Jörmungand, the snake of Midgard
A giant snake that surrounds the world of Midgard, Thor's assassin... Jörmungand plays a central role in the Nordic mythology. Today we will introduce you to this legend!
In this article, we'll cover everything you might want to know about this famous monster. We'll talk about his family, his life and, of course, the three surviving Norse myths involving the Midgard serpent.
Jörmungand, giant serpent son of Loki
Jormungand was one of the creatures most powerful and savage in all of Norse mythology. Its name means "huge monster", and the creature is also known as the World Serpent or Midgard Serpent.
The Serpent also plays one of the key roles during the Ragnarök, where it is destined to face none other than the God of Thunder himself. But, more on that later.
The Origins of Jörmungand
As with many other gods and creatures of Norse mythology, Snorri Sturlusson's prose and poetic Edda are the earliest sources of information about the Midgard serpent. In case you didn't know, these writings date back to the thirteenth century!
The main source of information for the myths involving Jormungand is the Eddic poems Völuspá and Hymiskviða as well as the Skaldic poem Húsdrápa.
However, there may be other sources of information about Jormungand even older than the Prose and the Poetic Edda. Some of the stone carvings date from before the 13th century but are so worn that it is impossible to be sure that they actually depict the Serpent of Speech.
After all, it seems we must stick to the Prose and the Poetic Edda.
The Family Tree of Jörmungand
The Serpent of Midgard was the second child of Loki, the Norse god of cunning and mischief, and a giantess, Angrboda. As Loki's parents are thought to have been in fact giants, Jormungandr can naturally be considered a giant too.
The Serpent had two famous siblings Hel and Fenrir the Wolf. Hel was the ruler of Helheim, the realm of the dead, while Fenrir is known for two things. First, he snatched the hand of the Norse god of war, Tyr, and second, he killed Odin, the All-Father, during Ragnarök.
All things considered, if you say that Loki's offspring were the harbingers of the Ragnarök, you would not be wrong.
Be sure to watch this video to learn more about the giant snake.
The Anecdotes of Jörmungand
Now that we've described the beast, it's time to tell you about the various roles he played in the Viking universe.
Jörmungand and the Ragnarok
Now let's talk about the famous prophecy of the Ragnarök and Jormungand's role in it.
It has been predicted that the Ragnarök will begin when the Midgard Serpent releases its tail. Jormungand will rise from the dark depths of the ocean and spread the seas over all the land. The water will allow the Naglfar ship to sail freely over the flooded lands.
The Naglfar was built from the toenails and fingernails of dead men and women, and carried an army of giants. The captain of the ship will be Loki, who will manage to free himself from his bonds.
Jormungand's brother, Fenrir the Wolf, will run over all the land spreading fire from his nostrils and eyes and devouring everything in his path. The World Serpent will use his venom to poison the water, the land and the air.
Odin was so afraid of this prophecy that he threw Jormungand into the dark depths of the ocean while the Serpent was still very young. As time passed, Jormungand grew. Eventually, the Serpent grew so large that it held its tail in its mouth and surrounded all of Midgard. This is how Jormungand got his name - the World Serpent or the Midgard Serpent.
The Midgard Serpent is an example of an ancient symbol called Ouroboros. This symbol represents a dragon or snake eating its tail and forming a circle. The Ouroboros represents the eternal cycle of life and death or creation and destruction. The symbol can be found on many pieces of Viking jewellery today.
We are sure you can see why it is not surprising that the Ouroboros symbol is used to describe Jormungand today. The role of the Serpent in Nordic mythology was to unleash the Ragnarök and bring destruction to the entire Norse universe. However, the destruction of the old world will also bring about the creation of a new world.
We may note, moreover, that one of the most famous tattoos today is bin the Ouroboros.
The Giant Snake and Thor
Only three myths tell of Jormungandr's encounters with his archenemy, the god of thunder. It's time to tell you about these anecdotes.
1. THE FISHING SESSION
Let's start with a myth known as "The Fishing Party."
During a time of peace, Ran and Aegir, two gentle giants living under the sea, invited the Gods to a feast. The Gods were to bring a cauldron of sufficient capacity to brew mead for all the guests. As the guests were to be gods and giants, this was a real obstacle.
After almost giving up, the Gods remembered a giant who had a cauldron big enough to make mead for everyone. The giant was called Hymir. At the time, Thor was young and reckless, and he volunteered to travel to the kingdom of Jotunheim and ask Hymir to borrow the cauldron.
The giant was an excellent host and, knowing Thor's legendary hunger, he killed three bulls to get enough food during Thor's visit. However, Thor's appetite was once again underestimated. He ate two bulls in one meal, and Hymir realised that the bulls he had killed would not be enough. Since he did not want to kill any more of his cattle, he told Thor that they would go fishing tomorrow.
The next morning the giant sent Thor to get bait for the fishing. The young god returned with the heads of Hymir's remaining bulls. Hymir was very angry, but as he was afraid of the young God, he preferred not to say anything, and they both went fishing on the giant's boat.
