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Gods and Myths of the Viking Age

By: H.R. Ellis Davidson



...Ragnarok, the time of the destruction of the gods. This fearful time will be ushered in by many portents. First there will be great wars through the world, and a time of strife and hatred between men.

The bonds of kinship will hold them no longer, and they will commit appalling deeds of murder and incest. There will also be a period of bitter cold, when a terrible pursuing wolf catches the sun and devours her; the moon too is to be swallowed up, and the stars will fall from the sky. The mountains will crash into fragments as the whole earth shakes and trembles, and the World Tree quivers in the tumult. Now all fettered monsters break loose. The wolf Fenrir advances, his great gaping jaws filling the gap between earth and sky, while the serpent emerges from the sea, blowing out poison. The sea rises to engulf the land, and on the flood the ship Naglfar Is launched, a vessel made from the nails of dead men. It carries a crew of giants, with Loki as their steersman. From the fiery realm of Muspell, Surt and his following ride out with shining swords, and the bridge Bifrost is shattered beneath their weight. His forces join the frost-giants on the plain of Vigrid, and there the last battle will be fought between this mighty host and the gods. The note of Heimdall's horn arouses the Aesir to their danger, and Odin rides to the spring beneath the World Tree, to take counsel of Mimir's head. Then with his chosen champions from Valhalla he goes out on to the plain, to encounter at last his ancient enemy, the wolf. Thor meets the World Serpent, and Freyr fights against Surt; Tyr must encounter the hound Garm, broken loose from the underworld, while Heimdall does battle with Loki. All the gods must fall, and the monsters be destroyed with them. Thor kills the serpent, and then falls dead, overcome by its venom. Odin is devoured by Fenrir, but his young son Vidar slays the wolf in turn, setting one foot upon its jaw and tearing it asunder. Tyr and Heimdall both conquer their opponents, but they do not survive the struggle. Only Surt remains to the last, to fling fire over the whole world, so that the race of men perishes with the gods, and all are finally engulfed in the overwhelming sea:

The sun becomes dark. Earth sinks in the sea.
The shining stars slip out of the sky.Vapour and fire rage fiercely
together, till the leaping flame licks heaven itself. Yet this is not the end. Earth will arise again from the waves, fertile, green, and fair as never before, cleansed of all its sufferings and evil. The sons of the great gods still remain alive, and Balder will return from the dead to reign with them. They will rule a new universe, cleansed and regenerated, while two living creatures who have sheltered from destruction in the World Tree will come out to repeople the world with men and women. A new sun, outshining her mother in beauty, will journey across the heavens. Such is the picture of the beginning and end of the world of gods and men, drawn for Gangleri by the Three Powers.


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