A typical day of awesome smiting for resident god Thor.
"Hearing I ask | From the holy races From Heimdall's sons | both high and low; Thou wilt, Valfather | that well I relate Old tales I remember | of men long ago."
—The Voluspa, Stanza 1
The Norse Mythology is a collection of stories derived from Germanic roots, following the lives of the Norse gods — the Ćsir and the Vanir — and the men whose lives they directly affected. At its height, the mythology covered most of northern Europe, much of modern Germany and Austria, and parts of the British Isles; it lasted longest in Scandinavia and Iceland, however, which produced most of its surviving texts. It is a branch of the Proto-Indo-European mythological tradition, which also spawned the Celtic, Greek, and Vedic pantheons; it's distinguished from those myths, however, by the fact that its gods are not only fallible, but also all mortal. They could, and did, die. Like most traditional polytheistic systems, it has no set canon and in some ways resembles a body of customary beliefs more than a set religion. It has been speculated that only chieftains and other wealthy people held faith in the Ćsir, while the common farmers believed in land-spirits such as trolls and giants.
Many texts describing Norse beliefs have come down to us, but, aside from a few runic inscriptions and similar fragments, all were written hundreds of years after the turn to Christianity. Consequently it's nearly impossible to tell which stories are Hijacked by Jesus, or how much they are, although academic theories abound. Even ignoring this, another problem arises: since Norse myth has no definitive canon, the myths differ considerably from place to place, according to the time they were written and the purpose they were written for.
For most researchers the main source of canon is the Poetic Edda, also known as the Elder Edda or Codex Regius (as it was originally known). This is a collection of both mythological and heroic poems; the most famous, the Völuspá, relates the past creation of the world, the future death of the gods and burning of the world, and the beginning of the world to come. Others give pithy advice (Hávamál) or contain legends of the Ćsir and the Vanir, while even more tell us about the heroic deeds of human beings. Perhaps the most important hero is Sigurd Fafnesbane, a man cognate to the Siegfried of German legend. The oldest surviving copy of the Elder Edda was made in the late 13th century, though many of its poems are much older than that; though how much is often quite unknown.
A secondary source of canon is the Prose Edda (a.k.a. Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or just plain Edda), a book that was written by the Icelandic historian and politician Snorri Sturluson sometime around 1225 CE. It's difficult to accurately summarize his book; it's believed to have begun as a simple collection of skaldic poetry, but as Snorri wrote, he's thought to have realized that most of his audience would miss many important mythological allusions. Drawing upon his vast knowledge of Norse mythology, therefore, he devoted half his book to retelling the myths in an educational manner, sourcing both older sagas and the Poetic Edda. It's likely that Snorri didn't intend this mythological content to be taken at face value: the prologue and the end of the first section explicitly state that the work covers ancient, mythologized kings and heroes rather than true divinities. In fact, Snorri's not-at-all mythological book Heimskringla (which retells stories of the Norwegian kings) contains a similar prologue, and it even mentions the events of the Prose Edda in passing.
Various other sources exist, including The Icelandic Sagas and Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum, a Danish work of history compiled in the late 12th century. All are, for one reason or another, generally considered less authoritative than the Eddas. The works of the Roman ethnographer Tacitus touch on an earlier form of Norse myth, similar in many ways but dating to the first century CE. The current versions we have, however, are Older Than Print.
It's important to note that the Norse gods are usually considered to be derived from the same ancestral Indo-European mythology as Classical, Celtic, and Hindu Mythology. The mythology of Zoroastrianism is also similar, although with a henotheistic structure imposed on it.
Incidentally, we still honor some of the Norse deities on a regular basis (though we use the Anglo-Saxon versions of their names): Sunna's Day; Máni/Moni's Day; Tyr's, or Tiw's, day; Odin's, or Woden's, day; Thor's, or Thurs's, day; and Frigg's day.note In case you don't get it, these days are known also as Sunday, