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The Nine Worlds Of Norse Mythology
Norse mythology is a fascinating collection of myths and tales of heroes and gods. The tales have evolved through folk tradition. Read on to learn more about the nine worlds of Norse mythology.
The nine worlds are all linked together as the roots and branches of a tree that symbolizes the whole world: Yggdrasil. Each realm is then represented within and is home to different beings, such as giants or gods. The worlds are Alfheim, Asgard, Helheim, Jotunheim, Midgard, Muspelheim, Niflheim, Svartalfheim, and Vanaheim. The number nine is significant in Norse mythology and it crops up regularly; Heimdall had nine daughters, for example, and Odin was hanging on Yggdrasil tree for nine days. Niflheim and Muspelheim were the first two worlds to be created, with the rest made by Odin.
Niflheim - a world of mist and fog
The name Niflheim is derived from the Old Norse word Niðavellir, which translates to “mist home.” It is said to be the coldest and darkest region, created first and assigned to the region of Ginnungagap in the north. Home to Nidhug, (Níðhöggr), a large dragon, Niflheim sees the source of 11 rivers from Hvergelmir. Hvergelmir is the oldest spring in the world and is protected by the dragon. Legend has it that all living things originated from the spring and that all living beings will return at some point.
As the water flowed down the mountains from Hvergelmir through each of the 11 rivers, it got colder and eventually turned to ice as it reached the flat lands of Ginnungagap. Yggdrasil began to grow, and one of its roots reached back to Niflheim to draw water from Hvergelmir, the spring.
Muspelheim - the world of fire
Created at the same time, Muspelheim (Múspellsheimr) was in many ways opposite to Niflheim. The latter was cold and in the north, but Muspelheim was in the south and was full of flames and lava. It is home to fire giants and ruled by Surtr. Legend has it that when the world ends, Surtr will attack Asgard (the home of the gods) and use his flaming sword to destroy Asgard.
Asgard - home of the gods
Asgard lies in the middle of the world, high in the sky. It is where gods and goddesses live, ruled by Odin. Odin is married to Frigg, Queen of the Aesir, the enemies of Surtr. Beyond the gates of Asgard, the legendary place of Valhalla is found, where half of those killed in battle will move to the afterlife. The remaining half go to Fólkvangr.
Midgard - where the humans live
Midgard (Miðgarðr) translates to “middle earth” and is found in the middle, below Asgard. The humans live in Midgard, with the gods above them in Asgard. The two realms are connected by Bifröst, the rainbow bridge. Midgard is surrounded by a vast ocean that cannot be passed. The ocean is home to the Midgard Serpent, a sea snake so large that it encircles the whole world.
Jotunheim - the land of giants
Most giants (jötnar) live in the land named after them, Jotunheim. The land is largely rocky wilderness with dense forest. The jötnar live on fish and animals living in the forest, and the land itself is not fertile. The giants are generally enemies of the Aesir, though they remain forever linked by a river, the Iiving.
Vanahaiem - the land of the Vanir
The Vanir is another branch of gods, known for being masters of magic and sorcery. With that, nobody knows exactly where Vanahaiem is and it remains a very mysterious land. The Vanir are talented when it comes to predicting the future.
Alfheim - the land of the light elves
Alfheim (Álfheimr) is located beside Asgard in heaven. The light elves take the role of “guardian angels” and they are ruled by the god Freyr. Beautiful, creative creatures, they are poets and musicians and are minor gods covering fertility and nature.
Svartalfheim - land of the dwarves
The dwarves live in Svartalfheim (Svartálfaheimr) in caves and underground. Dwarves are master craftsmen who love to make gifts for the gods, such as Odin’s powerful spear.
Helheim - land of the disreputable dead
Criminals such as murderers, thieves, and any others not considered by the gods to be suitable for Folkvangr or Valhalla would find themselves in Helheim. There is no happiness or joy for anyone there ever again. The end of the world will come when Hel (ruler of Helheim and daughter of Loki) rallies her dead army to attack the gods at Ragnarök.