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In many religions there exists an apocalyptic event which symbolises the end of the world and the human race, Norse mythology is no different. According to the Vikings this would be known as Ragnarok, which would be a series of events in which a great battle would take place leading to the deaths of many of the prominent norse gods. The world would then be drowned in water from natural disasters and only to be repopulated by the only two survivors.

Odin, Thor, Loki, Freyr and Heimdallr were all predicted to die in Ragnarok along with Asgard itself being destroyed, marking an end to the Aesir clan and their dominant position in the realms. The word 'Ragnarok' can be translated in two parts; 'Ragna' which in modern English means something similar to 'the ruling powers' or the 'ruling gods' and 'rok' which is thought to mean 'Fate'. This gives the word 'Ragnarok' a rough translation as 'the Fate of the Gods' or 'the Doom of the Gods'.

Events of Ragnarok

Ragnarok is said to begin when the wolves Skoll and Hati, who have been chasing the sun and moon for all of time, will finally acomplish their goal and swallow their prey. The stars will then disappear from the sky and the trees and mountains will fall into the earth as Yggdrasil crumbles. 

The giant wolf, Fenrir, will break free from his chains and wreak havoc across the earth, destroying everything in his path. Jormungandr, the great sea serpent will rise out of the ocean and cause it to spill onto the land as he comes ashore. This flood will enable the arrival of the 'nail ship' known in Old Norse as 'Naglfar' which was made from the fingernails of dead men and women. It will carry the forces of chaos who will destroy the world. The crew of giants will have the traitor Loki as their captin, who had broken free from the chains in which be was bound.

Loki - Ragnarok - viking style

Loki breaks free of his chains at the onset of Ragnarök - Ernst H. Walther, 1897

The sky will crack and split in two and through it the fiery realm of Muspelheim will be revealed. The great fire giants will will come forth being lead by their king, Surt, with his giant flaming sword. As they march along the Bifrost on the way to Asgard the rainbow bridge will crumble behind them. Heimdallr will send word to Odin to warn him of the arrival of the end of days, which they had long known was coming. The Allfather will seek the counsel of Mimir, the wisest being in the universe on how they can escape their fate.

With no other options the Gods will decide to go to battle, even though they already know that the prophecy has foretold their doom. They will meet with their foe on the battlefield of Vigrid. The first showdown will be with Fenrir, who will fight to the death against Odin and his Einherjar (the chosen warriors who died in battle and went to Valhalla). The giant wolf will kill Odin and his men, swallowing them whole, only to be killed in vengeance by Odin's son, Vidar, who will drive his sword through the monsters throat.

Ragnarok - viking style

The downfall of the Æsir - Karl Ehrenberg, 1882

Heimdallr and Loki will also fight to the death, each inflicting mortal wounds on the other, as well as Tyr and the giant wolf, Garm, and Freyr and Surt. The final showdown will be between Thor and Jormundgandr. The god of thunder will kill the serpent with his mighty hammer, however he will have been covered in poison during the struggle, limiting his ability to fight on and he will eventually meet his end along with the rest of his kin.

There are varying accounts of what happens next. In many accounts this Ragnarok will symbolise the end, and what is left of the world will simply fall into the void and disappear forever. However in some versions of the story gods such as; Vali, Baldur, Modi and Magni all survive to usher in a new age of prosperity and peace in a new green world. Two humans who hid from the chaos, Lif and Lifthrasir, will be the last surviving members of their species, and will go on to repopulate the planet. Finally a new sun will rise in the sky, which will be the daughter of the old one and will shine across the dawn of the new world.


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