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Ymir the First Frost Giant: Myths, Facts, Stories, and Powers

By Andy Watkins


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The creation myth in Norse mythology is one of the most powerful in the Norse canon. It introduces characters like Audhumla, Odin and of course the colossal giant Ymir.

The creations stories of most mythologies are uniquely fascinating, but this one from Norse mythology is well worth your time. The character of Ymir is incredibly important in how the 9 worlds and the Norse characters came about. Let’s now dive in!

Ymir Family, Symbols and Powers

Ymir was the first frost giant to be born. He was born from the glacial rivers of Niflheim, as they entered the void gap between Niflheim and Muspell. Niflheim was a mist world of cold and ice, while Muspell was a fiery hot world. When they came together the glacial rivers melted and from this appeared the frost giant Ymir.

Ymir was bigger and more powerful than any giant that had come before or would follow. Shortly after Ymir appear from the glacier, a cow by the name of Audhumla also appeared. This cow would lick the glacier and produce milk for Ymir to food upon.

Ymir was both male and female and could give birth without another. Ymir had two giants born from his armpit and a 6-head giant from his leg.

Ymir didn’t have any specific powers beyond being incredibly large. In the end he wasn’t strong enough to defeat Odin and died at his hand.

The Myths and Stories of Ymir

The Creation and Birth of Ymir

Two realms were in existence before all of the Nine Worlds were created: Muspell (fire) and Niflheim (ice). In Muspell, Black Surt sits on the outskirts with his sword of flames. He waits for the end of time when he will come and wreak vengeance on the gods. In Niflheim, the spring Hvergelmir lies in the center and is the source of eleven rivers. In between the two realms is a vast emptiness called Ginnungagap. All the rivers from Hvergelmir flooded into Ginnungagap and thickened the venom until it turned the rivers into ice. The northern part of Ginnungagap became as frozen and icy as Niflheim was.

But, the southern part of Ginnungagap was hot as fire like Muspell. In the middle of Ginnungagap, it was very mild with a warm breeze from Muspell that connected with the rivers from Niflheim. As the two forms of matter connected with one another and fire began to melt ice, a form began to take shape. A giant was born from the droplets. His name was Ymir the frost giant and he was very evil. As more ice continued to melt in Ginnungagap, a cow was produced called Audumla. She was responsible for providing Ymir with the nutrition he needed to grow and survive.

The significance of this myth is it is the creation story for the beginning of the universe and Nine Worlds. Ymir’s body will end up creating the universe and the Nine Worlds through the god’s actions. This is an important story, as all creation stories are, as it sets the stage for every event, every god, every person, that will come into existence and form the basis of the world.

Ymir and his Children

When Ymir slept he started to sweat. From his sweat, a man and woman came out of his armpit and his leg had a son from his other leg. The children of Ymir were known as frost giants and they were very unliked. While Ymir was bearing his children, Audumla was licking the ice until a man was created from it. He was known as Buri. Buri had a son named Bor.

Bor married one of Ymir’s grandchildren, a frost giant named Bestla. She had three children: Odin, Vili, and Ve, or, the first of the race of gods.

The significance of this myth is that the children of both Ymir and Buri were connected to each other in love. This is in opposition to the relationship that develops between the giants and the gods, as they both detest one another. The significance here also lays in the fact that Bor’s sons hate Ymir and will eventually go on to kill him.

His death creates the Nine Worlds to which his grandson, Bergelmir and his wife are the only frost giants who survive and go on to keep the race of giants and ogres from going extinct. The ability of Ymir to create children without having any sexual relations is also important, as it shows a time before sex was brought into the world. The gods had to create that component of reproduction for it to exist.

Odin, Vili, and Ve kill Ymir

When Bor’s sons kill Ymir, Ymir’s wounds end up drowning all of the frost giants except Bergelmir and his wife. This is important as they will be the only frost giants who can continue the line. With Ymir’s death, Odin, Vili, and Ve carried Ymir’s body until it was at the center of Ginnungagap and created the world from his body. His flesh was used to create the earth, his bones were used to create the mountains, and his teeth and jaw were used to create the rocks, boulders, and stones.

With Ymir’s blood, the gods created the lakes and sea. From Ymir’s skull, the sky was made. The gods set a dwarf in each corner of the earth and named them North, South, East, and West. From there, the gods took embers from Muspell and created the Sun, Moon, and Stars. They were used to light heaven. Odin, Vili, and Ve gave the frost giants Jotunheim, so they could still exist but far away from the gods. They then took Ymir’s eyebrows and created Midgard. Finally, they used Ymir’s brains to create clouds.

The significance of this myth is that it was the creation of the world. Odin, Vili, and Ve used every part of Ymir to create a world in which the frost giants and the gods could live. From the world’s creation, they then went on to create the first humans, dwarves, and eventually their beautiful realm of Asgard. Ymir is representative of the chaos that occurs before creation can happen. Both Ymir and Ginnungagap were the basis for chaos to turn into matter. They both contained the basic components for creation. One other important thing to note is Ymir’s name means Scream. It is through that scream that the gods were able to speak their words through everything they created.

Ymir Facts – Everything You’d Possibly Want to Know

  • Ymir was both male and female and could give birth to children without a partner.
  • In fact Ymir gave birth to children from his armpit and from his leg.
  • Ymir was born from a glacier and grew up on the milk of a cow who also appeared from the glacier at the same time.
  • Ymir was killed by the three brother Odin, Vili and Ve.
  • The fresh of Ymir became the soil of the earth, the bones became the mountains and the teeth were the rocks.
  • When Odin wanted to protect Midgard from the giants he used Ymir’s eyelashes to build the walls.
  • The skull of Ymir became the sky and his brains were made into the clouds.
  • All but two of the giants were drowned in the blood of Ymir when Odin killed him.
  • Ymir symbolises the chaos of the universe.
  • Ymir was born into the Ginnungagap, the gap between Niflheim and Muspell.

Final Thoughts

To understand the origins of the Norse myths you really have to understand the character of Ymir. This colossal frost giant who was born into chaos is the beginning of everything.

From his body is made the remaining 7 worlds. He is the father of the giants and many of the important gods. I hope you enjoyed this attempt at a summary of Ymir.

If you are interested in any of the other strange creature of the Norse myths then check out this article.

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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