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Jörmungandr

Jörmungandr

Overview

In Norse mythology
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

, Jörmungandr , mostly known as Jormungand, or
Jörmungand , or Midgard Serpent , or World Serpent, is a sea serpent
Sea serpent
A sea serpent or sea dragon is a type of sea monster either wholly or partly serpentine.Sightings of sea serpents have been reported for hundreds of years, and continue to be claimed today. Cryptozoologist Bruce Champagne identified more than 1,200 purported sea serpent sightings...

, and the middle child of the giantess Angrboða and the god Loki
Loki
In Norse mythology, Loki or Loke is a god or jötunn . Loki is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. By his wife Sigyn, Loki is the father of Nari or Narfi...

. According to the Prose Edda
Prose Edda
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or simply Edda, is an Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Nordic mythology...

, Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

 took Loki
Loki
In Norse mythology, Loki or Loke is a god or jötunn . Loki is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. By his wife Sigyn, Loki is the father of Nari or Narfi...

's three children, Fenrisúlfr, Hel
Hel (being)
In Norse mythology, Hel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead. Hel is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson...

 and Jörmungandr, and tossed Jörmungandr into the great ocean that encircles Midgard
Midgard
Midgard is one of the Nine Worlds and is an old Germanic name for our world and is the home of Humans, with the literal meaning "middle enclosure".-Etymology:...

. The serpent grew so large that he was able to surround the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 and grasp his own tail.
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In Norse mythology
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

, Jörmungandr , mostly known as Jormungand, or
Jörmungand , or Midgard Serpent , or World Serpent, is a sea serpent
Sea serpent
A sea serpent or sea dragon is a type of sea monster either wholly or partly serpentine.Sightings of sea serpents have been reported for hundreds of years, and continue to be claimed today. Cryptozoologist Bruce Champagne identified more than 1,200 purported sea serpent sightings...

, and the middle child of the giantess Angrboða and the god Loki
Loki
In Norse mythology, Loki or Loke is a god or jötunn . Loki is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. By his wife Sigyn, Loki is the father of Nari or Narfi...

. According to the Prose Edda
Prose Edda
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or simply Edda, is an Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Nordic mythology...

, Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

 took Loki
Loki
In Norse mythology, Loki or Loke is a god or jötunn . Loki is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. By his wife Sigyn, Loki is the father of Nari or Narfi...

's three children, Fenrisúlfr, Hel
Hel (being)
In Norse mythology, Hel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead. Hel is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson...

 and Jörmungandr, and tossed Jörmungandr into the great ocean that encircles Midgard
Midgard
Midgard is one of the Nine Worlds and is an old Germanic name for our world and is the home of Humans, with the literal meaning "middle enclosure".-Etymology:...

. The serpent grew so large that he was able to surround the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 and grasp his own tail. When he lets go, the world will end. As a result, he received the name of the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent. Jörmungandr's arch-enemy is the god Thor
Thor
In Norse mythology, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing, and fertility...

.

Sources


The major sources for myths about Jörmungandr are the Prose Edda
Prose Edda
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or simply Edda, is an Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Nordic mythology...

, Húsdrápa
Húsdrápa
Húsdrápa is a skaldic poem partially preserved in the Prose Edda where disjoint stanzas of it are quoted. It is attributed to the skald Úlfr Uggason. The poem describes mythological scenes carved on kitchen panels...

, Hymiskviða
Hymiskviða
Hymiskviða is a poem collected in the Poetic Edda. Its contents are somewhat confusing but can be summarized more or less as follows....

, and Völuspá
Völuspá
Völuspá is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva addressing Odin...

. Less important sources include kennings in skaldic poetry. For example in Þórsdrápa
Þórsdrápa
Þórsdrápa is a skaldic poem by Eilífr Goðrúnarson, a poet in the service of Jarl Hákon Sigurðarson. The poem is noted for its creative use of kennings and other metaphorical devices, as well as its labyrinthine complexity....

, faðir lögseims, "father of the sea-thread", is used as a kenning
Kenning
A kenning is a type of literary trope, specifically circumlocution, in the form of a compound that employs figurative language in place of a more concrete single-word noun. Kennings are strongly associated with Old Norse and later Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon poetry...

 for Loki. There are also image stones from ancient times depicting the fishing encounter.

Lifting the cat



In one, Thor encounters the serpent, who is disguised as a colossal cat by the giant king Útgarða-Loki
Útgarða-Loki
In Norse mythology, Útgarða-Loki was the ruler of the castle Útgarðr in Jötunheimr. He was one of the Jötnar and his name means literally "Loki of the Outyards," to distinguish him from Loki, the companion of Thor.-Prose Edda:According to the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Thor, Þjálfi and Loki,...

. As one of the tasks set by Útgarða-Loki, Thor must lift the cat; though he is unable to lift such a monstrous creature as Jörmungandr, he manages to lift it far enough that it lets go of the ground with one of its four feet. When Jörmungandr is revealed by Útgarða-Loki, the lifting is counted as an impressive deed.

Thor's fishing trip


Another encounter came when Thor went fishing with the giant Hymir
Hymir
In Norse mythology, Hymir is a giant, husband of the giantess Hroðr and according to the Eddic poem Hymiskviða the father of the god Týr. He is the owner of a mile-wide cauldron which the Æsir wanted to brew beer in; Thor, accompanied by Týr, obtained it from him...

