Dragons have always been a favorite of people when it comes to learning about myths that exist in the world—such included Ancient Norse, where they had dragons and serpents too. In the Norse language, the word for dragon is Omr, which simply means ‘’ensnaring snake”. In this article, we are going to look at three distinct dragons from the Viking era.
This first dragon/serpent was said to have dwell at the root of the Yggdrasil, the tree of life that connects the Nine Worlds. The name Níðhöggr can be broken down further, with Níð being the word given to a villain or someone who had lost honor in the society. The dragon would chew the corpses of those who went to Náströnd in their afterlife. This was a place in Hel, the underworld, where those guilty of oath-breaking, adultery, and murder would go.
If you died, that was the worst place that you would go in the realm of the underworld, that is, Hel. In the Prose Edda, Níðhöggr would gnaw at the Tree of Life, perhaps because he was trapped there and couldn’t be part of the world above. It is, however, thought that the dragon serpent finally gnawed his way, uprooting the Yggdrasil in the process. Given that the beginning of Ragnarök starts with a shaking of the Yggdrasil, one can argue that it is the dragon serpent that also began the unfolding of the end times.
Jörmungandr’s name means “huge monster,” and his other name was Midgard Serpent or World Serpent. He was a sea serpent, and the middle child of the trickster god Loki and the giantess Angrboða, the mother of monsters. He had three other siblings; there was the wolf Fenrir and sister Hel, who was placed in charge of the underworld. Based on the Prose Edda, Odin took the three siblings and he tossed Jörmungandr into the sea that surrounds Midgard.
Over time, the serpent grew so large that he encircled the earth, grasping its tail with his mouth. The prophecy outlined in the same literature states that when Jörmungandr releases his tail, that would also be the beginning of Ragnarök. Even so, earthquakes were regular, all being attributed to his movement. Thor was the serpent’s worst enemy, and there are three references for their encounters.
Lifting the cat: In this part of the Saga, Thor meets the giant king Útgarða-Loki, who tries to get him to lift Jörmungandr, who’s disguised as a colossal cat through magic. The most Thor could do was lift one paw from the floor, much to the horror of those who were watching. The giant king was impressed at Thor’s efforts, only to reveal that he was indeed trying to lift the great Jörmungandr from the floor. Should he have succeeded in raising the magic cat altogether, it would have sparked the changing of the universe’s boundaries.
Thor’s fishing trip: In this narrative, Thor was on a fishing trip with another giant called Hymir. Conflict brews between the two; Hymir had refused to give Thor bait. The god of thunder took matters into his own hands and cut off the head of the giant’s most massive ox. Even as the dispute ensued, Thor decided to make his way deeper into the water. As he put his bait into the water, Jörmungandr came up and snatched with his mount. Thor was about to use his hammer to strike the sea serpent, but Hymir quickly intervened, cutting the line. Jörmungandr then went back to circling the earth.
Ragnarök: This was the culmination of all the experiences between god and monster. Unarrest began when the serpent released hist tail and went to the land to wreak havoc on earth with his wolf brother Fenrir. Jörmungandr sprayed poison on the seas and the sky while his sibling set half the world on fire. The ultimately battle takes place, and Jörmungandr gets killed, but Thor only survived nine steps and died too, having been poisoned during the fight.
On Old Norse mythology, Fáfnir was the son of Hreidmar, the dwarf king. He had other brothers, Regin and Otr. The story of Fáfnir begins as a child, where he is put to guard the family wealth because he had the bravest soul and was equally aggressive. The problems for the family began when Odin, along with Loki and Hœnir, killed Otr. It was through to be by accident; he had taken the appearance of an otter during the day as it made it easier for him to fish.
When the gods showed their father, Hreidmar, the skin of the otter, Odin and Hœnir were sized, with Loki left to go look for ransom. Loki managed to get vast amounts of gold and a ring that gave the wearer the ability to always find gold. What Loki did not tell the family is that the riches were cursed, having snatched them from Andvari, another shape-shifting dwarf. From there, greed got to Fafnir, and he killed his father and drove out his brother Regin. Since he could also change the form, he took the shape of a dragon, pouring poison around the father’s property so that no one can come near his riches.
It was Sigurd, under the urging of Regin, that killed the dragon. He, however, didn’t do it alone. After Regin abandoned him, it is said that Odin took the shape of an elderly man and told Sigurd how to kill the dragon. It included telling him to build trenches so that the blood the dragon would gash wouldn’t drown him. Once the dragon was dead, two of Odin’s birds warned the warrior about Regin’s betrayal after getting a taste of the dragon heart. He then killed Regin and kept the riches to himself.
There are other dragons in the old Germanic mythology, but we’ve looked at the most known. It is safe to agree that based on who they were, their characteristics were fearful, and they all ultimately died.
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