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Yggdrasil and the 9 Worlds of Norse Mythology

By Andy Watkins


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Norse mythology has a expansive universe with an awesome creation myth and some interesting worlds to explore. There are gods, elves, giants, dwarfs, dragons and much more.

These creatures live in a universe made up of 9 worlds all connected by a huge tree called Yggdrasil. Each world has specific features, certain inhabitants and an important role in the Norse myths.

What follows is a brief overview of the different worlds. Enjoy!

Yggdrasil – The World Tree

Yggdrasil is a mighty ash tree, also known as the world tree. This tree links all the 9 world together. The roots of this tree are found in 3 of the 9 worlds from 3 separate wells.

The first root is found in the realm of Niflheim, and the well from which it gains life is called Hvergelmir. The second root is found in the realm of Jotunheim. The third root is found in the realm of Asgard, the home realm of the Aesir gods.

There is a rainbow bridge called the Bifrost which is used by the gods to travel between the realms and worlds. The other creatures like the dwarfs or giants cannot use the Bifrost.

There are many animals that live on or around Yggdrasil. There is a great eagle that sits atop the world tree and said to be high knowledgable. There is also a hawk that sits between the eagles eyes. There is a squirrel called Ratatosk who travels the length and breadth of the tree delivering messages. There are 4 stags which feed on the fruit and branches of the tree. And finally, at the base of the tree there are many serpents.

During Ragnarok, two humans took refuge under Yggdrasil; Lif and Lifthrasir. They survived off of Yggdrasil’s morning dew. After Ragnarok had come to an end, the two survivors came out from under Yggdrasil completely uninjured. They were responsible for repopulating the earth after the devastation that occurred during Ragnarok.

Yggdrasil is significant because it symbolizes life, knowledge, fertility, and the ability to regenerate. It was also the one piece that held all the worlds together, making the universe whole.

Asgard – The Home of the Aesir Gods

Asgard was located in the sky and was known as the home to the Aesir gods. Odin was in charge of Asgard and it was considered to be the top of the Nine Worlds. Each god and goddess had his or her own hall to which he or she presided over. In total, there were 13 halls that stood in the middle of Asgard. Asgard was protected by a very large wall that had been created by the Giant Master Builder, and connecting Asgard to Midgard, or Middle Earth, was the Rainbow Bridge.

There is a good myth about how the walls of around Asgard were built. A giant makes his way to Asgard in disguise and offers to help the Aesir gods build a wall. He does so on the condition that they will give him the goddess Freya, the Sun, and the Moon as payment. They trick the giant into building the wall, and when he is close to being finished they sabotage his plans. 

This myth tells of the animosity between the giants and the gods. It is a common theme in Norse mythology that ends when Ragnarok occurs. The giants wanted to take the four seasons away from the gods, as well as their ability to reproduce.

Vanaheim – Realm of the Vanir

Vanaheim was known as the realm of the Vanir, or the gods of Earth and fertility. It was situated near Asgard, although it can’t be said for certain where. Some speculate it may have been located to the west. It was very beautiful and full of light.

Once the Aesir/Vanir war came to an end, Odin sent two Aesir gods, Hoenir and Mimir, to Vanaheim as a show of good faith. The Vanir sent two of their own, Frey and Freya to the Aesir.

Vanaheim was significant because it was home to the Venir who were ancient gods.

Alfheim – The Realm of the Bright Elves

Alfheim was located at the top of the Nine Worlds. It was home to the Bright Elves and was said to be very beautiful and full of light. The Vanir god Frey was given Alfheim by the Aesir gods when he lost his first tooth.

Frey became Lord of Alfheim. The fact that a Venir god was given a realm by the Aesir gods showed how much they had truly accepted Frey into their world. The bright elves were said to be as beautiful and bring as the stars themselves.

Jotunheim – The Realm of the Giants

Jotunheim was home to the Jötunn, also known as the giants. It was thought to be a very deep, dark place with forests, mountains, and unending winter. It was given to the giants as their new homeland by the sons of Bor, or, the new gods.

