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Jörmungandr

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Jörmungandr in the sea during Ragnarök, drawn by the Norwegian illustrator Louis Moe in 1898.
Jörmungandr in the sea during Ragnarök, drawn by the Norwegian illustrator Louis Moe in 1898.

In Norse mythology, Jörmungandr (Old Norse: Jǫrmungandr, lit.'the Vast gand', see Etymology), also known as the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent (Old Norse: Miðgarðsormr), is an unfathomably large sea serpent or worm who dwells in the world sea, encircling the Earth (Midgard) and biting his own tail, an example of an ouroboros. As a result of it surrounding Midgard (the Earth) it is referred to as the World Serpent. When it releases its tail, Ragnarök (the final battle of the world) will begin.

Jörmungandr is said to be the middle child of the trickster god Loki and the giantess Angrboða. According to the Prose Edda, Odin took Loki's three children by Angrboða – the wolf Fenrir, the goddess Hel, and the serpent Jörmungandr — and removed them from asgard (the world of the Æsir). The serpent Jörmungandr was tossed into the great ocean that encircles Midgard.[1] There the serpent grew so large that it was able to surround the Earth and grasp its own tail.[1] The old norse thunder-god, Thor, has an on-going feud with Jörmungandr in their epics and the two can be seen as archfoes. During Ragnarök, Thor and Jörmungandr will fight each other to the death.

Discover more about Jörmungandr related topics

Norse mythology

Norse mythology

Norse, Nordic, or Scandinavian mythology is the body of myths belonging to the North Germanic peoples, stemming from Old Norse religion and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia, and into the Nordic folklore of the modern period. The northernmost extension of Germanic mythology and stemming from Proto-Germanic folklore, Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes derived from numerous sources from both before and after the pagan period, including medieval manuscripts, archaeological representations, and folk tradition.

Literal translation

Literal translation

Literal translation, direct translation or word-for-word translation, is a translation of a text done by translating each word separately, without looking at how the words are used together in a phrase or sentence.

Germanic dragon

Germanic dragon

Dragons are present in Germanic mythology and folklore, where they are often portrayed as large venomous serpents. Especially in later tales, however, they share many common features with other dragons in European mythology.

Ocean

Ocean

The ocean is the body of salt water that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of Earth and contains 97% of Earth's water. An ocean can also refer to any of the large bodies of water into which the world ocean is conventionally divided. Separate names are used to identify five different areas of the ocean: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern (Antarctic), and Arctic. Seawater covers approximately 361,000,000 km2 (139,000,000 sq mi) of the planet. The ocean is the principal component of Earth's hydrosphere, and therefore integral to life on Earth. Acting as a huge heat reservoir, the ocean influences climate and weather patterns, the carbon cycle, and the water cycle.

Midgard

Midgard

In Germanic cosmology, Midgard is the name for Earth inhabited by and known to humans in early Germanic cosmology. The Old Norse form plays a notable role in Norse cosmology.

Loki

Loki

Loki is a god in Norse mythology. According to some sources, Loki is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. Loki is married to Sigyn and they have two sons, Narfi or Nari and Váli. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. In the form of a mare, Loki was impregnated by the stallion Svaðilfari and gave birth to the eight-legged horse Sleipnir.

Jötunn

Jötunn

A jötunn or, in Old English, eoten is a type of supernatural being in Germanic mythology. In Norse mythology, they are often contrasted with gods and other non-human figures, such as dwarfs and elves, although the groupings are not always mutually exclusive. The entities themselves are referred to by several other terms, including risi, þurs and troll if male and gýgr or tröllkona if female. The jötnar typically dwell across boundaries from the gods and humans in lands such as Jötunheimr.

Angrboða

Angrboða

Angrboða is a jötunn in Norse mythology. She is the mate of Loki and the mother of monsters. She is only mentioned once in the Poetic Edda as the mother of Fenrir by Loki. The Prose Edda (Gylfaginning) describes her as "a giantess in Jötunheimar" and as the mother of three monsters: the wolf Fenrir, the Midgard serpent Jörmungandr, and the ruler of the dead Hel.

Fenrir

Fenrir

Fenrir or Fenrisúlfr, also referred to as Hróðvitnir and Vánagandr, or Vanargand, is a wolf in Norse mythology. Fenrir, together with Hel and the World Serpent, is a child of Loki and giantess Angrboða. He is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, Fenrir is the father of the wolves Sköll and Hati Hróðvitnisson, is a son of Loki and is foretold to kill the god Odin during the events of Ragnarök, but will in turn be killed by Odin's son Víðarr.

Asgard

Asgard

In Nordic mythology, Asgard is a location associated with the gods. It appears in a multitude of Old Norse sagas and mythological texts. It is described as the fortified home of the Æsir gods, often associated with gold imagery. Many of the best-known Nordic gods are Æsir or live in Asgard such as Odin, Thor, Loki, and Baldr.

