Norse Mythology

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A typical day of awesome smiting for resident god Thor.

Hearing I ask | From the holy races
From Heimdall's sons | both high and low;
Thou wilt, Valfather | that well I relate
Old tales I remember | of men long ago.

The Voluspa, Stanza 1

The Norse Mythology is a collection of stories derived from Germanic roots, following the lives of the Norse gods—the Æsir and the Vanir—and the men whose lives they directly affected. At its height, the mythology covered most of northern Europe, much of modern Germany and Austria, and parts of the British Isles; it lasted longest in Scandinavia and Iceland, however, which produced most of its surviving texts. It is a branch of the Proto-Indo-European mythological tradition, which also spawned the Celtic, Greek, and Vedic pantheons; it's distinguished from those myths, however, by the fact that its gods are not only fallible but also all mortal. They could, and did, die. Like most traditional polytheistic systems, it has no set canon and in some ways resembles a body of customary beliefs more than a set religion. It has been speculated that only chieftains and other wealthy people held faith in the Aesir, while the common farmers believed in land-spirits such as trolls and giants.

Many texts describing Norse beliefs have come down to us, but, aside from a few runic inscriptions and similar fragments, all were written hundreds of years after the turn to Christianity. Consequently it's nearly impossible to tell which stories are Hijacked by Jesus, or how much they are, although academic theories abound. Even ignoring this, another problem arises: since Norse myth has no definitive canon, the myths differ considerably from place to place, according to the time they were written and the purpose they were written for.

For most researchers the main source of canon is the Poetic Edda, also known as the Elder Edda or Codex Regius (as it was originally known). This is a collection of both mythological and heroic poems; the most famous, the Völuspá, relates the past creation of the world, the future death of the gods and burning of the world, and the beginning of the world to come. Others give pithy advice (Hávamál) or contain legends of the Æsir and the Vanir, while even more tell us about the heroic deeds of human beings. Perhaps the most important hero is Sigurd Fafnesbane, a man cognate to the Siegfried of German legend. The oldest surviving copy of the Elder Edda was made in the late 13th century, though many of its poems are much older than that; though how much is often quite unkown.

A secondary source of canon is the Prose Edda (a.k.a. Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or just plain Edda), a book that was written by the Icelandic historian and politician Snorri Sturluson sometime around 1225 CE. It's difficult to accurately summarize his book; it's believed to have begun as a simple collection of skaldic poetry, but as Snorri wrote he's thought to have realized that most of his audience would miss many important mythological allusions. Drawing upon his vast knowledge of Norse mythology, therefore, he devoted half his book to retelling the myths in an educational manner, sourcing both older sagas and the Poetic Edda. It's likely that Snorri didn't intend this mythological content to be taken at face value: the prologue and the end of the first section explicitly state that the work covers ancient, mythologized kings and heroes rather than true divinities. In fact, Snorri's not-at-all mythological book Heimskringla (which retells stories of the Norwegian kings) contains a similar prologue, and it even mentions the events of the Prose Edda in passing.

Various other sources exist, including The Icelandic Sagas and Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum, a Danish work of history compiled in the late 12th century. All are, for one reason or another, generally considered less authoritative than the Eddas. The works of the Roman ethnographer Tacitus touch on an earlier form of Norse myth, similar in many ways but dating to the first century CE. The current versions we have, however, are Older Than Print.

The Norse gods are considered by some scholars to be derived from the same ancestral Indo-European mythology as Classical, Celtic, and Hindu Mythology. The mythology of Zoroastrianism is also similar, although with a monotheistic structure imposed on it. The "relations" mentioned below are those offered by scholars who think all myths except for their own culture's have a shared base.

Major characters of the Norse Mythology include:

