The apocalypse, or the end of the world, has been a concept of tremendous fascination across various cultures. In Norse mythology, this concept is embodied in Ragnarok. As we plunge into the epic depths of these ancient tales, we ask, “Who survives Ragnarok?”
What is Ragnarok?
Before we delve into the survivors of Ragnarok, it is essential to understand the event itself. Ragnarok, often translated as “Fate of the Gods,” represents the cataclysmic destruction of the cosmos and everything in it – even the gods. Norse myths describe a series of events leading to this final confrontation, including the death of the god Baldr, a three-year-long winter, and the breaking of the bonds that hold the monstrous wolf, Fenrir.
Can Anything Stop Ragnarok?
Ragnarok, the foretold apocalypse in Norse mythology, is an event deeply entrenched in the fabric of the cosmos. It’s a prophecy of a destined end, a cycle of destruction and renewal that even the gods cannot prevent.
The Norse gods are aware of the prophecy, thanks to the knowledge shared by the Norns, the fates, and the wisdom of Odin, who sacrificed an eye to gain knowledge of all things. They take measures to delay the onset of Ragnarok. For instance, they bind the monstrous wolf Fenrir and banish the serpent Jörmungandr to the sea. Yet, these efforts merely postpone the inevitable.
The tragic death of Baldr, despite Frigg’s attempt to protect him, marks the first sign of Ragnarok and signifies that the prophecy is unstoppable. Even when forewarned, the gods cannot alter their fates.
In this context, Ragnarok is not merely an end but also a necessary part of the cyclical process of destruction and creation. It’s a cosmic purge that resets the universe, paving the way for a new, peaceful world. Therefore, the question is not about stopping Ragnarok but understanding its inevitability and the role it plays in the grand scheme of Norse cosmology.
Who Dies in Ragnarok: Norse Mythology’s Doom
During Ragnarok, most of the gods meet their tragic end. Odin, the Allfather, is swallowed by Fenrir, while Thor, the god of thunder, kills the serpent Jörmungandr but succumbs to its poison. Freyr, deprived of his magical sword, is slain by the fire giant Surtr. Heimdall and Loki also kill each other, symbolizing the end of all conflicts.
Now, a pressing question often asked is: Does Tyr survive Ragnarok? Tyr, the god of War and Justice, known for his courage and sense of duty, is unfortunately not one of the survivors. He dies battling Garm, the hellhound.
Who Kills Everyone in Ragnarok?
In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is the final battle that results in the death of many gods and the destruction of the world. But who or what brings about this calamity?
The instigators of this cosmic upheaval are primarily the monstrous children of the trickster god Loki, along with the giants and the forces of chaos. The monstrous wolf Fenrir, Loki’s son, breaks free from his chains and devours Odin, the Allfather. Jörmungandr, the giant serpent, and another of Loki’s children confront Thor. Though the god of thunder manages to slay the serpent, he succumbs to its venom and dies after taking nine steps.
Another key figure in this cataclysm is Surtr, a fire giant from Muspelheim. Armed with a flaming sword that shines brighter than the sun, Surtr sets the world ablaze, contributing to its ultimate destruction. He also engages in combat with Freyr, the Vanir god associated with fertility, prosperity, and good weather, who meets his end at Surtr’s hand due to his lack of a proper weapon.
But it’s crucial to note that Ragnarok is not solely about destruction. While many gods perish, and the world as we know it ends, Ragnarok is part of a cycle. Out of the ashes of the old world, a new one is born, purer and more peaceful. It is a narrative of destruction and creation, endings and new beginnings.
What Gods Survive Ragnarok?
In the aftermath of Ragnarok, despite the overwhelming destruction, there are survivors, a beacon of hope, and the promise of a new beginning. The Prose Edda, an invaluable source of Norse mythology written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century, outlines who survives Ragnarok.
- Baldur and Hödr: These two gods, sons of Odin, are revived or return from the dead after Ragnarok. Baldur, the beloved god known for his fairness, beauty, and grace, was earlier killed unwittingly by his blind brother Hödr, who was tricked by the mischievous Loki. Their return marks the start of a renewed and purified world.
