njordr and twin brother to the Goddess Freyja.
- Freyja: The Goddess of beauty and fertility.
- Baldr: Odin’s second son and often interpreted as the God of love, forgiveness and justice. Baldr also has a twin brother, the blind God Hodr.
- Fenrir: A giant wolf who is also the son of Loki. He is foretold to kill Odin and Thor during the events of Ragnarok or the end of the world.
- Jormungandr: A giant serpent and also one of Loki’s children. This giant snake’s body encircles Midgard.