  • Odin (Old Norse Óðinn), All-Father, Oath-Breaker, and Lord of the Slain, wisest and chieftain of the Aesir (battle gods). His obsession with Ragnarök causes many of his actions, and is one of his most defining characteristics. Was identified as Mercury by the Romans, which may or may not be the case. Inventor of the runes (and rune magic and writing), he sacrificed one of his eyes at a well (some say Mimir's well, some say Urd's - both wells water the world-tree Yggdrasil) and hung himself from the world tree Yggdrasil for many days to gain the secret of wisdom. Is the god of prophecy, poetry, and magic, but also of war and murder. In fact, he taught war to mankind, so that they would kill one another and swell the ranks of the gods with Cannon Fodder for the battle at Vigrid. He sometimes wields a spear named Gungnir, the spear of the never-ceasing thrust; oaths sworn upon Gungnir cannot be broken. He is accompanied by two ravens, called Huginn ("thought") and Muninn ("mind"), whom he sends out across the worlds as messengers and as eyes and ears to spy for him.
  • Frigg (Frigga), the mother goddess, protector of women and wife of Odin. She can see the future, but all of her attempts to change it are subverted.
  • Loki, a mischievous giant/jotun (tolerated since he's Odin's sworn brother, and because he does come up with good ideas even though he often needs those good ideas because the gods followed his realy bad ideas) Shapeshifting Gender Bender Trickster Archetype who likes to stir up trouble for the gods and then get away with it, though he'll occasionally help out if he feels inclined to. Father of two daughters named Eisa and Einmyria by a jotun wife named Glut, two sons named Narfi and Vali by his Aesir wife Sigyn, and of Fenrir the wolf, Jörmungandr the giant serpent, and Hel the goddess of the Underworld by his jotun lover Angrboda. Also, he's the mother of Odin's eight-legged horse Sleipnir. Loki is credited with being the god of the hearthfire, and also inventing useful tools such as the fishing net. Was eventually tortured and bound by the other gods for his actions, in a fate reminiscent of that of the hero Prometheus from Greek mythology.
  • Thor (Þórr), a sometimes naive, sometimes shrewd, god with a magical hammer which required special gloves to handle. Usually associated with Thunder, which is not too far-fetched considering that this is exactly what his name means. Lightning is said to arise when he throws his hammer (called Mjölnir) after trolls and giants. More generally, he was a weather god and therefore, also a fertility god (because good crops depend on the right weather) and especially worshiped by farmers and seafarers. Though notoriously irascible, he is also one of the gods who are most benign towards the human race, and constantly strives to protect Midgard from monsters and giants. It probably goes well with this profile that Thor is not is a war god [1]—that office goes primarily to Odin (whose attitude towards humans is much more ambiguous). He does ride in a chariot, though, drawn by his two goats Tooth-grinder and Tooth-gnasher. Interestingly, his other cousin is Zeus.
  • Sif, Thor's wife, associated with wealth, family, and the harvest. Most notable in the surviving texts for having her famous golden hair cut off by Loki as a joke after he'd slept with her—drama ensued.[2] Her connection with the Earth suggests a link to Gaia or Demeter/Ceres, but she's married to the Zeus-equivalent Thor. Her name (which just means "married,") doesn't help matters.
  • Tyr (Týr), Son of Odin, or the giant Hymir in some stories, whose right hand was bitten off by Fenrir while tricking the wolf into being chained with a magic rope. He also presides over the Thing (pronounced "Ting"), a Germanic governing assembly, which makes him a god of law and justice. He was the main War God and was prayed to by warriors before battle. Unlike Thor he didn't go off fighting giants, he instead preferred large battles (even after he lost his hand). He and Thor once had a competition to see who was the strongest of the Aesir, with Tyr falling out at the final test. Confusingly, he (like Thor), is also a cousin of Zeus and Indra.
  • Frey (Freyr), the main fertility god and a member of the Vanir, another group of gods that fought then allied with the Aesir. He is Freya's twin brother and married to the beautiful giantess Gerd. Related to Priapus of Classical Mythology.
  • Freya (Freyja), the goddess of love and beauty who Really Gets Around. She is also a goddess of war, and may have started the mega-war between the Aesir and the Vanir. Patron of female fighters. Her most famous cousin is Aphrodite/Venus. Freya owns a magical feathered cloak that can transform the wearer into a falcon; she occasionally lends this cloak to other gods such as Loki.
  • Heimdall, watchman and herald of the gods who guards Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, entrance to their kingdom. He possesses incredible sight and hearing, as well as a magic horn, and is of noble character. Son of nine Jötunn sisters.
  • Idunn (Iðunn), wife of the skaldic god Bragi. Goddess of eternal youth, keeper of the golden apples of immortality, she is generally seen as innocence personified.
  • The Norns, who somewhat resemble the Greek Fates/Moirai, though all three of them see the future. Their names are different tenses of the verb "to be," and some of their traits can be seen through these tenses. Modern scholars believe there was originally an indeterminate number of Norns, but medieval Icelandic scholars were inspired by Roman mythology and modeled a trinity after the Fates' example, as follows:
    • Verthandi, the most powerful and the Norn of the Present ("is becoming")
    • Urd, the eldest and the Norn of the Past ("has been")
    • Skuld, the youngest and the Norn of the Future ("will be")
  • The Valkyries, warrior-women who choose those who died an honorable death and take them to Valhalla.
  • Hel, the goddess of death, who presides over the Underworld and those who die of anything other than combat or drowning. Daughter of Loki and his mistress Angrboda. She is commonly described as being half black and half white, or half young and half rotting.
  • Aegir, god of the sea and famous for his parties. Possibly a giant, though some sources claim he is older than even the giants. Owns a giant cauldron for brewing mead, which Thor and Týr stole from the giant Hymir.

Incidentally, we still honor some of these gods on a regular basis (though using the Anglo-Saxon versions of the god), on Sunna's Day (maybe), Mani/Moni's Day (maybe), Tyr's day, Odin's day, Thor's day and Freya's day. Each occurs once a week in Western cultures that use the Germanic root names (in case you don't get it, these days are also known as Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, followed by Saturn's day, and then on again to Sun's Day and Moon's Day, at which point the cycle repeats).

By the way, note that this page is called Norse Mythology, not "Viking Mythology". Originally the word viking meant the act of faring overseas and the sailor participating, while in English it denotes a profession meaning something like "Pirate." Only a minority of Norsemen were Vikings.

