The time has come to tell you a story about perhaps the most beautiful and most important realm in Norse mythology, Asgard (Ásgarðr in Old Norse). This is to be expected as it’s a place where the most important Gods in Norse mythology live. Moreover, the famous hall of the fallen heroes, Valhalla, is located here.
Asgard was the homeworld of the Aesir Gods. It was connected to Midgard via the famous Bifrost bridge. Asgard contained 12 or even more realms in which the main Gods lived in their extraordinary residences. The most famous of them all is for sure Valhalla, one of the halls belonging to Odin.
Another thing that was unique for Asgard was its impenetrable wall. This mighty barrier was so strong that none could break through it. As Asgard was surrounded entirely by it, the only entrance to the realm of the Gods was via the Bifrost bridge, guarded by Heimdallr.
Of course, Ragnarok will not miss Asgard. However, it was foretold that some Gods will survive the end of the world and will eventually rebuild it, creating a new era of prosperity.
We are going to stop here and take a more in-depth look at everything we have mentioned so far, and even more. Without further ado, let us begin.
Origins of the Word Asgard
The word Asgard derives from Old Norse āss, meaning God, and garðr, meaning garden or yard. Essentially, Asgard means "Garden of Gods" or "The Gods Courtyard."
There are many different spellings of the word Asgard, as you can see below.
English: Ásgard, Ásgardr, Asgardr, Ásegard, Ásgarth, Ásgarthr, Asgarth, Ásgardhr, Esageard, Asgaard
Swedish and Danish: Aasgaard, Asgård
Norwegian: Åsgard, Aasgaard
Icelandic, Faroese: Ásgarður
Asgard in the Norse Mythology
Asgard had an essential place in Norse mythology. It belonged to a very complicated mythological and religious belief system shared by Germanic and Scandinavian people. This belief system was developed in the period from around 1000 B.C.E. until Christianity took over, approximately between 900-1200 C.E.
During all this time, the Norse universe was thought to have three different clans of gods: The Vanir, the Aesir, and the Jotun. The difference between Aesir and Vanir tribes is relative as the two tribes made peace after a long war and eventually ruled together until the end of time.
Another symbol of the unity of the Aesir and Vanir tribes is Asgard. Even though the home of the Vanir clan was the realm of Vanaheim, Freyja and Njord had their residences in Asgard (Fólkvang and Nóatún). This implies that the term Asgard is not exclusive to the Aesir tribe, but is a general noun that is used to describe the home of the Gods.
Perhaps the most significant difference between these two groups can be found in their areas of influence. The Aesir clan represented war and conquest, while the Vanir tribe represented fertility, exploration, and wealth.
On the other hand, the Jotun was a generally evil race of giants who were the arch-enemies of both Aesir and Vanir clans.
Asgard's Place Within Yggdrasil
Yggdrasil, the Norse Tree of Life
Let's rewind a bit and do a short recap of the article about Yggdrasil. It will give you a clearer picture of the Asgard's position within the Norse universe.
The whole Norse universe is divided into three realms contained within the Nordic Tree of Life, Yggdrasil. These are the realms of the Gods, the realm of mortals, and the realm of the dead. These three realms contain the nine interrelated Worlds of the Norse universe.
All beings of the Norse universe reside within these realms. The Aesir, Vanir, and light elves live in the worlds located in the top realm of Yggdrasil. The middle realm is home to worlds where giants, dwarves, dark elves, and men reside. The lowest realm is a place where the dead roam.
Bifrost Bridge - The Only Way to Midgard
The Norse God Heimdallr guarded the entrance to Midgard. His appearance was shiny and beautiful. Heimdallr carried a flashing sword, and a great horn called Gjallarhorn, which he used to warn the Gods of the incoming danger. He had a golden-manned horse named Gulltoppr and a shining bright white armor.
And that's not all. Heimdallr also had eyesight so excellent that he could spot enemies way before they could reach Asgard. Thus, each time the enemies were approaching, the Gods would hear the sound of Gjallarhorn.
Creation of Asgard
It is believed that the Aesir Gods have built Asgard at a certain point in the past. According to Snorri Sturluson, it was Odin who orchestrated the creation of Asgard as we know it today.
The All-father started by establishing rulers and giving them their first task. They had to make an enormous hall with twelve seats for them, as well as a high seat for their ruler in a place known as Ida-field, located in the middle of the town. The hall the Gods have built was the greatest from without and within in the whole Norse universe. It is known as Gladsheim.
Construction of many other residences and meeting halls were carried out before the Gods realized they were quite vulnerable to attacks. As fate would have it, a giant called Hrimthurs was passing by. He offered to build an impregnable wall that will surround the whole Asgard with a gate that will make it invulnerable to enemy attacks.