- Vidar and Váli: Vidar, the god of vengeance, and Váli, known for his marksmanship and survival in the wild, also survive. Using a special shoe, Vidar avenges his father, Odin, by killing Fenrir.
- Magni and Modi: Magni (Strength) and Modi (Courage), sons of Thor, survive Ragnarok, inheriting their father’s mighty hammer, Mjölnir. Their survival embodies the endurance of Thor’s might and spirit.
- Hoenir: The silent god Hoenir, who played a crucial role in the creation of humans, also survives. He might have a significant role in shaping the new world, just as he did in the beginning.
- Mímir: Although Mímir is beheaded during the Aesir-Vanir war, his head is preserved by Odin and given the ability to foretell the future. Mimir, thus, endures beyond Ragnarok as the repository of wisdom and knowledge.
Who Are the Two Humans to Survive Ragnarok?
Ragnarok, the apocalypse of Norse mythology, signifies not only the end but also the promise of a fresh beginning. Amidst the devastation, two humans, Lif and Lifthrasir, or ‘Life’ and ‘Life’s Yearning,’ manage to survive, ensuring the continuity of human life in the new world.
Lif and Lifthrasir are not as prominent in Norse mythology as the gods, yet their role is crucial. According to the Poetic Edda, they find refuge in Hodmimir’s Forest, sometimes associated with Yggdrasil, the world tree. There, they are protected from the cataclysmic events of Ragnarok. Hidden amidst the forest, they subsist on the morning dew, waiting for the world to be reborn.
In the post-Ragnarok world, Lif and Lifthrasir emerge from their sanctuary to find land purified by the apocalypse’s destruction. The new world, unspoiled and fertile, is a land of abundance where fields yield crops without sowing. These two humans become the progenitors of a new generation of mankind.
Their survival symbolizes the resilience of life and its tenacious spirit. No matter the scale of devastation, life persists and finds a way to renew itself. Lif and Lifthrasir are potent symbols of hope and regeneration, testifying to the enduring strength of human life even when faced with the end of the world. Through them, the human race gets a second chance, embodying the cyclic nature of life, death, and rebirth in Norse mythology.
Do Any Realms Survive Ragnarok?
In Norse mythology, the cosmos comprises Nine Realms interconnected by Yggdrasil, the World Tree. The prophecy of Ragnarok foretells a fiery cataclysm destined to engulf these realms, leading many to ask: Do any realms survive Ragnarok?
According to the primary sources of Norse mythology, the Prose and Poetic Eddas, Ragnarok’s destructive force is all-encompassing, affecting the entire cosmos. Yet, it’s not explicitly stated whether all Nine Realms are obliterated or if some endure this apocalypse. What’s clear is that the cataclysm radically alters the universe as known to the Norse gods and humanity.
After the fiery confrontation and subsequent deluge, the Prose Edda describes the emergence of a reborn world. From the sea arises a verdant land where unsown fields grow crops. Here, the surviving gods meet, and humanity is reborn from two survivors, Lif and Lifthrasir.
While the Eddas do not provide detailed accounts of the post-Ragnarok status of each realm, this new world appears reminiscent of Midgard, the realm of humanity. Also, the survival of several gods and the rebirth of others suggest the possibility of the realm of the gods, Asgard, being renewed rather than entirely destroyed.
The Eddas also mention Nastrond, a part of Hel’s realm. After Ragnarok, Nastrond remains a place of punishment for the wicked, indicating a part of Hel survives.
In the end, the accounts of a post-Ragnarok world suggest that while the Nine Realms undergo significant changes, they might not be entirely wiped out. Instead, they are perhaps reborn, altered, and renewed, in alignment with the central theme of cyclical destruction and creation inherent in the Ragnarok prophecy. Thus, while the Norse cosmos is irrevocably transformed, it endures, embodying resilience in the face of cataclysmic change.