Norse Mythology is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in Norse Mythology include:
  • Adam and Eve Plot: After Ragnarök, two people (Lif and Lifrasir) survive and begin the world anew.
    • And we have Ask and Embla the two first humans crated from ash and elm wood that one of the gods found on a shore.
    • While they aren't human, Bergelmir and his wife repopulated the world with Jötunn after Ymir's blood flooded the world and drowned the rest.
  • Adaptation Dye Job: A disproportionate amount of modern works depict Thor as having blond flowing hair, probably due largely to Marvel Comics' The Mighty Thor. The original myths clearly specify him as being red-headed and -bearded, reflected in the pic for this page.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Loki in earlier sagas was chaotic and unreasonable, but he would always have his family's back. The later sagas have him deliberately get Baldr killed, as a joke.
  • The Ageless: The Aesir and Vanir are immortal in this way, so long as they continue to eat the Golden Apples of Idunn. (When the goddess and her apples were abducted by the Jotunn giant Thjazi, all the gods aged rapidly... except apparently for Loki, who was forced to go and steal goddess and apples back.)
  • All Trolls Are Different
  • Alternate Continuity: Was Loki imprisoned for killing Baldur, or was he imprisoned for calling the gods out on crap they were actually guilty of? Depends on which story you read.
    • In the Gesta Danorum, Baldur and Hodur weren't brothers, but romantic rivals. Baldur was a god and Hodur human. After Hodur beat Baldur in fair combat for the hand of Nanna, Baldur declared that it wasn't fair because he was a god. So in order to keep his bride, Hodur had to travel to the underworld to fetch the sword Mistilteinn (Mistletoe), which he used to kill Baldur off for good.
  • Exclusively Evil: Averted hard. While many of the giants are a source of trouble for the Aesir, many of the Aesir are married to giants or have giants as lovers, and all nine of Heimdallr's mothers (he has no father) are giants, which means that Heimdallr is a giant. Thor himself is half-giant on his mother's side (Jord). Then there's Loki, who is more Chaotic Neutral.
  • Always Need What You Gave Up: Loki hands Idunn and her golden apples over to a giant to save his own life, forgetting that these apples not only keep him immortal, but are very important to the violent, short-tempered battle gods he lives with. Woopsie-doodle.
  • Ancestral Weapon
  • Angel Unaware: Odin was fond of this.
  • Anyone Can Die: Every major god dies during Ragnarök, as well as all but one of the major "villains." However, several gods live on to the new world, including those two who got resurrected.
  • Arc Number: 9 and 3
  • Arch Enemy: Thor and Jormungand. First, Thor was tricked to lift it in disguise of giant cat by Utgard-Loki. Thor later caught it while fishing but Hymir cut his string. Then they are destined to kill each other in Ragnarök.
    • Loki and Heimdall. The very first story they costarred in set them against each other. Like Thor and Jormunqand, they are also destined to kill each other in Ragnarok.
    • Tyr and Fenrir, the wolf that bit of his hand.
      • Most adaptations (probably thanks to Marvel) tend to set up Thor and Loki as arch-enemies. While they butted heads once in a while (Sif's hair was certainly a Berserk Button for Thor), they were more friends than enemies, and often traveled together.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Ring Andvaranaut a.k.a. the Ring of the Nibelung, from the Volsunga Saga.
  • Back from the Dead: Baldur and Höder, after Ragnarök.
  • Badass Normal: In the incident where Thor and his companions are tricked by the giant Utgard-Loki into competing in rigged contests of strength, one of those companions is a seemingly normal human who does fairly well in a race against a thought from Utgard's mind.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: Sigrun and Brünnhilde
  • Big Badass Wolf: You can't make a wolf much bigger or meaner than Fenrir. And he wasn't the only example.
    • To put it this way, he is destined to kill Odin. Meanwhile, Fenrir's two sons - Skoll and Hati - are trying to eat the sun and the moon.[3]
    • We forgot to mention that, with his mouth wide open, Fenrir's top jaw touches the sky while the bottom jaw scrapes against the ground.
  • Bishie Sparkle: Balder is described "as being so fair of face that a beam of light emanates from him".
  • Blood Knight: A typical Norse warrior supposedly
  • Bloodier and Gorier: And that was how they liked it.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Völund (or Wayland) the Smith is portrayed as more a force of nature than as a man. Consequently, he's less judged for his Roaring Rampage of Revenge than a normal man would be. Also, this was back when killing a man's children and raping his wife was less forbidden than it is now.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Thor, usually.
  • Bride and Switch: The below-mentioned wedding caper with Thor in drag as the false bride.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Freyr and Freyja are widely held to be the product of a union between Njord and his unnamed sister. The Lokasenna also accuses Freyr and Freyja of having been caught "in flagrante" at some point.
  • Cain and Abel: Not quite straight, but Hod does unwittingly kill his brother Baldur. He's killed for it. In older versions of the myth, Baldur and Hod have an actual rivalry, and so this trope is played a bit straighter.
    • Thor and Loki become this in Christian retellings of Norse myths (while Loki was Odin's brother in the original myths) as well as in Marvel Comics.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Frey give his sword to Skirnir so he could help him win Gerd's heart. It isn't until Ragnarök that this event has a huge impact - Frey fails to stop Surt since he is without weapon, allowing Surt to burn the world.
    • Some translations even imply that it's Frey's own sword that Surt uses to accomplish this.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Loki's first wife Glut (Glow), and their daughters Eisa (Embers) and Einmyria (Ashes).
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Thor's belt and gloves, which enable him to wield Mjollnir.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: In addition to their love of Volleying Insults, torturing Baldur was apparently a favorite pastime of the Asgardians. What's the point of having someone Nigh Invulnerable around if you don't throw heavy objects at him? In fairness, he was completely immune to everything they threw... except for holly/mistle, which was eventually used to kill him.
    • The Aesir also enjoy screwing over dwarves. One such instance created cursed treasure; another, a pile of headless little bodies. It's even said that Thor kicked a dwarf into Baldur's funeral pire. No wonder Alberich was such a prick to the gods.
    • And whenever the gods need to put the blame on someone, they grab Loki and threaten him with torture and death if he doesn't put the situation right. Granted, often Loki was responsible for or at least involved in the thing that went awry in the first place, but still...
  • Contract on the Hitman: The dwarf Fáfnir turns himself into a dragon to protect his cursed gold from his brother, Regin. So, Regin hires Sigurd to kill Fáfnir, but then Sigurd learns from the birds that Regin plans to kill him, too.
  • Cool Boat: The god Freyr's ship Skidbladnir could fly and fold up to fit in his pocket.
  • Cool Horse: Sleipnir, whose eight legs made him really fast.
    • Sleipnir's father Svadilfari, who is so talented he can build walls.
      • Well, pull heavy stones for the wall. The actual wall of Asgard was built by its architect, a nameless ice-giant (who in some stories had his head smashed in by Thor's hammer so that the gods wouldn't have to pay him; in others, Loki takes the form of a mare and ... distracts ... Svadilfari so that the wall is not completed before the deadline and thus the gods do not need to pay, and Thor kills the giant when he objects).
