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by Nokki Nollason February 20, 2020 6 min read

The Norse mythology universe has a lot of exciting topics and elements. Most of them are somewhat familiar to the general public thanks to increasingly popular Nordic literature and blockbuster movies as well as TV shows that became a real hype in recent years.

All Norse mythology creatures, characters, places, and events have their background, and there are plenty of origin stories and character development stories that depict every tale into details.

However, the less familiar stories are usually about less-known characters and worlds from the Norse universe. The entire Norse cosmology consists of the nine realms, and for us, the people, the most exciting one is the human realm known as Midgard (Old Norse Miðgarðr).

Norse Mythology Gods and Creatures

Norse Mythology Gods and Creatures

People that are into Norse mythology are well-aware that the more they read and learn about it, the more hooked to it they’ll become. The entire mythology revolves around mystical beings, magic, incredible creatures, battles, various worlds, and grand events.

Who doesn’t like to read more about the exceptional fantasy universe?

The Nine Realms In Norse Cosmology

Norse mythology cosmos is widespread and made out of nine different realms. Norsemen believed that the realms are a tricentric structure and that they are formed vertically. Additionally, between all the levels, there was a vast space.

The base structure of the levels is the Tree of Life, called Yggdrasil (Old Norse Mímameiðr). Yggdrasil is a tree without known origin, and it exists out of time, and thus, it’ll survive Ragnarök as well. All nine realms were stationed among different levels of the tree, residing in its roots, branches, and the crown.

The realms of the first level: 

  • Asgard (Old Norse Ásgarðr) is the realm of the Aesir (Old Norse Æsir).
  • Vanaheim (Old Norse Vanaheimr) which is known as a “Home of the Vanir.”
  • Alfheim (Old Norse Álfheimr) is also known as the “Home of the Light Elves.”

 The second level realms: 

  • Midgard (Old Norse Miðgarðr) is the realm of humans (middle garden/land).
  • Jotunheim (Old Norse Jötunheimr) is the world of the giants (Old Norse Jötunn).
  • Nidavellir (Old Norse Niðavellir) / Svartalfheim (Old Norse Svartálfaheimr) is the land of Dwarfs and dark Elves.

 The third level realms: 

  • Hel (Old Norse Helheimr) is the realm of the dead.
  • Niflheim (Old Norse Niflheimr) is the realm of fog, ice, mist, and cold.
  • Muspelheim (Old Norse Múspellsheimr) is the realm of fire and chaos.

Midgard Has Many Names

Midgard is known by many names in numerous languages and through various civilizations. “The home of men” or Mannaheim, which is another known name for this realm. For example, the extinct Germanic Gothic language used a term Midjun-gards which means “middle yard,” which is also another name for Middle-earth.

There are numerous variations of Midgard’s name in other languages as well, like Mittilagart (Old High German), Middangeard in old English that is today known as the Middle-earth, and as Middilgard that was mentioned in the old Saxon epic poem Heliand.

The Creation Of Midgard

The first beings ever created by the unknown forces were Audhumla (Old Norse Auðumla) – the cow, and Aurgelmir (Ymir) – the giant. There’s no written explanation about the details of the upcoming events. At some point, Audhumla bore the ancestors of all Gods – Buri.

Now, this is the fun part.

The elder God Buri had a son Borr, but there are no details available about how Buri got a son and with whom. Later on, Borr had three sons with giantess Bestla – Vé, Vili, and Odin. While the creation of the first Gods was happening, Aurgelmir gave birth by himself to one of the early giants.

According to the legends, Odin, Vé, and Vili killed Ymir and threw his body in the universe void. That’s when and how Midgard was created.

It is said that Ymir’s blood turned to oceans and that his flesh created the land. The mountains have developed from his bones, and his teeth formed the cliffs. His hair created the trees while his brains are the clouds (scattered all over the Earth).

The legends also say that the four dwarfs hold Ymir’s skull – Nordri, Austri, Vestri, and Sudri (depicting the four sides of the world). All the stars, including the Sun and the Moon, were created from the Ymir’s skull fragments and sparks.

That’s not all since this is when the dawn of the first humans begun.

