Norse mythology is completely different from mythologies of Greece, Egypt, India and China. In Norse mythology, deities are not all-mighty, neither is the world eternal.
Lord god Odin rode through the misty forest and met the wise giant Mimir who was guarding world tree Mímameiðr. He got to drink the water in the well of wisdom Mimisbrunnr at the cost of losing one of his eyes, thus acquired great wisdom. He also obtained the spear Gungnir that Loki asked the Dwarves to fashion with the branches of world tree Yggdrasill. On Gungnir it carved a sacred covenant: anyone who possesses this spear shall rule the world. This is also the reason why Odin became the king of all gods. Compare with other mythologies, Norse mythology is closer to real life.
Norse mythology is a polytheistic system which in general falls into four sub-systems: jötnar, gods, elves and dwarves. Among them, the jötnar created the world and gave birth to all deities – the Asgardians led by lord god Odin and the Vanir ruled by the god of sea Njörðr, there were twelve major gods in total. Elves and dwarves are half-deity entities who serve the deities, this is a special creation in the Germanic region.
There are many special stories in Norse mythology. For example, regarding the creation of human, woman was first created with a log instead of mud as in most mythologies. Another outstanding characteristic is decided by the geographical location of Nordic civilization. As it is freezing cold in Scandinavia for being close to the Arctic, jötnar have a high status in Norse mythology, which is a headache for other deities. Secondly, the story about death and rebirth is highly influenced by cruel geographical conditions of Scandinavia. Different from other mythologies, Norse mythology is imperfect and there is a doomed destruction. For instance, Odin lost his left eye in order to acquire knowledge and wisdom, and obtained the spear Gungnir after being hung on the tree and suffering great pain. But on the other hand, in Norse mythology, when the world is destroyed, new life will emerge again, and everything in the world is cyclic.
12 gods and goddesses of norse mythology
Odin is the king of all deities, ruler of the world. He wears a golden helmet, with two ravens resting on his shoulders. These two ravens respectively symbolize “thought” and “memory”. Every morning, they fly all over the world and report back to Odin about what they see. Besides Odin’s feet there sit two wolves named “greed” and “desire”, serving as Odin’s guards. In order to enhance intelligence and predict the future for better ruling, Odin is eager to drink the water in Mimisbrunnr, the holy well beneath the world tree Yggdrasil. But Mimir, the giant guarding the well, asked him to offer one eye as the price. Without hesitation, Odin gouged out one of his eyes. After drinking the water in Mimisbrunnr, Odin became more erudite and intelligent. He invented ancient Nordic letters, with which the fairies record the destinies on the shields. That is Runes, the source of all the magic.
Frigg is the goddess of love in Norse mythology. As the wife of Odin, she governs marriage and family, and has dominion over both the paradise and hell. She is gorgeous, with white feathers in his blonde hair. Usually she wears a white coat with a golden belt, and there hangs a set of keys on the belt. In addition, she likes beautiful costumes and shiny jewelries. Once she stole Odin’s gold to trade for a precious necklace. Odin left home out of rage when he learned this. Jötnar, the frost giants, took the opportunity and soon took over the dominion over the world. Severe winter followed and suffocated all life. The crisis was not solved until Odin returned to Asgard seven months later.
Thor is the son of the goddess of earth Fjörgyn. Tall and strong Thor has a pair of blazing eyes and a golden beard. He wields the mountain-crushing hammer Mjölnir, wears the iron gloves Jarngreipr and the belt Megingjörd. Thor spends most of his time at eastern border to defend the home of deities from jötnar and Jörmungandr. He has a bad temper and dares to contradict Odin, but he is also of integrity and uprightness. When the Ragnarök came, Thor and Jörmungandr (the Midgard Serpent) had a fierce fight and killed one another.
Sif is the wife of Thor and goddess of earth and harvest. She has particularly enchanting long blonde hair which is shining like beautiful gold. Being proud of her hair, Sif always sits in the garden and combs her blonde hair, making Loki want to do some pranks on her. Once he shaved off Sif’s hair while she was asleep. Loki’s prank made Sif very sad. Upon knowing Loki’s prank, Thor was enraged and threatened to break every bone in Loki’s body. Loki pleaded with Thor and asked for permission to go down to Svartalfheim, the cavernous home of the dwarves, to see if these master craftspeople could fashion a new head of blonde hair for Sif. Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir, is also made by dwarf craftsmen, along with the blonde hair.