Thor used his divine strength to bring them quickly to Hymir's fishing spot. It turned out that the bull's head was excellent bait. Hymir was in a good mood because he had managed to catch two whales in a short time. However, Thor was not fishing but just looking at the horizon, which annoyed Hymir.
After a while, the giant told Thor that they had enough food and could return to the shore. But Thor had other plans in mind. He started rowing further out into the ocean. Hymir, growing increasingly nervous, reminded Thor that they were entering Jormungandr's territory.
The thunder god, stubborn as he was, ignored Hymir's warning and continued rowing, watching the waves around them carefully. Finally, Thor stopped the boat. He took the largest hook, placed a bull's head on it, and his legendary fishing adventure was about to begin.
A few moments later, something tugged at Thor's line so hard that he barely managed to stay on the boat. In no time, the young God regained his composure and began to reel in his catch.
Hymir noticed that Thor was using all of his divine strength to pull his hold out of the water. The giant knew that only one creature in the ocean was powerful enough to test the young God. It had to be Jormungandr. Moreover, Hymir knew that if he allowed Thor to pull the Midgard Serpent out of the water, Ragnarök would begin.
The giant nervously watched the epic battle between the invisible sea monster and the mighty Thor. It seemed that the young God would prevail. Finally, Jormungandr's head emerged from the water, and the God of Thunder grabbed Mjollnir.
In the blink of an eye, the giant took his knife and cut the fishing line. The Midgard Serpent fell back into the depths of the ocean, creating huge waves that nearly destroyed Hymir's ship.
Thor was so angry that he threw the giant into the ocean. The young god rowed to shore and laid his catch in front of Hymir's house. Then he took the cauldron he had come to borrow and returned to Asgard.
2.RAISING THE CAT
The following myth, which tells of the meeting of Thor and Jormungand, is known as "Lifting the Cat."
Once upon a time, Thor and Loki were travelling in Thor's chariot, far from Asgard. Their destination was the lair of the giants, Jotunheim.
Soon after they arrived at Jotunheim, they came upon a vast castle. The castle gate was closed, and there was no one to open it. The door was so large that Thor and Loki could easily fit through its bars. They entered the castle and came upon a room where giants were feasting.
On a throne inside the hall sat a giant called Utgarda-Loki (Old Norse Útgarða-Loki), who was the king of the castle. He recognised his guests and began to insult them for being small.
After a series of challenges that Loki and others in their party lost, it was time for Thor to fight for the honour of the Gods.
After failing to win a drinking contest, Thor's next challenge was to try to lift the King's cat off the ground. But the mighty Thor failed to do so either. Thor lost one more contest before Utgarda-Loki announced that that was enough challenges for one night.
The next morning, Thor and Loki prepared to leave, and Utgarda-Loki showed them out. Once out of the castle, the king told them what had really happened the night before. He told Loki and Thor how he had tricked them.
During the drinking contest, one side of the drinking horn used by Thor was connected to the ocean, and at one point the giants were afraid that Thor would not stop until their entire ocean was gone. On the other hand, the cat Thor tried to lift was actually Jormungand, the world serpent.
Thor felt so humiliated and angry at being tricked like this, that he wanted to kill Utgarda-Loki on the spot. He took his hammer and turned to end the king's life, but there was nothing behind him. There was no sign of the castle or Utgarda-Loki, just a vast empty field. And just like that, Thor was deceived once again.
The last confrontation between Jormungand and Thor took place during Ragnarök, the final battle the gods of Asgard fought against the giants of Jotunheim.
It has been predicted that the Midgard Serpent himself will be the one to set in motion the series of events that will lead to the Ragnarök.
It will begin with the harshest winter in the history of the Norse universe, lasting three years. Jormungand will feel uncomfortable in the cold, dark depths of the ocean. The snake will finally release its tail and head straight for the surface.
Jormungand's movement will cause unimaginable earthquakes in the nine realms, eventually breaking the magical bonds that held Fenrir and Loki captive. Soon after, Loki and his children will head to the realm of the gods, Asgard.
Loki will command an army of giants seeking to kill all the Norse gods. Meanwhile, Fenrir the Wolf will spread fire and destruction throughout the Norse universe. He will run with his mouth wide open and devour everything in his path, even the mighty Odin himself. Finally, the World Serpent will poison the earth, air and water with its terrible venom.
In the end, the mighty Thor will fight his way to his archenemy, Jormungand. The battle was something to behold. Thor fought like never before and finally managed to kill the greatest snake that ever existed. Unfortunately, the wounds inflicted by Jormungand were so severe that the mighty God only managed to take nine steps before collapsing. After a few seconds of agony, Thor, the god of thunder, met his death.
We'll leave you with some music in honor of the snake.
The final word
Jörmungand has such an important place in the Nordic world that it was essential for us to write an article about its history. Among our creations you will find jewellery featuring the giant snake.
The Ouroboros symbol having a very important place we also asked our graphic designer to draw it so that we can propose it on these accessories, we let you go and see and order yours.
Hop hop hop, climb into your ship young viking, direction Gullfaxi, the golden horse to learn more about the Vikings.
Thank you for reading, and see you soon!