The world ends – and rises anew

Finally something which no one can prevent, neither gods nor men, will come to pass. The world will end in an event named ragnarok, the fate of the gods and the day of their death. The gods are neither all-wise nor infallible, nor quite immortal. and they have often needed to resort to desperate measures in their struggle against the frost-giants and the rock-giants. They have had to go back on their word, as in the agreement with the giant builder. The failure of gods and men on the moral plane releases evil forces which prove too much for them.

This does not happen all at once or quickly, but has a fixed pro¬cess, just as the world itself flinches from the acts of men and gods and grows cold before their eyes.

The first signs of the world ending are that three winters will descend upon the earth during which great battles will rage throughout the world and provoke such enmity among men that no one will show mercy to his fellow. Brothers will fight one other, father will not spare son, nor son father. Falsehood and incest will fester, as though mankind has been driven mad by evil impulses. This winter is called the terrible winter. Snow will fall from all points of the compass, piercing frost and biting winds will prevail, and the sun will shine in vain. This winter lasts as long as three winters, with no summer in between. It is as though the whole world freezes because of human evil.

The sun drives her horses hard as if in panic, and the wolf Skoll which pursues her now exerts all his strength and leaps upon the sun and swallows her. The wolf Hati, who was running ahead, catches the moon, and the bright stars vanish from the heavens. Darkness descends on the whole world, as in the ancient days before the creation.

At these events in the expanse of heaven the whole earth and the mountains tremble, trees are uprooted from the earth, mountains split open and collapse, and all bonds and fetters burst. The wolf Fenrir gets free from Gleipnir. The Midgard Serpent writhes in the ocean, and from his thrashing the sea surges up on to the land. In its boat-shed the ship Naglfar (Nail-ship) also breaks loose; it is made from the nails of dead men. That is why one should make sure that people do not die with uncut nails, for such people increase the material for the building of this ship, and neither gods nor men want it to be able to sail forth under the command of the giant Hrym.

The wolf Fenrir rages forward with his jaw gaping so widely that it touches earth and heaven, and fire blazes from his eyes and nostrils. The Midgard Serpent is at his side and blasts out such poison that it spreads all over the sky and the sea, and he is terrible to look at. In this enormous uproar the heaven itself splits open and out from it pour the flaming sons of the world of Muspell, which was burning in the south before the earth was created. At their head goes their leader, the giant Stir¬(Black), holding aloft his blazing sword which shines brighter than the sun. When they ride across the bridge Bifrost it shatters, and so the way from earth to the world of the gods is closed.

The gods are now under heavy attack, and the hosts of their enemies crowd forward to the plain called Vigrid (Battle-surge), which extends for a hundred leagues in all directions. The wolf Fenrir and the Midgard Serpent come there, so too Loki and all the cohorts of Hel with him, and Hrym from Naglfar together with all the frost-giants, while the sons of Muspell form their own company, from which blazing flames arise.

When Heimdall hears Bifrost shatter and sees the hosts advanc¬ing he blows loudly on Giallarhorn and wakes up all the gods. They hold a council and make their plans. Odin rides Sleipnir to the well of Mimir to take advice from Mimir for himself and his people. The whole ash tree Yggdrasil shudders from its out¬ermost branches to its roots, and fear strikes everything and everyone both in heaven and on earth.

The gods arm themselves in great haste and advance towards the plain, together with all the einheriar from Valholl. At their head rides Odin wearing his beautiful, bright golden helmet and shining mail-coat, and carrying the spear Gungnir in his hand. He heads directly against the wolf Fenrir. At his side, Chariot-Thor drives his chariot and brandishes Miollnir so that thunder resounds and lightning pierces the rent heavens. He is unable to help Odin because he has enough to do fighting against the Midgard Serpent. Their contest ends with Thor crushing the Serpent’s skull but he is himself covered in blasts of poison. When he has staggered nine paces away to turn against the wolf, he falls to earth dead from the poison. Frey fights against Surt, and their struggle is both hard and long before Frey falls. His death results from his no longer having the good sword which he gave Skirnir to go and meet Gerd. At the same time the dog Garm gets loose; he is a hu_ who had been tied up at Gnipahellir (Overhanging-caves) on the Hel road. He rushes straight to the plain and faces Ty cause each other’s death.

Odin rides hard against the wolf Fenrir and hurls his I,. it is of little use against the huge jaw, and in the end t:. devours Odin. His son Vidar, who is next to Thor in ,t: – sees this and is enraged. He steps forward and places o:. in the wolf’s lower jaw, takes the upper jaw in his hand an,: the beast’s mouth apart, so that this is the death of the wolt. Loki fights Heimdall, and they both fall.

Surt is sitting astride his horse at the head of the company of Muspell’s sons. When he sees what is happening he whirls ~:. flaming sword and flings fire over the earth. The fire sprea,:¬across the whole world and burns it, but the earth sinks into tl:. sea, smoking in the dark blaze of Sort’s fire.

There is one place, however, which is not harmed either by fin or evil deeds. At the southern end of heaven, so high that the fire cannot reach it, stands a hall which is the most beautiful ot all and brighter than the sun. It is called Gimli (Fire-lee). It remains standing after both heaven and earth have perished. and is inhabited through eternity by good and righteous people. There is also the hall called Brimir (Sea) which stands on Okolnir (Uncold), and the hall Sindri on Nidafioll (Dark-mountains), made of red gold. These two are inhabited by good and moral people.

On the other hand there is a large and evil hall on Nastrond (Corpse-strand), whose doors face north. The roof is woven from the bodies of poisonous snakes; their heads poke into the house and split venom, so that all along the hall run rivers of poison, in which oath-breakers and murderers wade. In due course the world-fire is extinguished in the sea, and by then everything both good and evil has been burned, along with those who have been destroyed in the fire.

Finally the earth rises from the sea a second time, ever green pure and clear under the blue heaven; waterfalls rush down, and eagle flies above, hunting fish in the mountains. Unsown fields will grown and all evil will be healed. Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin, will survive, because neither Surt’s flame nor the sea can harm them, neither fire nor water. They dwell now on Idavellir, where Asgard once stood. The sons of Thor, Modi (Angry) and Magni (Strong), come there too, and they possess the hammer Miollnir. The brothers Baldr the good and Hod the blind return from Hel and live together in brotherhood. They came together now and talk about events which passed before about the Midgard Serpent and the wolf Fenrir, and the terror these two caused their ancestors. IN the grass they find the wonderful golden gaming pieces which the gods owned in ancient days, and they play there like innocent children.

In a place called Hoddmimir’s (Treasure-Mimir’s) Wood two human beings called Lif (Life) and Lifthrasir (Life-striver) were hidden. They have fed on the morning dews, and from them come the descendants who will populate the whole earth. The sun has given birth to a daughter who is as beautiful as she was herself and she travels her mother’s course with the blessing of the life-giving light. And Gimli descends to earth. Trustworthy men will live there and enjoy pleasure through all eternity.

from The World of the Viking Gods by Njör&eht;ur P. Njarðvík