The Giant with the Flaming Sword (1909), a depiction of Surtr by
John Charles Dollman. (Source Wikipedia)

According to Norse creation myth, in the beginning there was only the void named Ginnungagap until that is, the appearance of Muspell. Muspell was a place so hot that only those native to the land could endure it and was guarded by Surtr, the giant who awaits end times when he will use his flaming sword to annihilate all the gods and set the whole world on fire.

At the other end of Ginnungagap lay the dark, cold realm of Niflheim, from which ice, frost, wind, rain and heavy cold spilled into the void until it met the heat, light and soft air emanating from Muspell. This resulted in the thawing of ice drops and from this fluid emerged a giant frost ogre named Ymir.

While he slept, Ymir produced a male and female frost ogre from his armpit and a young male from his legs. Audhumla, a cow also born from thawing frost then fed them from the rivers of milk that ran from her teat. Audhumla licked salty ice blocks for a whole day, after which, she freed a man's hair from the ice. After a further two days, his head appeared and on the third day, the whole man was freed.

His name was Buri, a tall, strong, and handsome being who would marry Bestla, the daughter of a giant and together, they produced a son, Bor. Bestla loved her son and together they would have three children of their own, the eldest was Odin, then came Vili, and Ve was their third born. Together these three, led by Odin, would become the rulers of heaven and the Earth.

The Creation of the Earth

Odin, Vili, and Ve went to battle with the frost ogre, who had turned to evil ways. They killed Ymir and when he fell, the blood that flowed from his body caused such a flood that it drown all the other frost ogres; all that is except for Bergelmir, who escaped with his wife after building an ark and thus becoming the forefather to all future families of giants.

Odin, Vili, and Ve create the world out of Ymir's body, by Lorenz
Frølich (1820–1908). (Source Wikimedia).

Ymir’s body was then carried to the centre of Ginnungagap, the great void and used to make the world. They found a use for all of his body parts so that creation of the Earth was formed as follows;

Bodies of Water – First, the seas and the lakes were made from the giant’s blood.

Earth – All manner of earth and mud was made from his flesh.

Trees – All the trees were fashioned from his hair and arranged into forests.

Mountains and Rocks – The mountains took shape from Ymir’s bones and rocks, stones and pebbles were made from his teeth, jaws and those bones that were broken.

Dwarfs – Maggots appeared in Ymir's flesh and by the decree of the gods, they were turned into dwarves then given human understanding and the appearance of men (although they lived in the earth and in rocks).

Sky – From Ymir's skull the three gods created the sky and set it over the Earth with its four sides. Then, under each corner they stationed dwarfs, who were called North, South, East and West. They used the brains from within the skull to form the clouds and took some embers and sparks that had emerged from Muspell to give light to the Earth and sky above.

Territory – Once the world was made, Odin and his brothers realised that they would need somewhere to live apart from the giants so they allowed their foes to settle on lands near the rim of the disc shaped realm they had constructed. They built for themselves an inland stronghold called Midgard, making use of Ymir’s eyebrows to build barriers to keep the frost giants out.

The Creation of Man and Woman

An 1895 depiction of the creation of Ask and Embla by Lorenz Frølich (Source Wikipedia).

During the process of creating the Earth, Odin, Vili, and Ve were walking along a beach one day when they came across two trees, from which they created man and woman. From Odin, they received spirit and life, from Vili they gained understanding and the power to move and Ve bestowed upon them names and clothing. The man was called Ask and his female counterpart Embla, and from them would come all future generations of people in Midgard.

After setting up the sky and the stars, Odin and his brothers had left the heavens as they were until one day, two descendants of Ask and Embla were born; the son was called Moon and the daughter Sol. So jealous were the gods of their beauty that they pulled them up to the sky and set them to work. Sol was made to drive a chariot that carried the sun across the sky, never able to stop or slow down as she was chased by a giant wolf. Her brother, who pulls the moon each night is not chased however, so can complete his task with a little less haste.

Asgard and the Aesir

After creating man, Odin decided to build a new stronghold called Asgard where there was a great hall named Hlidskjálf. Here, Odin would sit on a high seat that allowed him to observe the whole world and see what all manner of beings within it were doing. Soon, the leader of the gods would marry Frigg, the daughter of Fjorgvin and from him would come all the future inhabitants of Asgard and the kingdoms that it owned; all members of the family were gods like their father and were known as the Aesir.

Odin was also married to his daughter Earth, who gave him his first and most famous son, Thor. The fearless warrior Thor would go on to dominate every living creature in the world and was known for his great strength, which he would put to good use protecting mankind.

Olaus Magnus’ 1555 illustration: From left to right – Frigg, Thor and Odin. (Source Wikipedia)


Faulkes, A. [Internet]. 1987. Odin and Ymir. The University of Georgia. Available from: [Accessed August 7, 2013].

Ashliman, D.L. [Internet]. 2010. The Norse Creation Myth. The University of Pittsburgh. Available from: [Accessed August 7, 2013].