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jormungandr - viking style

Jormungandr - The Midgard Serpent

Who was Jormungandr?

The nine realms of Norse mythology were inhabited by a variety of weird and wonderful creatures. Whilst many were good in nature, many were also terrifying and vicious monsters so powerful that they posed a threat to the Gods themselves. One such creature was the giant serpent known as Jormungandr.

Also known as the 'Midgard serpent' or the 'World serpent' he was the son of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. His siblings were equally fearsome, being hel, the goddess of the underworld and Fenrir, the giant wolf.

Jormungandr was said to be so large that he encircled the seas of Midgard, which lead to the nickname 'the world serpent'. He would reside there, lying in wait, until the  battle of Ragnarok where he would rise up from the depths to wreak havoc upon the Norse Gods.

There was a particular connection between the fates of Thor, the god of thunder, and Jormungandr in the Norse sagas. The two of them would often do battle, and It was even prophesied that they would end up fighting to the death during Ragnarok

Jormungandr's Appearance in Thor's Fishing Trip

In one story from the Prose Edda Thor was on a fishing trip, accompanied by the giant Hymir. When the giant refused to supply Thor with bait the god was angered and rashly chopped the head of Hymir's largest Ox and used that instead. The two of them continued to argue for a good while before Thor demanded that they go further out into the open ocean in order to catch something bigger. Despite his protests Hymir eventually agreed.

Jormungandr - viking style

Jormungandr being fished with an Ox head - 17th Century Icelandic Manuscript

Thor prepared his bait with a large hook and cast off into the ocean, before long there was a strong pull on the line, it was none other than Jormungandr. Pulling sharply upwards Thor wrenched the great serpent from the water and the two of them locked eyes. As Jormungandr stared menacingly at the pair of them, with blood dripping from his mouth, Thor reached for his trusty hammer, Mjolnir, in order to slay the beast. However Hymir, who was terrified, quickly cut the line and the serpent slithered back down to the depths of the ocean to encircle the earth once again. 

In some earlier versions of the story, from the early Viking Age, Thor actually manages to successfully kill Jormungandr, however in Snorri's account this series of events only takes place during Ragnarok.

Jormungandr's Role in Ragnarok

One of the early signs of the arrival of Ragnarok was said to be violent disturbance of the seas which would cause earthquakes throughout the nine realms. This would be caused by Jormungandr thrashing below the surface before he would eventually make his way onto the land. The earthquakes would break the chains that had been used to bind Fenrir and would also allow his father, Loki, to break free from his restraints.

Jormungandr - Viking style

Thor’s Battle with the Midgard Serpent - Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1788

The serpent would spray his poison all over the skies and seas and along with his brother, Fenrir, would join the forces of chaos from Muspelheim in their battle against the Aesir. In the final fight Loki will kill Heimdallr, Fenrir will devour Odin before being killed by one of his sons and Jormungandr and Thor will both fight to the death. 

Jormungandr - viking style

Thor and the Midgard Serpent - Emil Doepler

Jormungandr and Thor will fight hard, with Thor eventually coming out on top and managing to bludgeon the great serpent to death with Mjolnir, however he will have sustained too much damage and will die shortly after from the effects of the serpents deadly venom. In one final act of defiance against the gods who treats him and his kin so harshly Jormungandr will release so much venom into the cosmos that it will poison the air throughout the nine worlds and kill the majority of the remaining living creatures.

If you enjoyed our article or have anything to add please leave a comment below.

Check out our own design for the Jormungandr Viking Axe inspired by the Midgard Serpent.  


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