Creation of the World in Norse Mythology

Bragi, the Norse god of poetry, introduces a dead hero to Odin or Wotan, ruler of Asgard. Odin is holding the spear Gungnir, and accompanied by the ravens Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory) and the wolves Geri and Freki. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

In Norse mythology, there are 9 worlds that are divided among three levels all held together by the world tree, Ygdrasil. But the nine worlds and Ygdrasil were not there in the beginning.

Upper level

  • Asgard (Aesir, the land of the gods),
  • Alfheim (elves),
  • Vanaheim (Vanir),

Middle Level

  • Midgard (men),
  • Jotunheim (giants),
  • Svartalfaheim (dark-elves),
  • Nithavellir (dwarves),

Lower Level

  • Muspelheim (fire, a bright, flaming, hot world in the southern region), and
  • Niflheim (the dead, the lowest level)

World of Fire and Ice

Originally there was a chasm, Ginnungagap, bounded on either side by fire (from the world known as Muspelheim) and ice (from the world known as Niflheim). When fire and ice met, they combined to form a giant, named Ymir, and a cow, named Audhumbla (Auðhumla), who nourished Ymir. She survived by licking the salty ice blocks. From her licking emerged Bur (Búri), the grandfather of the Aesir. Ymir, the father of the frost giants, employed equally unusual procreative techniques. He sweated a male and a female from under his left arm.

Odin Kills Ymir

Odin, the son of Bur's son Borr, killed Ymir. The blood pouring out of the giant's body killed all the frost giants Ymir had created, except Bergelmir. From Ymir's dead body, Odin created the world. Ymir's blood was the sea; his flesh, the earth; his skull, the sky; his bones, the mountains; his hair, the trees. The new Ymir-based world was Midgard. Ymir's eyebrow was used to fence in the area where mankind would live. Around Midgard was an ocean where a serpent named Jormungand lived. He was big enough to form a ring around Midgard by putting his tail in his mouth.


From Ymir's body grew an ash tree named Yggdrasil

whose branches covered the known world and supported the universe. Ygdrasil had three roots going to each of the 3 levels of the world. Three springs supplied it with water. One root went into Asgard, the home of the gods, another went into the land of the giants, Jotunheim, and a third went to that primeval world of ice, darkness, and the dead, known as Niflheim. In Jotunheim's spring, Mimir, lay wisdom. In Niflheim, the spring nourished the adder Nidhogge (darkness) who gnawed at the roots of Ygdrasil.

The Three Norns

The spring by the Asgard root was cared for by the 3 Norns, goddesses of fate:

  • Urdur (the past)
  • Verdandi (the present), and
  • Skuld (the future).

Norse Resources

  • The Ash Tree in Indo-European Culture
    The ash tree recurs in Norse mythology. Out of an ash springs the first human and from the protection of an ash emerge the survivors after Ragnarok. This paper examines the significance of ash trees and their life-giving sap in Indo-European literature.
  • "The Building of the City Walls: Troy and Asgard," by Joseph Fontenrose. The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 96, No. 379. (Jan. - Mar., 1983), pp. 53-63.
    Compares the walls Poseidon and Apollo built for Troy with the walls that were built for Asgard.
  • "The Function of Loki in Snorri Sturluson's 'Edda'," by Stefanie von Schnurbein. History of Religions, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Nov., 2000), pp. 109-124.
    Discusses various interpretations of Loki and what the portrayal of Loki says about attitudes towards masculinity in the Norse sagas.
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Your Citation
Gill, N.S. "Creation of the World in Norse Mythology." Learn Religions, Dec. 6, 2021, Gill, N.S. (2021, December 6). Creation of the World in Norse Mythology. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "Creation of the World in Norse Mythology." Learn Religions. (accessed March 28, 2023).

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