You’re probably familiar with Thor and his mighty hammer—and if you’re a Marvel fan you might even know that the hammer is called Mjölnir. However, most of us would have a hard time recalling any other facts concerning Norse gods, well maybe with the exception of the name of Thor’s father, Odin. For example, did you know that Thor is actually a redhead, or that Odin formed the first humans out of wood? It’s true. So if you’re ready to learn some interesting facts about Norse gods, dive on into these 25 Facts About Norse Gods Hollywood Wont Teach You.
The first gods were the three brothers Odin, Vili, and Ve, who fought a war against a giant named Ymir and his sons. The gods won and killed Ymir, with whose body they created our world. His flesh was used for the ground, his bones were made into mountains, his blood into the oceans, the dome of his skull into the sky, and his brain became clouds.
The Norse gods used to belong to two separate pantheons: the Aesir and the Vanir. After the Aesir-Vanir War, they became one unified pantheon.
The Vanir gods were an old branch of gods who were known for being masters of sorcery and magic. They were also widely recognized for their talent to predict the future.
The Aesir were the male gods of Norse myth and they lived in Asgard with the female goddesses, the Asynjur.
One of Asgard’s most well-known locations is Valhöll (Valhalla), in which Odin rules.
The Norse pantheon is a colorful mix of gods and goddesses that is heavily inspired by Greek mythology. Just as in Greek myth, many of the gods and goddesses in Norse mythology were related to one another.
Odin formed the first humans, Ash and Embla, out of wood.
Unlike Egyptian and Greek mythology, both of which have male rulers of the underworld, the Norse underworld is ruled by the goddess Hel.
Vingolf is the name of the beautiful house the gods built for the Asynjur, the goddesses in Asgard.
There are nine worlds in Norse mythology. Each world is divided into three levels. The first level contains Asgard, the home of the gods, and the middle contains Midgard, the home of human beings. Midgard is connected to Asgard via Bifrost, “the Rainbow Bridge.
Niflheim, "Mist home," is the darkest and coldest region in the world and was supposed to be the first of the nine worlds. It is located in the north, and it was believed that under Niflheim was Helheim, home of the dead. On the other hand, Muspelheim was created far to the south of the world and is a burning-hot place, filled with lava, flames, and soot. Muspelheim was supposed to be the home of fire giants and demons and ruled by the giant Surt, a sworn enemy of the Aesir.
Valhalla was the hall where Odin housed the dead whom he considered worthy of dwelling with him. This was not a reward for moral behavior rather it was a reward for being a distinguished warrior. Odin collected these warriors with the purpose of having them come to his aid in his foretold struggle against the wolf Fenrir during Ragnarok.
Old Norse poems depict Valhalla as being thatched with shields and spears and guarded by wolves and eagles. It’s a place of perpetual fighting, presumably with the intention of sharpening the warriors’ skills for their battle against Fenrir.
Having sacrificed an eye to receive wisdom, Odin had no need to eat, as wine was both food and drink to him.
Odin’s throne, from which he supposedly could see into all the worlds, was called Hlidskialf.
Despite being known as Odin, the most significant god in Norse myth has many names (over twenty). Even the name Sweden comes from “Svidur,” one of Odin’s names.
Thor is one of the three main Norse gods and arguably the most popular among the younger generation thanks to Marvel Comics. The other two are Odin and Frey.
Freyr, also spelled Frey, is the ruler of peace, fertility, rain, and sunshine; and is the son of the sea god Njörd. Although originally one of the Vanir tribe, he is included among the Aesir and like we said he is considered the third most important god in Norse myth after Odin and Thor.
While Hollywood usually depicts Thor as a Scandinavian blond, legend states that the god of thunder was actually a redhead. He was the scourge of the giants—the strongest among the gods, and was never averse to bashing the odd giant all the way to Jotunheim with his trusted hammer Mjölnir.
Despite Odin being the “boss” in the Norse pantheon, Thor is considered the strongest of all gods.
However, not even the mighty Thor could handle the hammer barehanded! According to the mythos, Thor needed a pair of Iron gloves named Járngreipr to handle Mjölnir.
Many Vikings used to wear a small hammer around their neck for good luck. Also, when there was a feast they would give the sign of Thor over their food much as Christians do the sign of the cross in an act of prayer.
Our knowledge of Norse mythology is based mainly on documents written between the eleventh and eighteenth centuries, after the Norse officially became Christians.
Human sacrifices were not unknown among the Norse, as quite a few were made in honor of Odin. There are many accounts of even kings being sacrificed to Odin. Keep in mind that a sacrifice to Odin generally required a person to be pierced with a spear and then hanged.
St. Nicholas and Odin
Last but not least, did you know that Santa Claus is a blending of Odin and the Christian legend of Saint Nicholas? Back in the day, children in Northern Europe would leave their shoes, filled with carrots or other edibles, near the chimney for Odin’s horse Sleipnir to eat while resting from hunting. In exchange, Odin would leave gifts or candy.