Ragnarok - The Twilight of the Gods

At last the time draws near when the existing universe must perish
and the gods must succumb before higher powers. This period is called in
the ancient myths the
Dissolution or Destin? (rok) of the gods or rulers (ragna, genitive plural of
regin); a later form is ragnarøkkr, the Darkness of the Gods. The gods
themselves have foreknowledge of its coming, which is foreshadowed by
many signs. Evil and violence increase. The Æsir’s cock with the golden
comb (Gullinkambi) crows to waken the Heroes of Odin’s retinue; the dun
cock in Hel’s keeping crows likewise; so also crows the red cock Fjalar in
the world of the Giants; and Garm bays vehemently outside the rocky
fastness of Gnipa. For the space of three years the earth is filled with strife
and wickedness; brother kills brother for gain’s sake, and the son spares
not his own father. Then come three other years, like one long winter;
everywhere the snow drifts into heaps, the sun yields no warmth, and biting
winds blow from all quarters. That winter is known as Fimbul Winter (the
Great Winter). The wolf Skoll swallows the sun, and Hati or Manigarm
swallows the moon so that the heavens and the air are sprayed with blood.
The stars are quenched. The earth and all the mountains tremble; trees are
uprooted; all bonds are burst asunder. Both Loki and the Fenris Wolf shake
off their shackles. The Midgard Serpent, seeking to reach dry land, swims
with such turbulent force that the seas wash over their banks. Now the ship
Naglfar once more floats on the flood. The ship is made from dead men’s
nails, and therefore the nails of all that die should be trimmed before their
burial, to the end that Naglfar may be the sooner finished. Loki steers the
ship, and the crews of Hell follow him. The Giant Rym comes
out from the east, and with him all the Rime-Thursar. The Fenris Wolf
rushes forth with gaping maw; his upper jaw touches the heavens, his
nether jaw the earth; he would gape still more if there were more room. His
eyes are lit with flame. The Midgard Serpent, keeping pace with the Wolf,
spews venom over sky and sea. Amidst all the din and clamor the heavens
are cleft open, and the Sons of Muspell ride forth from the south with Surt
in the van, fires burning before him and behind him. His sword shines
brighter than the sun. As they ride out over the bridge Bifrost, it breaks
asunder beneath their feet. One and all, the Sons of Muspell, the Fenris
Wolf, the Midgard Serpent, Loki, Rym, and all the Rime-Thursar direct their
course toward the fields of Vigrid, which measure a hundred miles each
way. The Sons of Muspell muster their hosts for battle, and the radiance of
their levies gleams far and wide.

Meanwhile, on the part of the Æsir, Heimdal rises to his feet and
sounds the Gjallar-Horn with all his might in order to rouse the gods. They
meet in assembly and take counsel together. Odin rides to Mimir’s Well to
seek guidance there. The ash Yggdrasil trembles, and all things in heaven
and earth are seized with dread. Æsir and Heroes don their panoplies and
march upon the fields of Vigrid. Foremost rides Odin, girt with his golden
helmet and magnificent byrnie; brandishing his spear Gungnir, he presses
on against the Fenris Wolf. At his side walks Thor; but as he soon finds
himself in mortal conflict with the Midgard Serpent, he can give no aid
to Odin. Frey joins battle with Surt, and Tyr with the dog Garm, who also
has broken from his fetters. Heimdal fights against Loki.

Thor in the end kills the Midgard Serpent but is himself able to walk
only nine steps after the struggle is over; then he sinks to the ground dead,
borne down by the venom spewed over him by the Serpent. The Wolf
swallows Odin, and so the god lives no more; but Vidar at once steps into
the breach, thrusts one of his feet into the nether jaw of the Wolf, grasps
the upper jaw with his hand, and thus tears open the Wolf’s throat; his foot
is shod with a heavy shoe made from all the slivers of leather that men
have cut from their boots at the toe or the heel; consequently men should
always cast such patches aside in order that they may serve the uses of
the Æsir. Frey falls at the hands of Surt, no longer having at his need the
good blade he once gave to Skirnir. Tyr and Garm, and likewise Loki and
Heimdal, kill each other.

Thereupon Surt hurls fire broadcast over the whole earth and all
things perish. The wild, warlike order passes and a new life begins.
Out of the sea there rises a new earth, green and fair, whose fields
bear their increase without the sowing of seed. The sun has borne a
daughter as beautiful as herself, and the daughter now guides the course
of the sun in her mother’s stead. All evil is passed and gone. On the plains
of Ida assemble those Æsir who did not fall in the last great battle: Vidar,
Vali, and the sons of
Thor — Modi and Magni. Thither resort also Balder and Hod, now returned
out of Hell, and thither comes Hœnir out of Vanaheim. Once again the Æsir
make their dwelling on the plains of Ida, where Asgard stood before; in the
grass they find scattered the ancient gold chessmen of the gods, and thus
they recall to memory the old days and speak together of the vanished
past. Now that Thor’s battles are done, Modi and Magni fall heir to Mjollnir.
Nor are all among mankind dead. Lif and Lifthrasir have saved themselves
from the fires of Surt at a place called Hoddmimir’s Holt, where they find
subsistence in the dews of the morning; from these two spring forth a new
race of men. At Gimle stands a hall thatched with gold and brighter than the
sun. There a righteous generation shall dwell, in joys that never end. “Then
shall come from above the Mighty One, he who governs all things.”


Peter Andreas Munch: Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes. The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York. 1926, pp. 108-112.
Henry Adam Bellows: The Poetic Edda. The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York, 1923, pp. 1ff.
The Younger Eddas: Gylvaginning, pp 77ff.
Rasmus B. Anderson (Ed.): The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson. Norræna Society, London-New York. 1906.

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