Out of Fire and Ice: The Norse Creation Story

In the beginning there was Múspell, the realm of fire, and Niflheim [niv-uhl-heym], the realm of ice. Between them there was nothing except a vast emptiness called the Ginnungagap [gin-oong-ga-gahp]. For many ages there was nothing else. But gradually, sparks began to fly out of Múspell while icy fogs billowed out of Niflheim. They met in the middle of Ginnungagap, which became as mild as a summer's day; the fog condensed into water-drops, and the drops were given life by the sparks.

Out of the mixture condensed Ymir [ee-mir], the first giant. As he slept, a male and a female giant grew under his armpits, and another one sprouted out of his foot. These strange children were the ancestors of all the giants, who are the terrible enemies of gods and men.

But the gods had a very different origin. Out of the fire and ice also came a giant cow named Audhumla [owd-hoom-la]. She was hungry, so she began to lick the salty ice flowing out of Niflheim. On the first day that she licked the ice, she uncovered a man's hair; on the next day, his head was visible; and on the third day, the whole man came free of the ice. His name was Búri, and he was the ancestor of all the gods. He married the daughter of a giant and had a son named Borr, who also married a giant's daughter. Borr's sons were Odin, Vili, and Vé, who would become the great gods of the Norse.

Even though the gods had married giant women, they were enemies with the giants from the beginning. They fought constantly, until one day Odin, Vili, and Vé finally killed Ymir. So much blood poured out of Ymir's wounds that all the giants were drowned--except for one, who climbed on a chest with his wife and floated to safely. In this way, the feud between the gods and giants continued.

Meanwhile, the three brothers dragged Ymir's body to the middle of the Ginnungagap and made it into the world we know. Ymir's flesh became the earth, his blood became the oceans, and his bones became the mountains. They made his skull into the sky; the stars they made with sparks from Niflheim, but they made the clouds out of Ymir's brains.

After Odin, Vili, and Vé had finished, they went walking along the sea-shore to look at the world they had made. Washed up on the shore were two tree-trunks. The three gods shaped the them into the forms of a man and woman. Odin gave them breath and life; Vili gave them thought and movement; and Vé made them able to speak, hear, and see. Then they gave them clothing and names: the man was called Ask and the woman was called Embla. From them are descended all the people of the world.

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