. When Hymir refused to provide Thor with bait, Thor struck the head off Hymir's largest ox to use as such. They rowed to a point where Hymir often sat and caught flat fish, where he drew up two whales. Thor demanded to go farther into the water, and did so despite Hymir's warnings.

Thor then prepared a strong line and a large hook, which Jörmungandr bit. Thor pulled the serpent from the water, whereupon the two faced one another, Jörmungandr dribbling poison
Eitr
Eitr is a mythical substance in Norse mythology. This liquid substance is the origin of all living things, the first giant Ymir was conceived from eitr...

 and blood. Hymir went pale with fear, and as Thor grabbed his hammer to kill the serpent, the giant cut the line, leaving the serpent to sink beneath the waves.

This encounter with Thor seems to have been one of the most popular motifs in Norse art
Norse art
Norse art is a blanket term for the artistic styles in Scandinavia during the Germanic Iron Age, the Viking Age , and sometimes even used when describing objects from the Nordic Bronze Age...

. Four picture stone
Picture stone
A picture stone, image stone or figure stone is an ornate slab of stone, usually limestone, which was raised in Germanic Iron Age or Viking Age Scandinavia, and in the greatest number on Gotland. More than four hundred picture stones are known today. All of the stones were probably erected as...

s that have been linked with the myth include the Altuna Runestone
Altuna Runestone
The Altuna Runestone , listed as U 1161 in the Rundata catalog, is a Viking Age memorial runestone with images from Norse mythology that is located in Altuna, Uppland, Sweden.- Description :...

, Ardre VIII image stone, the Hørdum stone
Hørdum stone
The Hørdum stone is a Viking Age picture stone discovered in Hørdum, Thisted Municipality, North Denmark Region, Denmark, that depicts a legend from Norse mythology involving the god Thor and Jörmungandr, the Midgard serpent.-Description:...

, and the Gosforth Cross
Gosforth cross
upright|thumb|Gosforth Cross outside St Mary's church in Gosforth.The Gosforth Cross is a large stone Anglo-Saxon high cross in the churchyard at Gosforth in the English county of Cumbria. Formerly part of the kingdom of Northumbria, the area was settled by Scandinavians some time in either the 9th...

. A stone slab that may be a portion of a second cross at Gosforth also shows a fishing scene using an ox head. Of these, the Ardre VIII stone is the most interesting, with a man entering a house where an ox is standing, and another scene showing two men using a spear to fish. The image on this stone is dated as being from the 8th or 9th century. If the stone is correctly interpreted as depicting this myth, it demonstrates that the myth was in a stable form for about 500 years.

The final battle


The last meeting between the serpent and Thor is predicted to occur at Ragnarök
Ragnarök
In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures , the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water...

, when Jörmungandr will come out of the ocean and poison the sky. Thor will kill Jörmungandr and then walk nine
Numbers in Norse mythology
The numbers three and nine are significant numbers in Norse mythology and paganism. Both numbers appear throughout surviving attestations of Norse paganism, in both mythology and cultic practice....

 paces before falling dead, having been poisoned by the serpent's venom.

See also

  • Apep
    Apep
    In Egyptian mythology, Apep was an evil god, the deification of darkness and chaos , and thus opponent of light and Ma'at , whose existence was believed from the 8th Dynasty onwards...

  • European dragon
    European dragon
    European dragons are legendary creatures in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe.In European folklore, a dragon is a serpentine legendary creature. The Latin word draco, as in constellation Draco, comes directly from Greek δράκων,...

  • Leviathan
    Leviathan
    Leviathan , is a sea monster referred to in the Bible. In Demonology, Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell and its gatekeeper . The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature...

  • Níðhöggr
    Níðhöggr
    In Norse mythology, Níðhöggr is a dragon who gnaws at a root of the World Tree, Yggdrasill.-Prose Edda:...

  • Norse dragon
    Norse dragon
    In Norse mythology there are several references to dragons.* In the Völuspá the being Níðhöggr is identified as a dragon * The Midgard Serpent is described as a giant, venomous serpent...

  • Ouroboros
    Ouroboros
    The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. The name originates from within Greek language; οὐρά meaning "tail" and βόρος meaning "eating", thus "he who eats the tail"....

  • Sea monster
    Sea monster
    Sea monsters are sea-dwelling mythical or legendary creatures, often believed to be of immense size.Marine monsters can take many forms, including sea dragons, sea serpents, or multi-armed beasts. They can be slimy or scaly and are often pictured threatening ships or spouting jets of water...

  • Typhon
    Typhon
    Typhon , also Typhoeus , Typhaon or Typhos was the last son of Gaia, fathered by Tartarus, and the most deadly monster of Greek mythology. He was known as the "Father of all monsters"; his wife Echidna was likewise the "Mother of All Monsters."Typhon was described in pseudo-Apollodorus,...

  • Vritra
    Vritra
    In the early Vedic religion, Vritra , is an Asura and also a serpent or dragon, the personification of drought and enemy of Indra. Vritra was also known in the Vedas as Ahi...