However, the price the Gods would have to pay was very high. He asked for the sun and the moon, as well as Freya’s hand in marriage. The Gods accepted his offer with one condition they thought he would not be able to fulfill. They wanted the work to be finished in six months, and the giant was supposed to do it all by himself. The giant agreed to these terms after Loki convinced the Gods to allow him to use his horse Svadilfari (Old Norse Svaðilfari), to aid him during the construction.
With only a few days left, the Gods realized that the giant would eventually manage to finish his task on time. As his horse showed up to be invaluable help, they regretted trusting the God of trickery and mischief. The Asgardian Gods threatened to severely punish Loki if he did not find a way to ruin the giant’s building efforts.
To avoid punishment, Loki shapeshifted into a beautiful mare and went to meet the giant’s horse. Svaðilfari’s mind was blown away, and he started to completely ignore the construction of the wall so he could chase her. (On a side note, Svaðilfari will even have intercourse with Loki, who will give birth to the eight-legged steed Sleipnir. The steed will later be given to Odin as a gift).
Let’s get back to our story.
After unsuccessfully trying to get his horse to help him finish the wall during the last night, the giant grew very angry. He realized he would not manage to finish his masterpiece on time to win the prize. The Gods neglected their oaths and called for Thor, who came as fast as the lightning.
Not only was the giant not paid his wages, but he was also denied a chance to return to Jötunheim. The God of thunder raised Mjöllnir and struck down the giant, sending him to the realm of the dead.
A Deeper Look into Asgard
In most of the Norse myths, Asgard plays a central role in the adventures of the Norse Gods. This is mainly because Asgard is often portrayed as the heavenly realm, where the Gods lived and held their meetings.
Apart from many residences of the Gods, Asgard is home to many other geographical elements of mythical importance. The city was built upon the ancient plains of Idavoll, a vast field where the Gods would hold their meeting when discussing important issues. Furthermore, it was also a place where the third, world-anchoring Yggdrasil’s root, was located.
In general, Asgard was the smallest of all the Nine Worlds, even though its land seemed endless. It is a realm filled with valleys, hills, and a number of flat pains that stretched to the horizon.
On the west side is the ocean, which is a border with the realm of Vanaheim. There is a grand bay here where Njörd's ships and halls are located. The broad and deep river known as Thund Thvitr lies on the east and serves as a border with the realm of Jotunheim. The river runs down south, alongside the border with Alfheim.
Once inland, the Asgard’s great white walls can be noticed in the distance. The only way in is its main iron gate known as Valgrind. As you might have already realized, Asgard is not a realm filled with cities. No, instead, it is filled with many magnificent halls, similar to big villages. Most historians believe that there was a minimum of sixteen Halls belonging to main Gods located throughout this realm. You can read about these famous halls a bit later.
In the end, we need to mention a vast plain called Vigrid. It is the biggest of all plains of the Godly realm. It was foretold that this vast plain will be the battlefield of the final encounter between the Gods and the forces of evil, Ragnarök.
The Great Halls of Asgard
As we have already mentioned the great Halls of the Gods, it is time to describe the most important ones.
Let’s start with the most famous place in the whole Norse mythology, Valhalla (Valhöll in Old Norse, meaning "hall of the slain").
Most of you know certain things about Valhalla, but let us tell you a bit more.
It is a home of the warriors who died in battle and are chosen by the All-father himself. Those warriors are called Einherjar. The entire hall is built of huge spear-shafts, while the roof is covered with many battle shields. It is believed that Valhalla had 540 doors, and behind them were accommodations for 800 warriors.
The main entrance to the hall is through massive double doors that are well guarded. There is also a secret entrance into Valhalla. It is through the kitchen, past the famous cook Andhrimmer. The cook has a magical kettle called Eldhrimmer. He uses it to prepare the stew for all the hungry warriors in the main hall. There is a myth telling about Saehrimmer, the resurrecting boar, which is killed every night and cooked for the feast. The boar is brought to life the next morning, not remembering what happened the night before.
Even though it is the home of Odin, he does not spend all of his time in Valhalla. However, when he is inside, his spear Gungnir is placed over the entrance as a sign that the All-father is inside.
The biggest hall in all Nine Worlds is Bilskirnir, the home of the God of Thunder, Thor, and his family. It is even bigger than Valhalla with all the houses that surround it. Basically, it is a small city. Bilskirnir has 640 rooms to accommodate the fallen warriors that were sworn to Thor. Thor’s servants also live within it. Even Loki spent some time here.
Bilskirnir’s walls are built from stone and brick. The windows in all rooms are always open to let the air in, regardless of the weather outside.
There is a small hall behind Bilskirnir that is owned by Thor’s daughter Thrud. An interesting fact is that the land upon which the Bilskirnir was built is called Thrudheim. Thor chose this name to show his love and pride he feels for his daughter.