        • In some versions, the horse actually puts the stones in himself.
  • Cool Sword: Tyrfing ("finger of Tyr"), which never missed a strike and could cut through metal and stone as if through cloth. Extremely useful for cutting down entire armies of Huns. Unfortunately, also a death sentence for anyone standing nearby whenever it was drawn. Not always healthy for its wielders either.
  • Cute Monster Girl: The giantesses are hot enough that gods married them on a regular basis. Frey's wife Gerd was even said to be the most beautiful woman in the world, which makes her more beautiful than Freya, who's already extremely beautiful. But the male giants are described as pretty fugly. Half-giant Loki is an exception, being extremely good-looking; on the other hand, his children with a giantess are horrible monsters.
    • In some adaptations or retellings, Hel is quite attractive. In others, she's a rotted corpse. In others still (includiing Neil Gaiman's retelling) she is halfway between those two, as in half of her body is a rotting corpse and the other half looks quite attractive.
    • Heimdallr's parents (all nine of them) are giantesses, which means that Heimdallr is a giant, and there's no indication that he's ugly. Considering that so many giants turn out not to be ugly, it almost comes off as their alleged ugliness being more trash-talking than truth.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The dark elves/dwarves originally weren't necessarily all evil, and Hel herself was neutral if not outright good. Hijacking took place however. then again, if the gods sound like assholes, most of the beings that are against them are good then.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Freyr fell in love with Gerd, a giantess. He eventually managed to melt her heart, albeit with he help of a lackey threatening her with a magic sword.
    • In another instance, the frosty giantess Skadi demanded reparations of the Aesir for the murder of her father, asking for his eyes made stars in the heavens, a godly husband for herself, and asked that the gods make her laugh. Only Loki had the keen sense of humor to achieve that last one, resulting in a temporarily melted literally-minded giantess.
  • Demoted to Extra: Tyr was originally the king of the gods until Odin got more popular. Now everybody just knows him as "that god with the one hand".
    • This resulted in some versions making the Retcon that Tyr was head god first, but stepped down when he lost his hand to Fenrir.
  • Determined Defeatist: A running theme.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Any time characters are depicted as Horny Vikings.
  • Disguised in Drag: In one of the earliest examples, Thor once memorably pretended to be Freya to get his hammer back. The discrepancies between Thor's appearance and that of Freya being provided via hilarious explanations by Loki (such as the psychotic look in his eye being only from lack of sleep in anticipation of the wedding).
    • Also how Odin learned magic.
  • Disappeared Dad: It's not recorded who the biological father was of Ull, son of Sif and stepson of Thor.
  • Dumb Muscle: Actually averted with Thor. He's boisterous, quick-tempered, and strong, but he's been shown to be very clever when his wits are challenged.
  • Eldritch Abomination: To a certain extent the Midgard Serpent, being a mindless monster so massive it's often depicted as an Ouroboros wrapped around the world. Also Nidhoggr, another snake that chews on roots of Yggdrasil and human corpses.
    • Also Ymir, who was so big that the earth was made from his corpse.
  • Elemental Embodiment: The jotnar. Just for a few examples, Loki is associated with fire, Laufey with trees, Farbauti with lightning, Jord and Gerd with earth, and Skadi with cold mountain streams.
  • Elemental Plane: Muspellheim and Niflheim, they are the homes of Fire Giants and Ice Giants respectively with terrain to match.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Oh, yeah. Big time. Ragnarök (literally meaning "The Final Fate of the Gods," but famously mistranslated as "The Twilight of the Gods" by Richard Wagner). When it happens, war and chaos engulf the entire world, a winter three years long will be so cold that life will cease to exist, the sun and the moon will be devoured by wolves, Fenrir the Wolf and Jormugandr the World Serpent will be unleashed, the army of the Underworld will stream forth, all chaotic beings will engage in an epic battle with the gods and the warriors of Valhalla, everyone dies while the fire giant Surt engulfs the world in flames, the burning world will be buried by water and everything will collapse into Yggdrasil.
    • Originally, Ragnarok was to be the end of all things but a few surviving monsters and the Sons of Muspell (fire Giants). However, in later versions of the myth, Balder (as a Christ-figure), Hod, and several other gods return to a new world along with a repopulation of humans. However, in that version, Nidhogg also still exists as a much more satanic and active being, so while things are nicer, conflict certainly isn't over.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: The rainbow is one of the roads to Asgard.of
  • Everythings Nuttier With Squirrels: Ratatösk ("Drill-Tooth"), the gossipy squirrel that flits up and down the world tree Yggdrassil.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold
  • Exact Words: In one story, Loki makes a bet with some dwarves and offers them his head as a wager—an expression for "my head's weight in gold"—as his part of the bargain. When they win and claim his actual head, he argues that since they can't take that without also cutting his neck, the deal is void. The dwarves content themselves with sewing his lips together—a consequence not mentioned in most of his other stories.
    • One version of the story explains that he managed to cut off the strings, but that the healing took time, during which he couldn't speak. A time much appreciated by the other gods.
    • He's actually scarred so badly that one of his nicknames is Loki Scarlip and the scars remain in his various forms.
  • Eyepatch of Power / Blind Seer: Odin gave up one of his eyes in exchange for wisdom. He throws the eye in the the well of wisdom (Mímir's well) and it gives him the ability tnto see everything that takes place.
  • Face Heel Turn: While at the start of the Prose Edda, Loki is a Loveable Rogue / Lovable Traitor, by Ragnarök he is essentially the leader of the forces of darkness.
  • Fantastic Racism: No matter how nice giants might be and how much the Aesir are being Jerkass Gods in any given story, it's always seen as acceptable for a god to kill a giant.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Elves, dwarves, giants, gods, dragons - it's got all of them. It's no surprise that the majority of Western fantasy incorporates at least one element from Norse mythology.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: The gods can't kill Loki for what he did to Baldur on account of having sworn oaths not to, Loki being Odin's blood-brother (or, in some stories, Loki being Odin't adopted son). Thus, they instead bind him in chains made from the entrails of his son, whom they murdered, and allow a snake to drip venom on his face for eternity. Loki's loyal wife Sigyn collects the venom in a bowl most of the time but she eventually has to empty it, allowing the venom to drip and causing him excruciating pain. His thrashing around caused earthquakes.
  • Fiery Redhead: Thor (despite his Marvel Comics incarnation being blonde) is commonly described as having flaming red hair and beard and a temper to match.
  • Final Battle: The battle of Vígríð, which is only one of the many events that compose Ragnarök (see The End of the World as We Know It above).