Does Yggdrasil Survive Ragnarok?
Yggdrasil, the World Tree, plays a central role in Norse cosmology. It connects the Nine Realms and acts as a conduit for the spiritual journeys of gods and other beings. When Ragnarok, the apocalyptic event, unfolds, does Yggdrasil survive?
The Norse sagas, including the Poetic and Prose Eddas, do not explicitly state the fate of Yggdrasil during Ragnarok. The descriptions of the cataclysm emphasize the gods’ deaths and the cosmos’ profound transformation. However, they don’t confirm the World Tree’s destruction.
Interestingly, Yggdrasil appears to play a vital role in the world’s rebirth after Ragnarok. Lif and Lifthrasir, the two human survivors, find shelter within Hodmimir’s Forest, often interpreted as a part of Yggdrasil. Their survival implies that Yggdrasil, or at least a part of it, endures the apocalypse.
Therefore, while the sagas don’t provide a definitive answer, the role Yggdrasil plays in preserving life suggests it survives Ragnarok, at least in some form. This interpretation aligns with Yggdrasil’s symbolic significance as the axis mundi, or the universe’s center, embodying life’s resilience and continuity amidst cosmic upheaval. Therefore, Yggdrasil stands tall, even in the face of Ragnarok, bearing testament to the cyclical nature of destruction and creation in Norse mythology.
Who Wins Ragnarok?
In considering this question, one must first understand that the Nordic concept of Ragnarok is not a simple battle with winners and losers. It’s rather a cosmic cycle of death, destruction, and rebirth. Even the gods aren’t spared in this cyclical process, signaling a profound and universal change.
Most major Aesir gods, including Odin, Thor, and Freyr, fall during the apocalyptic events. The forces of chaos – the giants and monstrous beings like Fenrir and Jörmungandr – cause severe damage but ultimately fall as well. In this sense, it’s difficult to label any side as a clear ‘winner.’
Still, if victory is ascribed to those who endure or inherit the new world, the surviving gods and humanity can be seen as winners. Baldur, Hödr, Vidar, Váli, Magni, Modi, Hoenir, and Mímir, gods who survive or are reborn, gather in the idyllic fields of Idavoll. They reminisce about the old world and find joy in the game pieces of their fallen brethren, symbolizing a legacy that survives beyond Ragnarok.
Moreover, the two human survivors, Lif and Lifthrasir, emerge from their sanctuary in Hodmimir’s Forest to repopulate the earth. Their survival and their descendants signify the resilience and continuity of human life.
In the end, the victory in Ragnarok is the renewal of life itself. With its conflicts and sins, the old world is washed away, paving the way for a peaceful, harmonious world. Ragnarok represents a ‘win’ for the life cycle, reflecting the enduring Norse belief in the continuity of life, even in the face of overwhelming destruction.
The New Beginning: Post-Ragnarok World
The Prose Edda describes a new world rising from the ashes of the old, where the surviving gods meet at Idavoll, the field of eternal prosperity. Here, Baldur, Hödr, Vidar, Váli, Magni, Modi, Hoenir, and Mímir find the golden chess pieces used by the gods before Ragnarok, triggering memories of the old world.
Two humans, Lif and Lifthrasir (Life and Life’s Yearning), also survived by hiding in Hodmimir’s Forest (another name for Yggdrasil, the world tree). Their descendants repopulate the earth. The new world is a place of abundance, with fields that cultivate crops without needing to be sown.
Conclusion: Lessons from Ragnarok
Ragnarok is an apocalyptic event and a cycle of death and rebirth. Although most gods, including Tyr, meet their end, a handful survives, serving as the foundation for the new world. These survivors remind us of enduring values such as wisdom (Mímir), strength (Magni), courage (Modi), and justice (Vidar). Despite the harrowing trials, they signify hope and a chance for a new beginning.
The tale of Ragnarok and its survivors is a powerful allegory of resilience, renewal, and the perpetual rhythm of endings and beginnings that define our existence.