Apart from Valhalla, Odin is also the owner of another great hall within Asgard, known as Gladsheim (meaning Bright Home). Gladsheim is a place where the thirteen principal Gods of Asgard hold their meetings.
Many animals can be seen in Gladsheim. Odin's wolves Freki and Geri can be seen within the meeting hall, as well as Odin's ravens Munin and Huginn. The roof of Gladsheim is reserved for Gullinkambi, the rooster who is always wandering around.
There is one more extraordinary building which is part of Gladsheim but is often considered as a separate hall as it is so huge. It is the tower of Valaskjalf. The tower is Odin's sanctuary, and no other God is allowed to go in unless Odin permits them.
Valaskjalf is constructed from the white stone. At the top of Hlidskjalf, the magnificent throne of the All-father is located. He enjoys sitting there and watching into the other worlds of the Norse universe.
This grand hall was given as a wedding present to the most loved of all Norse Gods, Baldur and his wife, Nanna. As you could read in our article about Baldur, after his tragic demise, his wife Nanna also passed away.
This was when the Goddess Frigg decided to seal off Breidablik. She did it to preserve it in the way the hall was left when Baldur and Nanna were still living there. This great hall is guarded at all times, and no one is allowed to enter it.
This is Vidar's great hall. Vidar shares it with his mother, Grid. Apart from being Odin's lover, Grid is famous for giving the God of Thunder his magical belt of strength and his legendary iron gloves.
Just like with many great halls in Asgard, the name Landvidi refers to the land around it. The building is surrounded by a beautiful greenwood with everlasting leaves and is filled with tall green grass.
Glitnir is a great hall owned by the Norse God of justice, Forseti. Because of its silver roof that shines just like a lighthouse, this hall can be seen from a great distance. Each issue that has to be settled before a judge was discussed in the court within Glitnir.
Ydalir is another famous hall in Asgard belonging to the Norse God of hunting, winter, and skiing, Ullr. It is quite different than the other great halls as it looks more like a simple hunting lodge in the middle of a small forest.
The high council sometimes also hold their meeting inside Ydalir's main chambers.
Let us mention at least one hall of the Vanir Gods on our list. We have chosen the one that is actually located outside the Asgard's walls.
It is called Noatun, and it belongs to Njörd. This hall covers the area on the west and southwest coastline of Asgard. Noatun is built in the middle of a small bay, and you can see a few ships always anchored within its bay.
Noatun looks quite different than the other halls. It is built with open windows and arched ceilings that resemble the bottom of a ship. Various fishing tools can be found throughout this great hall, and even a salty wind blows through Noatun. Almost all furniture is built out of ship's parts, and many seabirds find their way inside from time to time.
Apart from the living quarters, this hall contains various workshops for shipbuilding, woodcarving, barrel-making, etc. Noatun is a favorite place for sailors from throughout the Nine Worlds to rest after their sea adventures. It is a heaven for all those who live at sea.
One of the not so famous halls only a few know about, but is worth mentioning is surely Vingolf. As Valhalla was running out of space for the Einherjar, Odin built Vingolf to make space for the overflowing fallen warriors.
However, throughout history, this hall became a gathering place of the Aesir Goddesses. The men are allowed to visit this great hall. Vingolf is filled with beautiful gardens and hot springs. Moreover, there is a tiny hall constructed in the middle of the hot springs, which represents a special healing house.
What Happened to Asgard During Ragnarök?
Just like many other things of the Norse universe, it was also foretold that Asgard will suffer complete destruction during Ragnarök.
It will all start with the rainbow bridge, Bifröst, being destroyed by the Muspelheim's fire giants. The giants will then proceed to sack the capital.
Following this terrible attack, the final battle will take place on the battlefield, where many of both Asgardian Gods and giants will lose their life. In the final moments, the lord of Muspelheim, Surtr, will invoke such a fire that all creation will be destroyed.
However, this firestorm is not really the terminus point of the Norse universe. As a matter of fact, some of the Gods will manage to survive Ragnarok. Váli and Vídarr will make it through and begin to rebuild once their glorious homeland on the plains of Ida, on the ashes of Asgard.
What Have We Learned Today About Asgard?
Asgard was a heavenly homeworld of the both Aesir and Vanir Gods. We should not confuse it with the Christian notion of Heaven, as Asgard was more like Mount Olympus, where Zeus and other Gods of Greek mythology lived.
Ruled by Odin, the All-father, Asgard was a place where all significant deities of Norse mythology have built their homes. It was also a realm in which the famous Valhalla is located.
Another significant landmark within Asgard that is highly popular nowadays is the Bifrost bridge. The only path to the realm of humans, Midgard.
In the end, Asgard was surely something to behold, and every true Viking would have wanted to visit it at least once in their lifetime. What about you? Would you like to pay a visit to the realm of the Norse Gods? Feel free to share your ideas in the comment area below.