• Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

Ymir in Norse Mythology: A Cosmic Creation Story


Oct 8, 2022

The story of Ymir and the creation of the universe typifies the emphasis on sacrifice as a theme, in Nordic fable and in creation tales around the globe. In Norse mythology, Ymir was the primeval frost large, and likewise a being whose loss of life led to the creation of humanity, in addition to the pure components of Earth itself.

Gylfaginning or The Fooling of Gylfi

The primary supply on Ymir and the creation of the universe in keeping with Norse mythology was written by the Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturluson, who lived within the thirteenth century. His textual content, Gylfaginning (The Fooling of Gylfi), is contained inside a bigger guide generally known as the Prose Edda .

Sturluson, like many writers who recorded historical myths, took inspiration from earlier information. Maybe the biggest inspiration was the Poetic Edda . This was a compilation of tales thought to have been a lot older due to the language and content material used. Though the older Poetic Edda exists, it’s nonetheless troublesome for historians to know precisely what content material was made up by Sturluson and what was authentic as a result of there’s a common lack of documentation. This, after all, goes for all recorded historical myths.

Nonetheless, when taken with a pinch of salt, Sturluson gives us an attention-grabbing story of the creation of the universe. Gylfaginning tells of a legendary king named Gylfi, who dominated over Sweden. Sooner or later, he went to Asgard (the place the gods lived), as a way to ask them questions to know whether or not they used magic. After an extended ordeal, he lastly obtained the solutions he was in search of.

Within the Prose Edda, Gylfi, King of Sweden earlier than the arrival of the Aesir beneath Odin, travels to Asgard, questions the three officers proven within the illumination regarding the Aesir, and is fooled (18th-century Icelandic manuscript / Public Domain )

When Sturluson wrote about Ymir, he referenced the primary textual content within the Poetic Edda, referred to as the Völuspá. It acknowledged that earlier than the creation of the recognized universe, there was nothing however a void, most likely filled with magic. There was additionally an icy realm generally known as Niflheim, the supply of 11 (or twelve) rivers. The textual content additionally talked about Muspelheim, which was a boiling sizzling realm.

Sturluson additionally took inspiration from two different poems within the Poetic Edda, referred to as Vafþrúðnismál and Grímnismál . Each are moderately encyclopedic in nature and are crammed with names and details, moderately than tales.

Vafþrúðnismál is comprised of a dialog between Odin (probably the most highly effective Norse God) and an enormous named Vafthrudnir. The intention of the dialog was to determine who was wiser. So as to come to a conclusion, they mentioned the creation of the recognized universe. Vafthrudnir talked about the story of Ymir, and acknowledged that the earth got here from his flesh. Vafþrúðnismál additionally talked about a personality by the title of Aurgelmir. Historians at this time assume this was most likely one other title for Ymir, as a result of Vafthrudnir gave him the identical creation story as Ymir.

Grímnismál instructed the story of Odin’s mistaken torture by a king unaware of Odin’s id. Odin had a dialog with the king’s son, whose title was Agnar. Through the dialog, Odin retold the story of the creation of the universe, and talked about Ymir.

A stone statue of Ymir in St. Johns, Chester, United Kingdom (Hooligan / CC BY SA)

A stone statue of Ymir in St. Johns, Chester, United Kingdom (Hooligan / CC BY SA )

The Tales of Ymir in Norse mythology

In line with Sturluson, Ymir was created when the rivers from Niflheim froze, inflicting ice to kind within the void. This ice was then met by warmth waves forming in Muspell. Because the ice melted, it shaped the form of a person: Ymir. Ymir would change into the primary large. He was subsequently the ancestor of all giants, and by extension, lots of the Norse gods. In some information, the void the place Ymir is shaped is given the title Ginnungagap.

So as to keep alive, Ymir suckled a cow named Audhumla. This cow had additionally been shaped by the convergence of ice and fireplace between the 2 realms. When Ymir had had his fill, he slept. Whereas he slept, his offspring shaped from his sweat. A male and a feminine took form beneath his armpit, and from his legs got here a six-headed son.