Earth

Earth

Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. While large volumes of water can be found throughout the Solar System, only Earth sustains liquid surface water. About 71% of Earth's surface is made up of the ocean, dwarfing Earth's polar ice, lakes, and rivers. The remaining 29% of Earth's surface is land, consisting of continents and islands. Earth's surface layer is formed of several slowly moving tectonic plates, interacting to produce mountain ranges, volcanoes, and earthquakes. Earth's liquid outer core generates the magnetic field that shapes the magnetosphere of the Earth, deflecting destructive solar winds.

Epic poetry

Epic poetry

An epic poem, or simply an epic, is a lengthy narrative poem typically about the extraordinary deeds of extraordinary characters who, in dealings with gods or other superhuman forces, gave shape to the mortal universe for their descendants.

Etymology

The name Jörmungandr is poetic and consist of the prefix Jörmun- and the word gandr. The prefix "Jörmun-" denotes something huge, vast superhuman.[2] The word "gandr" can mean a variety of things in Old Norse, but mainly refers to elongated entities and or supernatural beings. Gandr can refer to: among other things, snake, fjord, river, staff, cane, mast, penis, bind, and the like (mainly in "supernatural" or "living" senses).[3][4] The name "Jörmungandr" therefore has several possible meanings in connection with its mythology, such as: "the vast serpent", "the vast river" (a synonym for the sea where he dwells), "the vast staff or stick" (a connection to the world tree Yggdrasil), as well as "the vast bind" (the serpent's coiling around the world, biting its own tail, symbolising the world's circle of life).[3][4]

Source: "Jörmungandr", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, December 1st), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jörmungandr.

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Sources

The major sources for myths about Jörmungandr are the Prose Edda, the skaldic poem Húsdrápa, and the Eddic poems Hymiskviða and Völuspá. Other sources include the early skaldic poem Ragnarsdrápa and kennings in other skaldic poems; for example, in Þórsdrápa, faðir lögseims, "father of the sea-thread", is used as a kenning for Loki. There are also several image stones depicting the story of Thor fishing for Jörmungandr.

Stories

There are three preserved myths detailing Thor's encounters with Jörmungandr:

Lifting the cat

In one story, Thor encounters the giant king Útgarða-Loki and has to perform deeds for him, one of which is a challenge of Thor's strength. Útgarða-Loki goads Thor into attempting to lift the World Serpent, disguised by magic as a huge cat. Thor grabs the cat around its midsection but manages to raise the cat only high enough for one of its paws to leave the floor. Útgarða-Loki later explains his deception and that Thor's lifting the cat was an impressive deed, as he had stretched the serpent so that it had almost reached the sky. Many watching became fearful when they saw one paw lift off the ground.[5] If Thor had managed to lift the cat completely from the ground, he would have altered the boundaries of the universe.[6]

Thor's fishing trip

Jörmungandr and Thor meet again when Thor goes fishing with the giant Hymir. When Hymir refuses to provide Thor with bait, Thor strikes the head off Hymir's largest ox to use it. They row to a point where Hymir often sat and caught flatfish and where he drew up two whales. Thor demands to go further out to sea and does so despite Hymir's protest. Thor then prepares a strong line and a large hook and baits it with the ox head, which Jörmungandr bites. Thor pulls the serpent from the water, and the two face one another, Jörmungandr blowing poison.[7] Hymir goes pale with fear. As Thor grabs his hammer to kill the serpent, the giant cuts the line, leaving the serpent to sink beneath the waves and return to its original position encircling the earth.[7][8] The Eddic poem Hymiskviða has a similar ending to the story, but in earlier Scandinavian versions of the myth in skaldic poetry, Thor successfully captures and kills the serpent by striking it on the head.[8][9]

Thor's fishing for Jörmungandr was one of the most popular motifs in Norse art. Four picture stones that are believed to depict the myth are the Altuna Runestone and the Ardre VIII image stone in Sweden, the Hørdum stone in Denmark, and a stone slab at Gosforth, Cumbria by the same sculptor as the Gosforth Cross.[10][11][12] Many of these depictions show the giant cutting the fishing line; on the Altuna stone, Thor is alone, implying he successfully killed the serpent.[8] The Ardre VIII stone may depict more than one stage in the events: a man entering a house where an ox is standing, two men leaving, one with something on his shoulder, and two men using a spear to fish.[13] The image on this stone has been dated to the 8th[10] to 10th[14] century. If the stone is correctly interpreted as a depiction of this myth, it would indicate that the story was preserved essentially unchanged for several centuries prior to the recording of the version in the Prose Edda around the year 1220.[13][9]

Ragnarök

As recounted in Snorri's Gylfaginning based on the Eddic poem Völuspá, one sign of the coming of Ragnarök is the violent unrest of the sea as Jörmungandr releases its tail from its mouth. The sea will flood and the serpent will thrash onto the land.[1] It will advance, spraying poison to fill the air and water, beside Fenrir, whose eyes and nostrils blaze with fire and whose gape touches the earth and the sky. They will join the sons of Muspell to confront the gods on the plain of Vigrid. Here is where the last meeting between the serpent and Thor is predicted to occur. He will eventually kill Jörmungandr but will fall dead after walking nine paces, having been poisoned by the serpent's deadly venom.[15] Thor's final battle with Jörmungandr has been identified, with other scenes of Ragnarök, on the Gosforth Cross.[12]