  • Fingore: According to the legends, the nails of the dead were forcibly pulled off so they wouldn't be used for building material for the Naglfar. Yes, the Naglfar is a boat made of the nails of the dead.
    • One added legend states that if you cut your nails they go to Naglfar, so to keep Ragnarök from happening you should only file your nails because Ragnarök can't happen before Naglfar is completed.
  • Friendly War: This is one of the appeals of Valhalla: Party all night, fight all day. Casualties don't matter, they're only temporary. Well, until Ragnarök, anyway.
  • Full Boar Action: Hildesvini, the Battle Swine. Freya's personal mount whenever she was not using her cat-drawn chariot.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: When you consider that the jotnar are nature personified, Ragnarok is basically this.
  • Gender Bender: Loki turned into a mare (and got pregnant!)
  • Giant Fiery Giant From Nowhere: Surt, the being who will eventually destroy the universe, is never mentioned outside the universe-destroying context.
    • Except for some versions which state he had a role in creating the universe.
  • Gotterdammerung: Interestingly enough, civilization reaches its height after the fall.
    • And despite the subversion is actually the Trope Namer, as the above mentioned misstranslation of Wagner "Twilight of the Gods" is Götterdämmerung in German.
  • Glamour Failure: According to some stories, even though he could change shape, Odin was always one-eyed in every form.
  • The Great Flood[context?]
  • Groin Attack: Loki does this to himself when he's faced seemingly-impossible task of making Skadi laugh. He ties a rope to his own testicles, then ties the other end to the beard of a goat. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Elves could interbreed with mortals.
  • Hammerspace: Thor could make his hammer shrink to an incredibly tiny size, and be pulled out of seemingly nowhere, and is both the first user and namer of this trope.
  • Hand in the Hole: Tyr and Fenrisulfr.
  • He Who Must Not Be Named: According to some tales, once Ragnarok is over, the world will be renewed and taken over by a new deity known as "The One". No one knows his/her name because he/she will only reveal himself at the end of days.
  • Hell Hound: Garm, the guardian of Hel. He and Tyr end up killing each other when Ragnarök arives.
  • Heroic Albino: Baldur, in some stories.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tyr allows his hand to be bitten off in order to prevent the monster Fenrir from escaping.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Thor and Loki, at least in some stories. In others, not so much.
    • Also Odin and Loki, who are blood brothers.
  • Hijacked by Jesus: It's impossible to tell which myths are hijacked and which are not, since all of them were written down more than 200 years after the turn to Christianity. Even the Poetic Edda is not immune, since the oral stories the book was based on had 200 years to adapt some Christian ideas and values.
    • Baldur may or may not be treated as a Christ figure. A better world emerges following the chaos immediately after his death. But that may also represent the old Norse people's wish of having their genes survive into the following generations, just as Baldur's rebirth ensured that Odin's, and the Aesir's, genes lived into the new world.
    • It's kind of suspicious that the only stories we're told about Baldur are the ones about his martyry death. Apparently, only the wicked dislike him, everyone and everything else loves and weeps for him. And his listed occupation amongst the grisly Aesir warriors? "God of Beauty" or "God of Light." Really?
    • The story of Loki getting Baldur killed is Hijacked by Jesus. Originally (as shown in Poetic Edda), it was only hinted (in an insult of Frigg by Loki himself) that Loki was guilty. It was when he gravely insulted every single one of the gods they tied him down and fed him poison. The two stories were then merged and expanded by Snorri Sturluson to make Loki look like a Satan figure.
    • The myth of Freya's acquisition of the Necklace of the Brisings is recorded only in a Christianized version.
    • There's also The History of the Danes, which was commissioned of Saxo Grammaticus, stories that depicted the gods merely as cunning wizards who tricked people into thinking they were gods. They were still pretty badass in it, though.
    • Hel was hijacked by Satan, twice. Originally Hel's hall in Helheim was not so bad, since most people would end up there anyway. It was not until Valhalla was merged with the Christian Heaven that Hel became, well, Hell. Also, the fire giant Surt conquered Hel during Ragnarök.
    • Hel herself changes, too. In post-Christianity versions, she becomes a cruel, corpse-like monster, but in older sources, she is described as being pretty good-looking, and is implied to be a lover to the honorable souls in her realm.
    • Like Hel, Loki gets associated with Satan. In some myths, he's a contriver of trouble, a trickster, and a total jerkass, but still not all that bad of a guy as he saves the day a few times and once in a great while goes out of his way to be nice. In later, post-Christian stories, he's handwaved as the cause of anything wicked, with no explanation as to why or how he'd managed it, and then he's the cause of the end of the world.
    • Some of the myths also speak of Odin sometimes appearing as three beings, which may be an idea influenced or inspired by the Christian Trinity.
  • Homosexual Reproduction: May or may not count, but Sleipnir is the biological child of Loki and a stallion called Svadilfari. Loki was shapeshifted into the form of a mare (a female horse) at the time. A mare who happened to be in heat, to lure away the stallion. However, getting pregnant had not been part of Loki's plans, and it owned him the nickname of "horse-mother".
    • And the unspecified number of children Odin and Njorth accuse Loki of bearing in the Lokasenna.
  • Honor Before Reason: When Loki saves Asgard (and the entire world) from the schemes of a giant trying to get his hands on Freya, the sun, and the moon, everyone except Thor rejoices - Thor's too busy being angry over the fact that they broke a vow.
  • Hostage for McGuffin, inverted: The giants stole the hammer Mjolnir to try to get Freya. It didn't work out too well. (See Disguised in Drag.)
    • This one happened to Loki a lot, even at the hands of other gods, and caused - among other things, the cursing of Andvarinaut, the creation of Thor's hammer, and later on its theft. Thor even did it to Loki over a cute little prank Loki pulled on Thor's wife.
  • How Do You Like Them Apples?: The Golden Apples of Immortality, tended by Idunn; the gods literally need them to stay young.
  • Human Popsicle: Ymir, Audumla the primeval cow (Yes, there was a cow), and Odin's grandfather Buri.
  • Intangible Man: Elves could walk through any barrier
  • Insubstantial Ingredients: The sound of a cat's footfall.
  • It Got Worse: Ragnarök takes the misfortune up to eleven.
  • It Was a Gift: Many of the Aesir's treasures including Mjolnir, all obtained from the dwarfs by Loki while he replaced Sif's hair.
  • Jerkass Gods: Not quite to the level of the Greek pantheon, though. But they sure aren't far behind.
  • Karma Houdini: Nidhoggr is an evil dragon who gnaws the roots of the cosmic tree Yggdrasil, trying to kill it and threatening the whole of existance. According to some sources, he will be one of the few nasty monsters to survive Ragnarok, and will continue to chow down on the corpses of evildoers in Nastrond.
    • Without Nidhoggur, Yggdrasil's roots would outgrow the world's boundaries. His presence is, in the grand scheme of things, beneficial.
  • Karmic Transformation: Fafnir, son of Hreidmar, was affected by the curse laid upon his father's ring and treasure hoard. Consumed by greed, he murdered his father and ran away with the lot, denying his brother Regin the portion of the hoard promised to him. As Fafnir lay on his ill-gotten treasure, the selfishness and villainy in his soul caused him to metamorphose into a loathsome wingless dragon. He had become a monster—and was eventually slain like one by his nephew Sigurd on a vengeful Regin's instigation.
    • Some variants of the legend say that Fafnir was transformed by the 'Oegishjalmr,' a helmet that is basically a transformation-ray. Said helmet was part of Hreidmar's hoard.
  • Kill the Cutie: Balder.
  • King Incognito: Odin is fond of this. The reader often identifies him before the protagonist.
  • Light Is Not Good: The light elves were originally quite unpleasant. Loki himself, besides being portrayed as an attractive young man, also became associated with fire as he was mixed with Logi, an actual god of fire. Also, Freya was a beautiful goddess not only associated with love and jewelry but also bloodlust and indeed was quite a bitch in most myths she appeared, while the idea that Balder was good seems to be exclusive to myths Hijacked by Jesus.
    • Aherm. Logi was never a god of fire, he was literally a fire construct created by Utgard-Loki in a one-off story just for the purposes of beating Loki in an eating contest. Loki was associated with fire because he was a Fiery Redhead. (But Thor matches the personality better.)
      • Loki's hair color is not mentioned in the Edda. But in the tale of Thor's and Loki's visit to the court of Utgard-Loki, Loki is refered to as the god of the hearthfire, making him a parallel to Prometheus, the Greek bringer of fire to humans, and also Lucifer (literally "light-bringer").
  • Lost Woods: Norse heroic legend has "Myrkviðr inn ókunna", "the unknown Mirkwood", a vast and little explored forest located in Eastern or Central Europe. The Eddas also makes mention of a certain Járnviðr or "Iron-wood", a forest inhabited by giantesses and giant wolves, somewhere "in the East".
  • Lovable Traitor: Loki
  • Magic Knight: Odin
  • Menstrual Menace: Gjalp
  • Mister Seahorse: Loki, as mentioned above.
  • The Multiverse - the Nine Worlds, on three levels linked by Yggdrasil: Asgard, Vanaheim, and Alfheim; Jotunheim, Midgard, and Nidavellir/Svartalfheim; Helheim, Muspellheim and Niflheim.
    • Many of which are Egopolises, Vanaheim named after the Vanar, Alfheim named after the elves, Jotunheim named after the Jotun, Helheim named after Hel, and Muspellheim named after Muspellsurtr.
  • Nigh Invulnerability: Baldur, except for mistle. The gods made a game of hurling sharp and dangerous objects at him.
  • Nightmare Fuel: When Loki was finally bound, it was with the entrails of his own son, who had just been killed by a wolf that was his brother up until the gods needed something to bind Loki with.
  • No Man of Woman Born: Although Baldur's death was foretold, he was given temporary Nigh Invulnerability by having his mother asking all objects of the earth to swear not to harm her son, thereby allowing the gods to engage in some Comedic Sociopathy by throwing axes and other weapons at Baldur. Unfortunately, the plant mistle was ignored (it wasn't old or important enough), allowing a disguised Loki to have Baldur killed via a mistletoe dart given to Baldur's blind brother.
  • Noodle Incident: In the Lokasenna, Odin says Loki went around disguised as a milkmaid for awhile, and according to both Odin and Njorth, he's given birth to multiple children. It doesn't get any more elaborate than that.
  • North Is Cold South Is Hot: Probably the Ur Example. From the other Wiki: "In the beginning, there were two regions: Muspellsheimr in the south, full of fire, light and heat; and Niflheimr in the north, full of arctic waters, mists, and cold."
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The giant serpent Jormungand encircles the world, and is the son of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. The dragon Fafnir was once human, but was transformed by his ruthless greed.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with Loki and Utgarda-Loki.
    • Possibly also by Skuld, depending on whether the Valkyrie and the Norn were one being or two.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Here's where it all started.
    • Actually, in the earlier depictions, dwarves were quite different than how they are today.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Same here, though arguably even better.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The jotnar, perennial foes of the gods and one of the ur-examples. Their sizes varied considerably, however (though the entire world, Midgard, was made from the body of a dead giant).
    • Size was not the only thing that varied. Sometimes the giants (at least the male ones) were hideous, sometimes the implication was that the giant(s) in the story looked about as human as the gods, sometimes the giants and the gods were constant, general enemies, and sometimes the gods had peaceably relations with some of the giants that hadn't managed to become an Asar or Vanir by marriage or adoption...
  • Pet the Dog: In "Loka Táttur," after Odin and Honir fail to answer the prayers of a farmer to keep his child hidden from a bad-ass troll, they give up completely. Loki, ever the Determinator, succeeds in protecting the kid and slays the troll, and is rewarded by the boy's parents with a big hug. Awww.
  • Primordial Chaos: Ginnungagap was the void between the unbearably hot Muspellheim and the bitterly cold Niflheim in which the world emerged.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Norse. You have gotten this already?
  • Ravens and Crows: Ravens served as Odin's messengers, and in some depictions, the Valkyries rode them to collect the dead.
  • Rated "M" for Manly
  • Really Gets Around: Freya gets around with anyone, while Loki gets around with anything. However, there are no claims that they got around with each other.
    • You mean besides in the Lokasenna when Loki accuses her of sleeping with every single god and elf in the hall?.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Jormungand, the gigantic serpent that encircles Midgard, is a serious danger to humans and gods alike. Dragons, like Nidhogg and Fafnir, generally aren't much better.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: Odin
  • Sacred Hospitality
  • Sadly Mythtaken: As the German states were unified into one nation in late 19th century, they figured that they lacked their own national mythology. So they adapted the Norse mythology while celebrating everything Nordic (which was a reason why "The Twilight of the Gods" was so popular). Eventually, the celebration was bastardized into the unfortunate race ideology that the Nazis was all too glad to adopt.
    • Some might say though that the way the Third Reich ended bore a rather odd resemblance to Ragnarök.
    • C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, both of whom were very fond of Norse mythology and no fans of the Nazi regime, complained extensively in letters to each other that the Nazis had no idea what the were talking about whenever they talked about Norse myth.
    • Also Dungeons & Dragons, for whatever reason turns Sif into Weak but Skilled Action Girl in Deities and Demigods sourcebook. The concept went further, in that she appears in TV Tropes as a BFS wielder at some points.
  • Scars Are Forever: And when they are the gods, that's really forever. Both Odin and Tyr suffer under this.
  • Sea Monster: The Kraken is originally from Norse myth, but the standout example is Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent - a sea serpent so huge it encircles the whole world.
    • There's also the Lyngbakkr, a whale so large that vegetation grows on its back, and sailors regularly mistake its back for an island.
  • Serial Escalation: Freya is the most beautiful woman in the world (being a goddess of love is an advantage). Enter Gerd, Frey's wife, who is the most beautiful woman in the world, which should make her more beautiful than Freya. And that is not mentioning Baldur, who was the most beautiful man in the world, being a god of love, and all.