Prose and Poetic Edda by Snorri Sturluson

Prose and Poetic Edda by Snorri Sturluson 

According to Poetic Edda, the Allfather Odin and his two brothers then created humans from the Ash and Elm trees. The first man Ask (Old Norse Askr), was created from the Ash tree, and the first woman Embla (Old Norse Almr) came to existence from the Elm tree.

The three Gods wanted to protect the human realm from the giants, so they built a fence around the world of men from Ymir’s eyebrows.

Midgard is placed in between Muspelheim and Niflheim, but it’s also connected with Asgard with the rainbow bridge called Bifrost.

The Connection Between Asgard And Midgard 

Heimdal the guardian of the Bifrost bridge

Heimdal the Guardian of the Bifrost Bridge

The Bifrost (Old Norse Bifröst) is a direct connection between the Asgard and Midgard realms. Bifrost is a rainbow bridge, and according to Prose Edda, it stretches from the realm of men all the way to heaven in Himinbjörg, which is the home of Heimdallr, the guardian of the Bifrost bridge.

Now that we scratched the surface let’s dig a bit deeper.

The Midgard Serpent

An impassable and vast ocean surrounds the realm of humans, and a mighty creature dwells in the ocean – the Midgard Serpent Jormungand (Old Norse Jörmungandr). This ocean dweller is so enormous that it goes around the entire human world, while its head reaches its tail. The mighty serpent Jormungand has two siblings – Fenrir and Hel.

According to Prose Edda, Midgard will be destroyed in Ragnarök. It is said that Jormungand will emerge from the ocean and poison the sea and the land with its potent venom. Additionally, the Midgard serpent will cause the sea to rise up and then smash down upon the ground.

More significantly, the fire giant Surtr (Old Norse “The Black One”) will end all existence in the human realm by setting it ablaze. The last and ultimate battle shall take place on the Óskópnir plane (also known as Vígríðr) resulting in the destruction of the human realm and all the life in it, while the earth will sink into the sea.

However, it is said that the earth will rise once again, but this time even more green and fertile. The creation cycle will repeat itself, and life will start anew.

The Protector Of The Human Realm

Thor the Protector of Midgard Facing a Giant

Thor the Protector of Midgard Facing a Giant

Thor, son of Allfather Odin, is the protector of both the human realm and the Aesir realm. The God of Thunder is also referred to as “the Defender of Midgard and Asgard.”

But that’s not all!

Thor travels between the realms using the Bifrost bridge. Although Thor shields both worlds, the world of humans, as well as Asgard, the gates of Asgard are kept safe by Heimdallr. Heimdallr is the first line of defense of Asgard, while Thor is its last defense.

From beyond the gates of Asgard and down to the human realm, Thor keeps humans safe from Jötunns. Even though the mighty God Thor is keeping both worlds safe, the Allfather Odin carefully watches over the realm of humans with the assistance of his two faithful, but supernatural ravens.

The Popularity Of Midgard Through Books And Movies

In recent history, Midgard, better known as Middle-earth, has inspired many writers of the high epic fantasy genre to come up with incredible stories, exceptional characters, and epic events. Some of the best examples are the high epic fantasy stories written by J.R.R. Tolkien like “The Hobbit,” “Lord of the Rings,” “The Peoples of Middle-earth,” and many others.

The popularity of these books was so high that it had become a solid base for recreating the stories in the form of big-screen blockbuster movies. All these movies helped improve the perspective that people had about the Middle-earth and its residents.

If you like to read stories about the trolls, dragons, wizards, elves, dwarfs, and all the other creatures of Middle-earth, these are the stories for you.

Who doesn’t like a good epic fantasy story with wizards and dragons?

Additionally, Marvel Comics and Marvel movies gave us another perspective of the entire Norse universe and all of its realms, including the realm of humans. These movies gave us a closer glimpse into how the Norse mythology and the whole of Norse cosmos were imagined to look like.

The Final Words

The creation of the realm of men is the essential decision that Odin and his two brothers have made as far as ordinary people are concerned. Thanks to them, humans, including you, exist today.

If you could choose one, which one of the Midgard stories left the strongest impression on you and why? Why do you think that Middle-earth is the only realm that emerged back after Ragnarök? Which one of the nine worlds sounds most interesting to you, and why?

If there are any more stories you know about the realm of humans that we haven't mentioned today, please share them with the community and us in the comments below.


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