Analysis

Thor's fishing for Jörmungandr has been taken as one of the similarities between him and the Hindu god Indra, who in Vedic mythology slays the dragon Vritra,[16][17] and has also been related to a Balto-Slavic motif of the storm god combatting a serpent.[18] An alternative analysis of the episode by Preben Meulengracht Sørensen is that it was a youthful indiscretion on the part of Thor, retold to emphasize the order and balance of the cosmos, in which Jörmungandr played a vital role.[19] John Lindow draws a parallel between Jörmungandr's biting of its own tail and the binding of Fenrir, as part of a recurring theme of the bound monster in Norse mythology, where an enemy of the gods is bound but destined to break free at Ragnarök.[20]

Eponym

Asteroid 471926 Jörmungandr was named after the mythological sea serpent.[21] The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on 25 September 2018 (M.P.C. 111804).[22]

Gallery
See also
References
  1. ^ a b c Snorri Sturluson; Brodeur, Arthur Gilchrist (trans.) (1916). The Prose Edda. New York: The American-Scandinavian Foundation. Gylfaginning ch.LI , p. 109.
  2. ^ "Jörmun-". old-icelandic.vercel.app. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  3. ^ a b "Fornvännen 94" (PDF). Fornvännen, Journal of Swedish Antiquarian Research (in Swedish): 61. 1999. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 November 2022. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  4. ^ a b "Gand, seid og åndevind" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 September 2020. Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  5. ^ Snorri Sturluson (1916) Gylfaginning ch. xlvi, xlvii, pp. 65, 67.
  6. ^ Thury, Eva M.; Devinney, Margaret K. (2017). Introduction to Mythology (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 302–03. ISBN 978-0-19-026298-3.
  7. ^ a b Snorri Sturluson (1916) Gylfaginning ch. xlviii, pp. 68–70.
  8. ^ a b c Meulengracht Sørensen, Preben; Williams, Kirsten (trans.) (1986). "Þorr's Fishing Expedition". In Steinsland, Gro (ed.). Words and Objects: Towards a Dialogue Between Archaeology and History of Religion. Oslo: The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture; Norwegian University Press. pp. 270–71. ISBN 82-00-07751-9. Meulengracht Sørensen, Preben; Williams, Kirsten (trans.) (2002). "Þorr's Fishing Expedition (Hymiskviða)". In Acker, Paul; Larrington, Carolyne (eds.). The Poetic Edda: Essays on Old Norse Mythology. London / New York: Routledge. pp. 130–31. ISBN 0-8153-1660-7.
  9. ^ a b Clunies Ross, Margaret (1989). "Two of Þórr's Great Fights according to Hymiskviða" (PDF). Leeds Studies in English. 20: 8–10. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 April 2019.
  10. ^ a b Meulengracht Sørensen (1986) p. 260, (2002) p. 123.
  11. ^ Kopár, Lilla (2018) [2016]. "Eddic poetry and the imagery of stone monuments". In Larrington, Carolyne; Quinn, Judy; Schorn, Brittany (eds.). A Handbook to Eddic Poetry: Myths and Legends of Early Scandinavia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 203–08. ISBN 978-1-316-50129-0.
  12. ^ a b Fee, Christopher R.; Leeming, David A. (2001). Gods, Heroes, & Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain. Oxford University Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-19-513479-6.
  13. ^ a b Meulengracht Sørensen (1986) p. 269, (2002) p. 130.
  14. ^ Kopár, p. 208.
  15. ^ Snorri Sturluson (2016) Gylfaginning ch. li, pp. 78–80.
  16. ^ Turville-Petre, E. O. G. (1964). Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia. History of Religions. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 104. OCLC 460550410.
  17. ^ Dumézil, Georges (1952). Les Dieux des Indo-Européens. Mythes et religions (in French). Vol. 29. Presses universitaires de France. p. 24. OCLC 459390464.
  18. ^ Ivanov, Vjaceslav V.; Toporov, Vladimir N.; Karvovski, A. (trans.) (1970). "Le mythe indo-européen du dieu de l'orage poursuivant le serpent: réconstruction du schéma". In Pouillon, Jean; Maranda, Pierre (eds.). Échanges et communications: mélanges offerts à Claude Lévi-Strauss à l'occasion de son 60ème anniversaire. Studies in general anthropology (in French). Vol. 2. Mouton. pp. 1180–1206. OCLC 849278587.
  19. ^ Meulengracht Sørensen (1986) p. 272, (2002) p. 132.
  20. ^ Lindow, John (2002) [2001]. "Bound Monster". Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 82–83. ISBN 0-19-515382-0.
  21. ^ "471926 Jormungandr (2013 KN6)". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  22. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 17 October 2018.

Printed sources

  • Simek, Rudolf; Hall, Angela (trans.) (2000) [1993]. "Jǫrmungandr". Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Woodbridge, Suffolk / Rochester, New York: D.S. Brewer. p. 179. ISBN 0-85991-513-1.

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