In Norse mythology, Ymir suckled the cow Audhumla at the dawn of the gods. Painting by Nicolai Abildgaard, 1777 (Public Domain)

In Norse mythology, Ymir suckled the cow Audhumla on the daybreak of the gods. Portray by Nicolai Abildgaard, 1777 ( Public Domain )

To nourish itself, the cow Audhumla licked the salt from a rock. From this rock, a person named Buri was revealed, who can be the primary of the Aesir gods . On the primary day, his hair was uncovered, on the second his head, and on third, he was utterly revealed.

Sculpture of Ymir and Auðhumla, by Icelandic sculptor Einar Jónsson, 1909 (Christian Bickle / CC BY SA 2.0)

Sculpture of Ymir and Auðhumla, by Icelandic sculptor Einar Jónsson, 1909 (Christian Bickle / CC BY SA 2.0 )

Buri produced a son named Borr, who then mated with a giantess named Bestla, a descendant of Ymir. Collectively they produced the chief of the Aesir, Odin, in addition to his two brothers Vili and Vé. Though little is thought about Vili and Vé, Odin would go on to change into one of the vital well-known Norse gods. He held the best seat within the divine world. Odin was worshipped by everybody and was typically linked to attributes like management, knowledge, energy, and sorcery.

The brothers Odin, Vili, and Vé destroyed Ymir, and created the universe from his very essence. The Grímnismál recorded the grisly occasions. The gods put Ymir’s physique within the void ( Ginnungagap), and used his physique to kind the Earth and pure components. For instance, they used his enamel to make stones. From the Grímnismál:

From Ymir’s flesh the earth was created,

And from his sweat the ocean,

Mountains from bone,

Bushes from hair,

And from his cranium the sky.


And from his eyebrows the blithe gods made

Midgard, house of the sons of males

And from his brains

They sculpted the grim clouds.

Odin, Vili and Ve killed Ymir and created the world of Midgard from his body (Sokol_92 / CC BY SA 3.0)

Odin, Vili and Ve killed Ymir and created the world of Midgard from his physique (Sokol_92 / CC BY SA 3.0 )

Midgard was the realm the place people lived in Norse mythology, and its border was shaped by Ymir’s eyebrows. To create the celebrities, the gods took sparks that flew out of Muspelheim and forged them into the sky. They then mounted their programs.

When a flood of Ymir’s blood (or, in some variations, sweat) shaped the ocean, all the opposite frost giants perished, besides one couple, Bergelmir and his unnamed spouse. They managed to outlive by constructing an ark, on which they discovered refuge to re-establish the frost large race.

After Odin and his brothers kill Ymir in Norse mythology, rivers of blood enable human life to arise (PlasmaCommentates / CC BY SA)

After Odin and his brothers kill Ymir in Norse mythology, rivers of blood allow human life to come up (PlasmaCommentates / CC BY SA )

Some sources acknowledged that Odin and his brothers then discovered two logs close to the seashore, which they used to assemble the primary people. One of many brothers gifted the pair life and the flexibility to breathe; one other gave them consciousness and motion, and the final gave them the flexibility to talk, see, and listen to. All people that may observe could possibly be traced again to this pair.

Carving of Ask and Embla, the first humans (Bengt Oberger / CC BY SA 3.0)

Carving of Ask and Embla, the primary people (Bengt Oberger / CC BY SA 3.0 )

Whereas the gods have been creating the universe, they’d left the heavens in darkness. After a few generations, two lovely descendants of these authentic two people have been born. These beautiful kids have been gifted with the names Sol and Mani. The gods have been jealous of the daddy of those kids, and once they deemed him to be insufficient, they stole the youngsters.

The gods then positioned the youngsters within the sky. Sol was instructed to drive a chariot to drag the solar throughout the sky. It was stated that she traveled so rapidly as a result of she was chased by an enormous wolf. Mani then adopted his sister throughout the sky in the identical path, however he didn’t rush as she did.

Through the creation of the universe, the gods additionally created a pathway between the heavens and Earth. This pathway took the type of a rainbow, and acted as a bridge between the 2 realms.

