Written by Noor Walaa
Edited by Ahmed Ashry
Have you ever wondered whether imagination had any limits at all? Did you ever get lost in a daydream so out of this world that, when you returned back to reality, you marveled at how your brain made that up? Well, these questions are essential when we speak of people who existed hundreds of years ago: The Vikings of Scandinavia.
Vikings are well known for their courageous nature, as well as their powerful disposition and fearlessness which allowed them victory in their many conquests of raiding the world and defeating their enemies, or so they were portrayed. While a great deal of those claims might be somewhat true, it does not do justice to their genius poetic and story-telling minds. Such a fact is evident in the first of stories, one that resides in their mythology, the story of how the world came to be: The tale of Ymir, the first giant.
Erd, the little girl who is the human embodiment of the past, tells the tale of Ymir. The world in the beginning was nothing but a tree called Yggdrasil, carrying eight realms void of life. However, one day, Muspelheim, the burning realm of fire, had its flames and heat melt part of the cold ice of Niflheim, the frozen realm. From then on and from the depths of such molten ice, arose the first ever giant. He called himself Ymir. Ymir was hungry, and so he wished for food, despite the lack of life in the world. Unexpectedly, his wish came true, for a Cow appeared to him out of nowhere.
He named the cow Audumla, and proceeded to drink its milk and use it to make cheese, silencing both his hunger and thirst. In spite of such pleasing surprise, Ymir pondered over whether his dreams truly came true or whether it was a mere coincidence. Ymir’s confusion ended soon enough, though, as for as soon as the ghost of loneliness took over him, he kept dreaming in his sleep and wishing for other giant to accompany him in the big wide world. That is how more giants came to be, and for generations and generations, giants increased in number, and there was finally life in the realms.
Soon, there occurred the birth of a new race, a race smaller in size than the giants, the Aesir. The Aesir were introduced first by the ginger twins, Villi and Ve, followed by their younger sibling, Odin, the blue-eyed blonde kid. Odin was different, intelligent, yet full of arrogance and disdain towards the giants, especially Ymir. He despised Ymir for not crowning himself a king over everyone, since he was the first and largest giant, wielding the power to make his dreams come true. Odin despised the giants for their “barbaric” nature, and despised his brothers more for loving them.
Odin was smart; he convinced and led his brothers on the mission to slaughter Ymir as he sleeps, reasoning that the giants will eventually kill them Aesir born, for being less powerful than them. Ymir’s blood, when they slaughtered him, was so large in quantity that it flooded all of the realms, killing all life ever. Consequently, Villi and Ve regretted listening to Odin, and left him alone to fulfill his dreams of being king; “King of nothing” as they yelled at him bitterly.
Out of Ymir’s body, Odin made Midgard, which is Earth, using his magic. Odin corrected his mistake of perishing life later on, as requested- no, demanded by his brothers. And so, with the same magical powers he used to make Midgard out of Ymir’s remains, he gave life to two creatures: a boy named Ask and a girl named Embla, the first humans.
For the Vikings, the sun and the moon were the twins, Sol and Mani. The girl was Sol, the sun, with hair changing its colour continuously from golden to red, and the boy was Mani, the silver haired boy whose hair illuminated like a lamp. Sol and Mani disobeyed Odin, and as a punishment, they are now chased by two wolves, Skoll and Hati. Skoll and Hati would eventually devour them in Ragnarok (The world’s end), yet now, the chase maintains the timings of the day and night.
The wonders of Scandinavian mythology stops not there, not at all. Some readers may scoff at the absurdity of such tales, labeling them as mere fables, or even attacking them for being far from what the mind’s logic could accept. That is true but unfair, for they showed more complexities in their characters than one would imagine, complexities found in real humans’ characters which we see every day, despite them being imaginary tales. The arrogance and selfishness portrayed in Odin and his manipulation to Villi and Ve, who were blindly driven by fear, followed by a tremendous sense of regret. Odin’s evil, however, was met with another; the mischievousness of Lopt, who later called himself Loki, a dead giant who tricked Odin into taking him out of Hel, the land of the dead- such mischievousness originating from Loki’s hatred and the need for revenge. Capitalism was also portrayed in the superiority that was given to the Aesir and Vanir, those who look like Odin, to the giants and others who inhabit realms other than Asgard, where the Aesir and Vanir live. The Aesir and Vanir are all glorious and magnificient, but unfair and arrogant, and extreme sorrow engulfs their world one day, deservedly so. That miserable day for the Aesir and Vanir is Ragnarok, and we see them vulnerable and weak, a sight like no one in the realms had ever dreamt of witnessing.
A conclusion means not the end. You could read those tales for days and never tire of them, tales of the sun and the moon, of love, death, sorrow, adventure, conceit, selflessness and selfishness. Good and evil portrayed strategically and wonderfully, an art one cannot deny.