The Norse gods: who are they?

December 03, 2023 6 min read

Norse Gods Pantheon: who are they?

Exploring the Norse Gods

If you ask someone from Marvel about the list or number of gods and goddesses in Norse mythology, you'll likely hear only a few familiar names like Thor and Loki.

However, the Norse mythology pantheon is filled with many other deities. Let's explore the most famous, as well as some lesser-known ones. Ready for the discovery? Let's go!

 

The Legacy of the Norse Gods

The popularity of the Norse gods and goddesses didn't start in antiquity, but rather in the 19th century, when references to these myths began to appear in European literature, particularly in Scandinavia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. This trend extended to science fiction, fantasy, RPGs, Japanese animation, and Marvel comics and movies.

 

How Many Norse Gods Are There?

Their exact number is uncertain due to the oral transmission of myths, often in the form of poetry or Icelandic sagas. The main written sources are the Eddas and Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla, a 12th-century Icelandic historian, poet, and politician.

List of Norse gods

 The gods are divided into two tribes: the Æsir (Aesir deities), associated with chaos and war, and the Vanir (Vanes), linked to nature and fertility. The Jötnar (or Giants) are also an integral part of these stories.

Norse Gods Family Tree

Main Norse Gods

Ruler of Asgard, father of all gods, and a central figure in Norse mythology. Odin is known for his thirst for knowledge, including accepting personal sacrifices to gain wisdom. He is the god of war, but also of poetry and magic. Depicted as an old man with a beard, often with one eye (the other sacrificed for wisdom), Odin is accompanied by his ravens, Huginn and Muninn, and his wolves, Geri and Freki. He rides Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse, and wields the spear Gungnir.

Son of Odin, Thor is the god of thunder, famous for his immense strength and his hammer Mjölnir, a powerful weapon capable of summoning lightning and returning to his hand after being thrown. Thor is a protector of gods and humans against the forces of chaos, especially giants. He is often described as having red hair and a beard, and is known for his fiery temperament.

  • Frigg

Wife of Odin and queen of the Æsir, Frigg is associated with marriage, maternity, and domesticity. She is the mother of Baldr and possesses divination abilities, though she never reveals what she knows. Frigg is often depicted as a maternal and wise figure, wielding significant influence within Asgard.

  • Týr

God associated with war and justice, Týr is known for his bravery, especially in the myth where he sacrifices his hand to bind the wolf Fenrir. He is respected by the other gods for his bravery and commitment to order and justice.

Guardian of the gods, Heimdall watches over the rainbow bridge Bifröst, which connects Asgard to the world of humans. Endowed with extraordinary hearing and sight, he is tasked with warning the gods of the arrival of their enemies. Heimdallr is also associated with light and vigilance.

A complex and ambiguous figure in Norse mythology, Loki is known for his cunning and tricks. Although sometimes helpful to the gods, his pranks and deceptions often cause more problems than they solve. He is the father of several monstrous creatures, including the wolf Fenrir, the serpent Jörmungandr, and Hel, the goddess of the underworld.


Norse gods online shop

Baldr (or Baldur) is the god of light, beauty, and love, and is often described as the most beloved of the gods. His death, orchestrated by Loki and carried out by his blind brother Hodr, is one of the most tragic and significant events in Norse mythology, marking the beginning of the twilight of the gods.

  • Vidar

Son of Odin and the Jötunn Grid, Vidar is the second most powerful of the Æsir after Thor. He resides in his grand palace in Asgard, named Vidi. Despite his strength, Vidar is a peaceful god, preferring silence and the crafting of a special shoe. This shoe, made from the scraps of leather from the shoemakers of Midgard, plays a key role in avenging his father's death after Ragnarok. Vidar will kill the fearsome wolf Fenrir and survive Ragnarok to participate in the creation of the new world.

  • Vali

Young son of Odin and Grid, Vali is often associated with an archer, representing the strengthening sun rays at the end of winter. Specifically conceived to avenge Baldr's death, Vali accomplishes this mission by killing Hodr. He is also one of the survivors of Ragnarok. His name is pronounced like the English word "valley".

  • Bragi

The wise and learned bard of Valhalla, possibly a son of Odin, though original sources are unclear on this. He is considered the god of Poetry and Music, his name deriving from the word "Bragr," meaning poetry. Bragi is distinguished by his long beard and the runes engraved on his tongue. He is often described as being married to the goddess of youth, Idunn.

  • Idun

Goddess of youth, Idun is the dispenser of fruits that grant longevity to the gods. These fruits are often depicted as golden apples, though apples did not exist in Scandinavia at that time. The word "epli," now meaning apple, used to refer to fruits and nuts in general. Whatever their nature, these fruits have kept the gods alive for millions of years.

  • Njord

God of the Wind, Mariners, Coasts, Inland Waters, and Wealth, Njord is a member of the Vanir. After the war between the Vanir and the Æsir, he was sent to Asgard as a token of peace. Njord lives in a seaside house in Asgard, called Noatun. His children, Freyr and Freyja, were born from his sister Nerthus.

Children of Njord and Nerthus, Freyr and Freyja are also Vanir sent to the Æsir after the war between the two tribes. They are the gods of fertility, with Freyr often depicted with a large phallus and ruling over Alfheim, the realm of the Elves. Freyja, meanwhile, was accused by Loki of having relations with all the gods and elves. There are theories suggesting that Freyja and Frigg might be the same goddess.

  • Ullr (or Ull)

God of Winter, Hunting, Hand-to-Hand Combat, and the Willow, is the son of Sif and stepson of Thor. Married to Skadi, the goddess of Winter, he is an excellent archer and skier, using his shield as a modern snowboard. Today, he is considered the god of Skiing.

  • Forseti

Whose name means "President" in modern Icelandic, is the god of Justice and Law. A peaceful and meditative man, he presides over disputes among the gods and goddesses of Asgard. The son of Nanna and Baldr, Forseti lives in a house made of silver and gold named Glitnir, shining brightly from afar.

  • Hermod

Possibly a son of Odin, is the messenger of the gods and the fastest in Asgard. After the death of Baldr, he travels to Niflheimr on Sleipnir, Odin's steed, to negotiate his release with Hel. Hel agrees on the condition that all creatures mourn Baldr, but Þökk (probably Loki in disguise) refuses, thus sealing Baldr's fate.

Goddess of the Underworld, Hel is the daughter of Loki and Angrboda. Living in the dark roots of the world tree, she is described as greedy, capricious, and indifferent to the concerns of both the living and the dead. In an Icelandic saga, she is depicted as half blue and half flesh-colored, but some historians believe that Hel is not a person, but rather a place, meaning "grave."

In one of the Icelandic sagas, Hel is depicted in a gloomy manner, with half of her body painted blue and the other in natural flesh color. However, according to a historian, Hel is not so much an entity as a place. Apart from this specific saga, most mentions of Hel refer to a place where one is "in" rather than an entity with which one interacts. It is suggested by some that the term Hel could actually refer to a "grave."

 

And you, who is your favorite Norse god, and why?


To learn more

Read our detailed article on the subject NORSE MYTHOLOGY | THE ORIGIN OF THE MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF THE NORSE GODS


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