Jõrmungandr: The World Serpent in Norse Mythology


     Jõrmungandr is, in Norse Mythology, the Serpent of the World. This serpent is also the biggest viper of all mythologies. Also, she is a mortal enemy of the Norse God of Thunder, Thor. Check out.

Jõrmungandr in Norse Mythology:

     Jörmungandr, in Norse Mythology, is a huge monster, also known as the Serpent of Midgard or Serpent of the World, is a sea serpent and the middle child of Loki - God of Mischief - and the giantess Angrboða.

     According to the Prose Edda, Odin took Loki's three sons by Angrboða - the wolf Fenrir, Hel, and Jörmungandr - and threw Jörmungandr into the great ocean that surrounds Midgard.

     The serpent grew so large that it was able to encircle the Earth and grab its own tail. It is an example of an ouroboros. Because he circled the Earth, he received the name Serpent of the World. Upon releasing the tail, Ragnarök will begin. Jörmungandr's archenemy is the god of thunder, Thor.

There are three preserved myths detailing Thor's encounters with Jörmungandr.

Raising the Cat:

     In one story, Thor encounters the giant king Útgarða-Loki and has to perform actions for him, one of which is a challenge to Thor's strength. Útgarða-Loki urges Thor to try to lift the World Serpent, disguised by magic as a huge cat. Thor grabs the cat by the waist, but manages to lift it just enough for one of its paws to come off the ground. Útgarða-Loki later explains his mistake and that Thor lifting the cat was an impressive feat, as he stretched the serpent so that it almost reached the sky.

     Many observers were scared when they saw a paw lift off the ground. If Thor had managed to lift the cat completely off the ground, he would have altered the boundaries of the universe.

Thor's Fishing:

     Jörmungandr and Thor are reunited when Thor goes fishing with the giant Hymir. When Hymir refuses to provide Thor with bait, Thor strikes the head of Hymir's largest ox to use it. They paddle to a spot where Hymir would often sit and catch flatfish and where he would draw two whales. Thor demands to go further out to sea and does so despite Hymir's protest. Thor then prepares a strong line and a large hook and bait it with the ox's head, which Jörmungandr, the world serpent, bites.

     Thor pulls the serpent out of the water, and the two face off, Jörmungandr breathing venom. Hymir turns pale with fear. As Thor takes his hammer to kill the serpent, the giant cuts the line, letting the serpent sink beneath the waves and return to its original position encircling the land. The Eddic poem Hymiskviða has a similar ending to the story, but in earlier Scandinavian versions of the myth in skaldic poetry, Thor successfully captures and kills the serpent by striking it on the head.

     Thor's fishing for Jörmungandr was one of the most popular motifs in Norse art. Four image stones believed to represent the myth are the Altuna Rune Stone and the Ardre VIII image stone in Sweden, the Hørdum stone in Denmark and a stone slab in Gosforth, Cumbria by the same sculptor as the Cross of Gosforth. Many of these depictions show the giant cutting the fishing line; on the Altuna stone, Thor is alone, implying that he successfully killed the serpent.

     The Ardre VIII stone may represent more than one stage of events: a man entering a house where there is an ox, two men leaving, one with something on his shoulder and two men using a spear to fish. The image of this stone dates from the 8th to the 10th century. If the stone is correctly interpreted as a representation of this myth, this would indicate that the story was preserved essentially unchanged for several centuries before the recording of the prose Edda version around the year 1220.


     As reported in Snorri's Gylfaginning based on the Eddic poem Völuspá, a sign of Ragnarök's arrival is the violent churning of the sea as Jörmungandr releases his tail from his mouth. The sea will flood and the serpent will struggle on the land. He will advance, spraying poison to fill the air and water, beside Fenrir, whose eyes and nostrils burn with fire and whose mouth touches earth and sky.

     They will join the sons of Muspell to face the gods on the plain of Vigrid. This is where the last encounter between the serpent and Thor is planned. He will eventually kill The World Serpent, but will drop dead after walking nine steps, having been poisoned by the serpent's deadly venom. Thor's final battle with Jörmungandr has been identified, with other scenes from Ragnarök, at the Cross of Gosforth.

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