Wolves are said to chase Sol and Mani across the sky. Painting by John Charles Dollman, 1909 (Public Domain)

Wolves are stated to chase Sol and Mani throughout the sky. Portray by John Charles Dollman, 1909 ( Public Domain )

Similarities between Ymir and different Historic Mythological Characters

Ymir was a hermaphrodite, each mom and father to his offspring. On this sense, Ymir is much like different historical legendary characters. In Zorvanite Zoroastrianism, for instance, the god Zorvan is each mom and father to a set of twins, named Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu . The twins went on to create the universe. Within the historical Indian Rigveda, there’s a story of a being named Purusha. On this story, Purusha can also be reduce up and sacrificed as a way to kind the recognized universe.

Comparative mythologist Michael Witzel has pointed to some similarities between Ymir’s story and people from South Asian mythologies. An instance is the large named Pangu, who emerged from a cosmic egg and shaped the Earth, in addition to the race that then populated it.

There are another, extra tenuous comparisons. In Kashmiri mythology, there’s a large demon named Rakshasa. Rakshasa is killed, and a river embankment is constructed from his stays. One other instance is the Māori god Tangaroa, who created the universe from a shell he opened.

Zorvan, the Zoroastrian god of light and time, has similarities to Ymir in Norse mythology (Angaremino / CC BY SA 4.0)

Zorvan, the Zoroastrian god of sunshine and time, is analogous to Ymir in Norse mythology (Angaremino / CC BY SA 4.0 )

The Theme of Sacrifice in Norse Mythology

The theme of sacrifice is frequent, not solely within the wider world, but in addition in different Norse mythological tales. Lots of the gods are scarred from violent sacrifices they endured for the sake of the broader world. Maybe probably the most putting instance is Odin’s missing eye , which he surrendered as a way to see the longer term and the trials of humanity. Moreover, Tyr sacrificed his hand to acquire the servitude of the large wolf Fenrir.

Ymir’s Classes and Legacy in Artwork and Tradition

The story of Ymir has a story connection between the sacrifice of one thing or somebody and the creation of the universe. This sacrificial relationship is central to in Ymir’s fable, as a result of solely via Ymir’s loss of life might people come into existence. Ymir’s blood (or sweat) drowned the outdated giants and paved the best way for human life on Earth, and his hair grew to become the vegetation of the land that nourished the human physique. That is maybe additionally referencing the cycle of life and loss of life, which happens yearly in nature on a a lot bigger scale.

To many, the frost originally of the story is supposed to represent hardship, very similar to the tough Nordic winters the viewers for these myths endured. From this hardship rose life. On this sense, some additionally consider that Ymir’s loss of life was supposed to be consultant of the taming of the wilderness.

Ymir’s story speaks to the unstoppable drive in people, which was essential for the creation of the universe, and has been essential for our progress since. Ymir’s loss of life will also be seen as a metaphor for the destruction resulting in the creation of one thing actually lovely and awe-inspiring.

In paintings, Ymir is usually depicted alongside his cow, thought-about his foremost image. The 2 grew to become companions over time, and Audhumla remained a supply of nourishment for Ymir. His ill-fated battle with the gods has additionally been a frequent supply of creative inspiration.

Sadly, Ymir’s legacy doesn’t replicate his significance within the creation of the universe. Immediately, he’s not practically as acknowledged as different figures from the Norse myths. One of many few, but most well-known, depictions of the large is within the Marvel Comics Universe, the place there’s a character with the identical title. There he’s depicted as an enormous shaped completely of ice, whose purpose is to destroy all life on Earth.

Marvel’s depiction of Ymir as an ice monster bent on world destruction has little relation to his role in Norse mythology (Fantasy Art / CC BY NC ND 2.0)

Marvel’s depiction of Ymir as an ice monster bent on world destruction has little relation to his function in Norse mythology (Fantasy Artwork / CC BY NC ND 2.0 )

Nonetheless, the Norse creation fable presents an attention-grabbing story which glorifies sacrifice for the larger good. Due to this, it was deemed essential for lots of the Norse individuals and has stood the check of time.

Prime picture: Odin and his brothers defeated Ymir in Norse mythology, and used his physique to create Midgard. Odin’s image, a raven, seen superimposed on a cosmic background. Supply: jozefklopacka / Adobe Inventory

By Molly Dowdeswell

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