A darkish dragon, feathered, with corpses strewn about its physique. An historic evil that nibbles away on the construction of the universe itself. The “curse-striker.” A beast continually engaged in a battle of wits with eagles, speaking with them by… a squirrel? All this and extra is a part of the mythology of Nidhogg in Norse legend.
Nidhogg and Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life
Yggdrasil, the World Tree, is a towering tree containing the 9 realms of Norse mythology. Nidhogg dwelled in Hvergelmir, one in all three wells among the many roots of the tree. From right here, he devoured the roots, hoping to destroy the tree and tip the cosmos into chaos. Different sources claimed Nidhogg lived near the realm of Niflheim, the frozen wasteland residence of Hel and her military of the lifeless.
Hel’s realm was one in all a number of attainable locations for people after dying. If one had not died honorably in battle, they may discover themselves in Helheim. Deeper nonetheless was a spot often called Nastrond, the place the souls of the depraved – murderers and oath-breakers – could be despatched after dying. There, Nidhogg would feast upon their soul till the approaching of Ragnarök, when the dragon could be free of his imprisoning roots.
Nastrond is, nevertheless, a debated part of Norse mythology. It’s because many who examine Norse mythology don’t imagine that this deeper portion of Helheim is of Norse origin! They argue that the beliefs behind such a realm should not represented in different points of their mythology and posit that Nastrond might have been added later by Christian students.
Yggdrasil, the world tree, containing the 9 realms of Norse mythology, by Oluf Olufsen Bagge, 1847 ( Public Domain )
Nidhogg versus the Eagle: A Feud Aided by a Squirrel
On the high of the tree of life was an eagle who went unnamed all through Norse mythology. Nidhogg and the eagle despised one another, but by no means left their respective perches to problem each other immediately. As an alternative, they relied on a squirrel named Ratatoskr to convey messages of malice and insult between them.
At face worth, this a part of Nidhogg’s story in Norse mythology appears reasonably benign and even slightly odd. It was something however. Mythologies are sometimes consultant of cultural beliefs. Thus, Ratatoskr being a squirrel was probably on account of his position within the mythology; those that conveyed hateful messages between feuding events have been considered dishonorable; therefore the selection of an insignificant creature. The wrathful nature of the phrases additionally contributed to the poisoning of Yggdrasil.
Depiction of Ratatoskr, the messenger squirrel, from seventeenth century Icelandic manuscript ( Public Domain )
The Curse-striker and Ragnarök, a Restricted Position?
Surprisingly, Nidhogg just isn’t referenced as taking part in any main position within the world-ending occasions of Ragnarök. There’s a passage in one of many poems of the Poetic Edda (an historic assortment of Norse narrative poetry) that mentions Nidhogg breaking free from the roots of Yggdrasil, hovering by way of the air with corpses tangled in his feathers, however this appears to be the one supply that did.
There are trendy students who imagine that Nidhogg was by no means supposed to be a dramatic, damaging drive to be feared. Reasonably, they see the title as descriptive of his mythological goal. The primary portion of the title, níð, was an historic Norse reference to the lack of one’s honor. Anybody labeled dishonored was thought-about an outcast. Nidhogg, then, will be considered the embodiment of dishonor and villainy, and his destruction of the World Tree was a metaphor for the decay of Norse society.
Nidhogg in Norse mythology is consultant of what makes the examine of myths so fascinating. Although he was a comparatively small character, hardly ever showing in script or picture, there’s a wealth of fascinating interpretations and debates that rise from his story. Was he an historic parable, warning individuals to honor their legal guidelines and tradition? Was he a demon of the Norse world, punishing these cursed to the bottom depths of Helheim? A harbinger of doom? Or was he only a snake trapped in a tree who whispered insults to an eagle by way of their mutual companion, a speaking squirrel?
High picture: Nidhogg breathed chaos beneath Yggdrasil. Supply: warmtail / Adobe Inventory
By Mark Johnston