Ymir and Pangu: Giants in Norse and Chinese Mythologies

Both Chinese and Norse mythologies are important global mythologies and valuable cultural treasures. Due to a lack of communication between early civilizations, there are big differences between them in form and composition, but they also share similarities regarding their ancient gods. Ymir and Pangu are the primeval beings respectively in Norse and Chinese mythologies, where their bodies become all parts of the world.

Ymir, the ancestor of jötnar in Norse mythology

In Norse mythology, Ymir is an important figure and the ancestor of all jötnar, also known as Aurgelmir, Brimir or Blainn. According to the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, Ymir was born from venom in the icy rivers and lived in the void of Ginnungagap. Feeding from the milk of Audhumbla, a primeval cow, he birthed a male and a female nameless giant from the pits of his arms, and from his legs a six-headed being Thrudgelmir.

At the very beginning of the universe, the ruler of foreworld and ancestor of jötnar Ymir, was born under the continuous alternate action of ice from north and fire from south. Afterwards, Ymir was killed by Odin and his brothers Vili and Vé in the struggle for living space. Upon Ymir’s death, his blood caused an immerse flood where the most jötnar were drowned, Thrudgelmir’s son Bergelmir was the only survivor. In addition, dwarves were created by gods from Ymir’s flesh and blood.

Ymir’s body was so huge that Odin and his brothers created oceans from Ymir’s blood, his sweat, the lakes; his torso, the ground; his skeletons, the mountains; his beard, the plants; his teeth, the rocks; his hanging skull, the firmament; and his brains, the clouds. Thus, they rebuilt the world.

Pangu in Chinese mythology

Pangu is a legendary figure in Chinese mythology that created the world on the Kunlun Mountain with an axe. The story of Pangu is spread almost throughout the territory of China, from south to north and from east to west.

Years and years ago, the sky and earth was not separated and the universe was only an egg-like formless chaos. Pangu, the giant and the creator, was born into this chaos. After his birth, he kept growing and sleeping for 18,000 years. One day, he suddenly woke up. Once he opened his eyes, he saw nothing but a blur.

Annoyed by the situation, he grabbed an axe from nowhere and gave a swing with force. With a thunder-like blare, the chaotic cosmic egg broke. Something light and clear went up and became the sky; while something else heavy and turbid went down and turned into the earth. Sky and earth in the chaos was thus separated by Pangu with a swing of his axe. After that, to keep the sky and earth separated, Pangu stood between them and pushed up the sky, his height also varies with them. With each day, the sky grew ten feet higher, the earth ten feet thicker, and Pangu ten feet taller. Another eighteen thousand years passed, and there was an extremely high sky, an extremely thick earth, and an extremely tall Pangu.

So how tall was Pangu on earth? It is said ninety thousand miles. This giant stood like a pillar between the sky and earth, to make sure they would not restore the original chaos. He stood alone and continued this strenuous job for another 18,000 years. Finally, the sky and earth seemed to be in shape and there was no need to worry about their reunion. Pangu fell and died.

At this very moment, the world around him suddenly changed greatly: his breath became the wind and cloud; his left eye, the sun; his right eye, the moon; his limbs and torso became the four ends of earth and mountains at five directions; his blood, rivers; his vessels, roads; his muscles, fertile land; his hair, the stars; the fine hair all over his body, plants; his teeth, bones and bone marrow became shining metals, hard rocks and beautiful jade; even his sweat turned into rain and mist.