Freyr is the god of abundance, prosperity, love and peace. As one of the Vanir (a group of gods), he is also the king of Alfheimr, the realm of the Elves. One story is, he is the god of luminosity (or sun), the same as Baldr. The elves under him do good works all over the world. He often takes patrols by riding his mount Gullinbursti, a boar with golden and shining mane (the prize of a bet between Loki and dwarves). People enjoy the peace and happiness given by him. He has a shining sword and the ability of flying. He also possesses a foldable magic ship Skidbladnir, which can carry all the gods and their weapons when necessarily.
Loki is the god of fire, trick and evil. He is the son of jötunn Farbauti and half-brother of Odin. As the descendant of jötnar, Loki is handsome and eloquent. He is not of great power, but his children, such as Fenrir, Jörmungandr and Hel, are all formidable enemies to the gods. Despite looking kind and genial in appearance, he is actually a troublemaker. At first he just does pranks for fun, such as shaving off Sif’s hair. But later he became unscrupulous, even incited Höðr (god of darkness) to kill Baldr (god of brightness) just out of envy. As a result, he received the harshest punishment. He was bound by entrails of one of his sons, with venom constantly dripping down to his face, making his face even more ferocious and ghastly.
Tyr is the god of war, and the son of jötunn Hymir. In the Edda, he is called the All-father. According to the legend, he is the guarantor of contract and defender of oath. When the other deities were trying to tie up the evil wolf Fenrir, as the guarantor of credit, Tyr put his arm in Fenrir’s mouth. Fenrir bit off Tyr’s arm when it realized that it was a trap set up by deities. Tyr lost one of his arms. But his sword still made him look majestic. The ancient oath of sword originates from Norsemen’s worship of Tyr. And many traditional sword dances are choreographed in memory of Tyr.
Freyja is the goddess of fertility, desire and love, also the sister of Freyr. She is very beautiful and beloved by people, as when they are fighting the cold, they are longing for the spring. Sometimes she wears gorgeous costumes while sometimes armor, leading his fairies to sort out the sacrificed heroes. But she loves vanity so much that willing to bear the humiliation of dwarves for the golden necklace Brisingamen, therefore she was called the goddess of desire. In some stories, she and Frigg is the same goddess.
Heimdallr is the guardian of the gods. Also named Rig, he has gold teeth. His eyes are so sharp that he can see at night just as well as if it were day, and for a very long distance. Heimdallr’s hearing is also quite keen; he can hear grass as it grows on the earth. Day and night he sits on the edge of heaven to guard the Bifröst bridge from the jötnar. He rides golden-maned horse Gulltoppr and carries the resounding horn Gjallarhorn, which will be blown to call in the deities when an emergency occurs. According to the legend, he is the first line of defense of Asgard. During the Ragnarök, Heimdallr and Loki killed one another.
Baldr is the son of Odin and god of brightness. He is good-looking and talented, and always stays happy. His smile brings people great joy. Once he had a nightmare, which gave him the foreboding that someone would plot against him. Thereupon, Baldr’s mother Frigg went to all of the nine realms and gave the order that Baldr should not be hurt. However, she did not give the order to mistletoe, as she thought there was no need to worry about this fragile and weak plant. Taking this opportunity, Loki made arrows with mistletoe, incited and even assisted Höðr (god of darkness) to shoot Baldr to death.
Höðr is the god of darkness, twin brother of Baldr, but is blind in both eyes. He is by nature melancholy and withdrawn, also hostile to brightness. Under Loki’s instigation, he unwittingly killed his brother Baldr, the god of brightness.
Víðarr is the son of Odin and the jötunn Gríðr. He is the incarnation of immortal power of nature, and also called the god of forest. He and his brother Váli are destined to survive the Ragnarök and become the deities of new world.
He is tall, strong and in armor, carries a large sword, but wears only one boot. Some people think this pair of fire-proof boots is made of iron by his mother, because she knows that he will always fight the fire. While in another theory, the boots are made of leather, even wasted leather discarded by leatherworkers. During the Ragnarök, Fenrir defeated and swallowed Odin. Víðarr made the revenge for his father by stepping on Fenrir’s lower jaw, gripping its upper jaw and tearing it into two pieces. Therefore, he is also called the god of vengeance.