The story and Norse mythology are full of legends and fantastic tales that recount the exploits of heroes, sometimes elevated to the status of gods, who have shaped Scandinavian civilization. The influence of these mythical characters is such that it transcends eras. One of these legendary Viking heroes and gods is none other than the famous Heimdall, the guardian god of Asgard.
Even though he was considered a secondary Norse god, his importance and influence are nonetheless significant, and are attested by the majority of historians. Indeed, Heimdall plays a crucial role in the main legends of Viking mythology, and is seen multiple times protecting the Aesir gods from their mortal enemies!
A heroic god, noble, and faithful guardian and protector of the realm of Asgard, the god Heimdall is as intriguing as he is inspiring. In this article, we reveal the legend and story of Heimdall. Discover the origin of the god who will triumph over Loki during Ragnarök!
Heimdall, Father of Humanity, is the first and last bulwark of the universe against the forces of darkness trying to engulf the Norse universe. He is a mysterious god who is connected to Yggdrasil, the tree of life, from which he draws part of his magical powers.
Appointed by Odin as the guardian of the passage between worlds, the Bifröst, he watches over the balance of the nine realms. Heimdall is charged with the heavy task of protecting the sanctuary of the Aesir gods from any threat, but never forgets to keep a watchful eye on his children, the Vikings.
In addition to being an omniscient god, Heimdall will be decisive in many key events of Norse mythology. A pillar of the Scandinavian world and mortal enemy of the god Loki, you are about to learn the story of the god who shaped, in the shadows, or more precisely through his light, the Viking civilization.
The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson presents Heimdall as the son of the nine seas, or waves, daughters of Ægir. Ægir is a giant, ally of the Aesir gods, symbolizing the sea, over which he has reigned since time immemorial. He marries an Aesir goddess, or Rán, mistress of the ocean depths who retrieves drowned Vikings.
The virgins or maidens of the seas raise Heimdall alone. Historical sources do not mention his father, leading historians to assume that he is the son of Odin, most likely adopted, which partly explains his devotion and blind faith in the latter.
The name Heimdall, or Heimdallr in Old Norse, has many meanings in Viking mythology. In addition to having borne many other epithets throughout history, the main interpretation of the name Heimdall is "he who illuminates the world" or "pillar of the nine worlds."
Indeed, he is described as the god of the moon and light. Closely related to the beneficial fire, he is considered one of the pillars of the world, the pillar of the flames of life and illumination, who teaches men the Viking runes.
Furthermore, Heimdall has borne many other nicknames or kenning according to the legends in which he appears:
Many theories about the origin and meaning of this Scandinavian god have arisen from the various names he has borne throughout the stories.
The greatest Viking history books; including Snorri's Edda, The Poetic Edda, and Heimdallargaldr, all attest that Heimdall is the protector and guardian of Asgard, the realm of the Aesir gods.
He resides, almost the majority of the time, in his suspended castle: "Himinbjorg," which is located at the borders of Asgard. It is at this level that the bridge of the Bifröst, a magical rainbow, connects the realm of the gods to that of the Vikings.
The Bifröst, also known as Asbru, is a magical passage exclusively reserved for the gods of Asgard. Thus, it was under the constant surveillance of Heimdall, the only one able to open and close access to it. He is therefore the only deity, under the order of the god Odin, who granted the right to travel between Asgard and Midgard.
To this end, a blazing fire burned constantly to prevent giants from crossing it, and in some legends, it is represented by Heimdall himself. This is why one of the meanings of his name is "the god of fire and light," as he graciously assumes the role of "protective fire."
Heimdall watches over the Aesir gods and protects them in all circumstances against the ice giants; "the jötnar." To succeed in this mission, which no other can accomplish, he is endowed with powers deemed superior to those of Odin. He stands guard incessantly thanks to:
For this reason, Heimdall is considered a pillar god of the world, a sacred being who ensures balance and order in all things.
Yet, despite his power, Heimdall is not infallible. Knowledgeably, he keeps by his side a Lur; "the Gjallarhorn", in which he plans to blow to warn the Aesir gods and humans of the beginning of Ragnarök.
Many believe that the god Odin is the father and creator of man, but in reality this perception only covers part of the true Viking legend. It is true that according to Norse mythology, the god Odin, accompanied by his two brothers Vili and Vé, finds two dead tree trunks during a trip to Midgard. Out of kindness, Odin decides to breathe life into them and creates the first humans.
Nevertheless, although Odin is the creator of men, it is Heimdall who holds the title of father of humanity. Like "Janus," the Roman god who inspired the legend of Heimdall, he has the honor of being the god of the beginning and the end.
The Rígsthula, a poem from the Poetic Edda, tells how Heimdall became the father of Scandinavian society and how he established order within it. This is what earned him the title of god of the primal order and balance of things. Under the name of Ríg, which secondarily inspired this poem, he gives birth to the 3 social classes of Viking civilization during one of his visits to Midgard, the realm of men:
Thus, Heimdall becomes the father of all Vikings, and the god of order. He lays the foundations of Scandinavian society that will be applied for hundreds of years to come.
Heimdall is a character from Viking mythology that fascinates, both because of the mystery surrounding him and his inspiring personality. Devoted to his task, nothing can distract him from his primary goal: preserving order in the nine worlds.
The very first adaptation of this Viking god in modern culture dates back to 1962, appearing in issue #85 of the "Thor" comic book. A charismatic character in the Marvel universe, he played a key role in major events of the series.
More recently, he is portrayed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by the fascinating Idris Elba. He brings a whole new dimension to the character, earning acclaim from the general public.
Heimdall is the guardian of the universal balance, the fire that keeps the world in order. However, despite his immeasurable powers, he knows he is not infallible, and that a single mistake on his part could trigger the end of times.
Ragnarök begins when he blows his horn, or Lur "Gjallarhorn". This act, foretelling the end of the Viking universe, means that Heimdall fails in his task of guarding the Bifröst, and fails to protect Asgard. His inability to maintain order leads to an endless avalanche that plunges the pantheon of Norse deities into chaos. The ice giants will finally be able to cross this rainbow bridge, led by their chief, Loki; the god of mischief.
This fundamental opposition between the natures of Heimdall and Loki reflects the constant battle of the forces of light and darkness. Indeed, while Heimdall embodies order and balance, Loki symbolizes cunning, deceit, decadence, and destruction in all its aspects.
This explains why the fates of Heimdall and Loki are intimately intertwined. This deep antagonism, manifested both by their essence and their inclinations, means that they are destined to confront each other during this cataclysm, Ragnarök.
Wanting at all costs to redeem what will have been his greatest mistake, Heimdall will fight ardently against the Jötunn, which destines him to be the last to die during Ragnarök. At the moment he is about to kill Loki, Loki unfortunately strikes him a fatal blow.
In a final sacrifice, Heimdall tips the balance of Ragnarök in favor of the Aesir gods. His determination ends the war and allows order and light to triumph once again.
Through his devotion, Heimdall, protector of the realm of Asgard and all its inhabitants, allows the birth of a new world led by the children of Odin. He will have devoted himself to his task until his last breath!
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