How it all Began

'Halemaumau' by Jules Tavernier

In the beginning, there was a great chasm named Ginnungagap [pronounced: gin-un-ga-gap]. On one side of Ginnungagap was Muspelheim [mus-spell-hame], a region of flame. Wildfires burned, rivers of lava carved through the land, and molten fissures pocked the earth. On the other side of Ginnungagap was Niflheim [niff-el-hame], a harsh tundra of ice cliffs and frozen wastes.

Over time, the ice from Niflheim spilt so far into Ginnungagap that the raging fires of Muspelheim slowly began to melt it into water.

It dripped to the ground.

First, the waters formed a puddle. Then, as time went by, the puddle evaporated into a thick blanket of fog. Finally, two beings rose out of the fog. The first was a frost giant named Ymir [ee-mir]. The second was a great cow named Audumla [aud-hum-la].

One night, when Ymir slept, the heat from Muspelheim caused him to sweat. From the droplets that trickled to the floor, three more giants arose.

Audumla, meanwhile, licked the ice in Niflheim to draw water from the ground. One day it came across a big block of ice. As it licked the ice block, it melted to reveal a man. It was Buri, the first of the Aesir [ice-ir]. Later, he had a son with one of the giantesses called Borr [bore]. Borr, with his wife, Bestla [best-la], had three sons. Odin [oh-din], Vili [vil-ee], and Ve [vey].

As time passed, Odin and his brothers began to worry about the giants. They outnumbered the Aesir, and each day more of them arose from Ymir’s sweat. Soon, the Ginnungagap would be overrun, plunged into chaos, with giants and Aesir waging bloody battles over territory.

They decided that the only way to stop this from coming to pass would be to slay Ymir.

So, Odin and his brothers crept over to Ymir while he slept and slain the giant. They tore apart his corpse and began creating the nine worlds around the great tree, Yggdrasil. The blood that gushed from Ymir became the seas and oceans. They used his flesh to make the land. His teeth became boulders, and his bones became mountains. A world was set aside for humans which they called Midgard [mid-guard]. Then, they used Ymir’s eyelashes to build a fence around Midgard so that the frost giants of Jottunheim [yo-tun-hame] would not be able to invade it. The three gods fashioned Ymir’s skull into a dome for the sky. Four maggots which had writhed in Ymir’s flesh were made into dwarves and tasked with holding up the sky. Finally, Ymir’s brain was chopped up and tossed into the sky to become clouds.

To find out more about the nine worlds, click here. To read about the Aesir, click here, or to learn about the giants, click here.