    • Actually, Gerd was a Jotunn, or a Frost Giant and not a normal Norse God. Freya is a Vanir, or fertility Goddess, so basically it means that Freya is the most beautiful Goddess but Gerd is an even hotter Giant.
    • Don't forget Freyja's Brisingamen. It was said to actually enhance her beauty even further!
  • Slasher Smile: Some tellings comment that after having his lips un-sewn, Loki was left with a "Glasgow smile" which in "Loki is evil" stories serves as his Red Right Hand.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Norse, when written in Latin (rather than runic), uses two letters not present in English: Þ thorn (the "th" sound in "thing," usually transliterated as "th" or "t"), and ð eth (the "th" sound in "that," translated variously as "t," "th," "d," "dh," or "w"). It also uses the Æ and "oe" ligatures which are sometimes transliterated as "a" or "ae" and "o." Thus, "Odin" could be "Othin," "Odhin," or even "Wotan;" the gods could be collectively known as the "Aesir" or the "Asir." Further complicating things, the myths entered the English language at least twice: entering Old English during the Viking invasions of 800-1066, and entering early Modern English with the Prose and Poetic Eddas. And they were already in the English language, at least partly. The Anglo-Saxon mythology was very similar to Norse mythology. This is because they both have their roots in Germanic mythology. "Woden" was very similar to Odin, and that god is where we get "Wednesday" from.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Loki delivers one of these to the Aesir in the Lokasenna. It does not end well for him.
  • The Stinger: Last part of Völuspá descript new world after resurrection of Balder, which sound peaceful enough. Then it end with description of Nidhoggr with corpse in his jaws, flying through the air...
  • Summon to Hand: The Mjollnir does this sometimes.
  • Tempting Fate: Baldur. Seriously, you've got a prophesy of death in a world where You Can't Fight Fate. Something would kill him, no matter what anybody did.
  • Theme Naming (verging on Fantastic Racism in action): In one Eddic Creation myth of the classes of society, all the Thralls have names that are some variation on "ugly", all the Freemen have names that are some variation on "sturdy", and all the Nobles have names that are some variation on, "handsome" or "honourable".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Arguably, the Norse gods. Prior to the Ragnarök they pretty much went around making enemies, mainly by imprisoning monsters and torturing them. Seen in this light, Fenrir had all the right in the world to eat Odin.
    • Protagonist-Centered Morality excused him.
    • This is more of a modern perspective. In the Norse times monsters like Fenrir were chaotic beasts that were threats to the order of the universe. They were fated to be evil and had to be locked up for the good of the universe.
      • More of a chicken and the egg sort of thing. Fenrir was imprisoned because the gods foresaw that he would cause them trouble rather than because he actually was being a problem.
    • At Ragnarok, Heimdallr watched the opposing forces assemble, and only alerted the other gods after it was too late to stop them.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Baldur. The only Norse god who never did anything morally ambiguous (the goddesses were all more or less decent people). So of course he's the first one to actually die, and his death acts as a sign that the end times are approaching for the Norse gods.
  • Tragic Bromance: Two minor figures from the legendary Norse sagas, Örvar-Oddr and Hjalmar.
  • Trickster Mentor, Odin, occasionally.
  • Trope Maker: Most of the standard "dragons and dragonslayers" tropes originally derive from either the Volsunga Saga or Beowulf.
    • And long after the first occurrences of dragons and their slayers: Smaug is a Norse in-joke. It's also worth noting that the name the Norse gave to the world in which they lived, Midgard, literally means "Middle Earth".
  • Two-Faced: Hel. In many stories, the left half of her body is beautiful, the right half is either aged and decrepit or skeletal. Could count as Fridge Brilliance as well: the decrepit side is the "this is the reality of death", while the beautiful is "it is nothing to be afraid of".
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: The hideous Jotnar (giants) occasionally have beautiful daughters. Naturally in stories involving them they get seduced by Norse gods. Odin (or Thor) was the usual culprit. The guy really got around, though not to the same extent as Zeus.
    • That was more Thor's area.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: While the Gylfaginning prose Edda says Frey is fair of face, any guy would be "ugly" when compared to Gerd, the most beautiful woman in the world.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: Odin's horse had eight legs.
  • Volleying Insults: Two of the Poetic Eddas (Harbardsljoth and Lokasenna) consist of pretty much nothing but this.
  • War in Heaven: The Aesir–Vanir War is a key event in Norse myth. Called "the first war in the world", it starts when the Vanir Gullveig enters Odin's hall and is attacked, but its roots seem to extend back to a dispute over which group of gods should get the benefit of mortal tribute and worship (on which the Aesir had a monopoly at the time). A failure to reach an initial truce results in all-out war, with massive armies on both sides laying waste to vast swaths of land. In the end, the Aesir and Vanir both tired of the war and negotiated a new and lasting truce which resulted in the two bands of gods becoming one. Oddly, one other result of the war was the invention of poetry.
  • War Is Glorious: So glorious that fighting for untold ages is considered heaven. It's helped by the fact the warriors are all resurrected every night for drinking and partying. The days of endless fighting served as training for Ragnarök, when the einhärjar would be called upon to do battle with the followers of Surtr.
  • The War to End All Wars: Ragnarök.
  • Warrior Heaven: Valhalla may be the Ur Example, as a place where the bravest warriors were brought by the Valkyries to eat, party, and kill each other every day for all eternity until Ragnarök.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Balder was invulnerable to everything except mistle. In the version recorded by Saxo, however, it was a sword named Mysteltainn (Mistletoe) that could only be found in the Underworld.
    • Given that mistle is poisonous, a sharp dart may well have been sufficient to kill him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Odin's brothers Vili and Ve helped in creating the world (ie, killing Ymir) and mankind then they just disappear.
  • With Friends Like These...: You would think that, after a while, the Aesir would actually figure out that perhaps Loki could use some help. No wonder he turned against them eventually.
  • Wizard Classic: Stories of Odin wandering the lands disguised as a simple traveller serve as an Ur Example.
  • World of Badass: Because being such will get you to Warrior Heaven.
  • The World Tree: Yggdrasil, which is the Ur Example and Trope Codifier for it.
  • World's Most Beautiful Man: Balder.
  • Would Not Hit a Girl: The gods decided against killing Skadi while she was invading Asgard, since it was considered an act of nīþ (dishonour) to hurt a woman. However, that did not stop Thor from killing Thrym's daughters after he got his hammer back. Nor did it stop him from breaking the spines of two other giantesses.
    • Anyone wanna talk about what likely happened to Sigyn after she stopped showing up to help Loki out?
      • Sigyn's fate is murky, but nothing in the mythology suggests she abandones Loki. Her willingness to stick by him despite everything is sort of her defining character trait.
  • You Cannot Change the Future: Everything (not just prophecy) is foreordained.
  • You Cannot Kill an Idea: Odin's line from the Poetic Edda:

Cattle die, kinsmen die, we ourselves also die; but the fair fame never dies of him who has earned it.

  • You Can't Fight Fate: As in all myths, every prophecy is inescapable. Mind you, this includes virtually everything that actually happens in the stories, including the forthcoming destruction of the gods.
    • Some retellings of Loki's role in Baldur's death use this to explain Loki's actions. After devouring the heart of a witch with the power of prophecy, he saw that he was destined to suffer a horrific punishment at the hands of the other gods before dying in Ragnarok. Since Loki knew You Can't Fight Fate, he figured he might as well do something to earn that punishment and make the other gods suffer.
    • Someone—possibly Fred Saberhagen[please verify]—subverted this with a short story in which Odin's ravens take another look at the murder of Baldur ... and conclude that Loki was framed: the killing was actually by a giant, to cover up that the prophecy of Ragnarok is false, faked by the gods' enemies to demoralize them. The giants are still building up their strength to invade, but it is not truly certain that the gods will be wiped out in the "prophesied" manner. As the story's last line states, they're very, very heartened to learn that "now they need not die!"
  • Your Size May Vary: The giants in general. It might just be easiest to say that they come in all of the sizes and be done with it.

  1. He seems to get falsely associated with that domain sometimes in modern descriptions, and in fairness, his Hindu analog Indra is a war god
  2. It has been suggested by scholar Alice Karlsdottir in her 1991 essay Loki, Father of Strife, that the story of Loki sleeping with the harvest goddess and then cropping her golden hair down to stubble is highly allegorical. He ploughed the field and sowed the seeds, pardon the pun, then cut the golden (ripe) grain, thus ensuring a good harvest. Thor on the other hand was away killing giants, neglecting his marital duties. The story continues with Thor threatening to beat Loki up until Loki offers to persuade the dwarves to spin new golden hair for Sif from living gold.
  3. (Come Ragnarök, they succeed.)