Jotunheim is a location where various myths take place. Both the frost giants and the mountain giants would live here in great halls. The giants were enemies of the Aesir so many battles were fought both in Asgard and Jotunheim.

Jotunheim represents the cold and dark winters the people of the North would face.

Midgard – The Realm of the Humans

Midgard, also known as Middle Earth, was home to the humans, both men and women. It was formed by the body of Ymir, a giant. It was halfway between Asgard and Jotunheim.

The myth about the creation of Midgard is interesting. Ymir was known to be the first giant. He was created from fire and ice at the very beginning of time. One day, while Ymir slept, giants came from his armpits and a troll came from his feet. They were known as the frost giants, and were horrible and ugly. When the gods Odin, Ve, and Vili came into existence, they kept fighting with the giants. Eventually, they killed Ymir and used his body to create Midgard. His blood was said to have formed the seas, his skin became the hills, and his bones became the mountains. The gods also took his eyebrows and made a fence around Midgard that would protect the Midgard people from the outside world.

The creation of Midgard is significant because it is located between Asgard and Jotunheim. Humans exist there, but they are not perfect beings. They are not like the perfect Aesir gods, nor are they monstrous like the giants. They fall somewhere in between. Their world is protected from all outside forces – good and evil. Who humans turn out to be is ultimately up to them.

Muspell – The Realm of the Fire Giant Surtr

Muspell was the home of the fire giants. It also played critical roles in the creation and destruction of the world.

Before the world was created, there was nothing but a void, a land of ice called Niflheim, and a land of fire called Muspell. Niflheim had 11 springs full of poison that flowed and emptied into a chasm. They would freeze and fill the chasm with poisoned ice. But, from Muspell, fire came and turned the poisoned ice into mists and fog.

The fire and ice interacted with one another in this way for millions of years. Eventually, a spark of life was created through their interactions. The first beings were Ymir the giant and Audhumla, a large cow.

Surtr is actually a giant and he is very important in the final battle of Ragnarok. He carries a bright sword which he will use to destroy Asgard and the rest of the 9 worlds.

Nidavellir – The Realm of the Dwarfs

Nidavellir was home to the dwarfs and may have been part of Svartalfheim. It was likely an underground realm full of labyrinths, mines, and forges, as the dwarfs were known for being master smiths and craftsmen. Not much is known about Nidavellir.

That being said, whenever the gods needed any weapons or objects of any importance they would venture to Nidavellir in order for the dwarfs to make it.

The dwarfs were a race that appeared in many myths as the ones who created weapons, jewels, and other significant pieces for the gods.

Niflheim – Realm of Ice and Dark Mist

Niflheim was known to be a realm full of cold, ice, and nights that never ended. It was located at the very lowest point of the underworld. It is also the source for one of the 3 roots that feed the world tree.

Niflheim played a crucial role in the creation of the realms. It is one of the realms that exist at the start of time. It is also the home of the Norse dragon called Nidhogg.

Hel – The Realm of the Dead

Hel is the realm for those who have died of illness or old age. It was intially believed that those who died in battle would not have to go to Hel. Hel was to be found beneith the roots of the great world tree.

It is ruled over by a giant called Hel. The giant Hel was a dark and sad character.

Final Thoughts

So there we have the Yggdrasil and the 9 Worlds of Norse Mythology. Given the limited source material, we can’t be completely sure that these were the 9 worlds. In fact there was originally some confusion about the dark elves and dwarfs and which world they actually inhabit.

Either way, this is a good place to start. If you are looking for more detail on this topic then I recommend this article.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Hope you enjoyed!

Bonus – Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology

About Andy Watkins

I have always been interested in mythology. From a very early age in Britain, I was known to sit at the breakfast table reading encyclopedias about many of the major world mythologies. Learn more about MythNerd's Editorial Process.

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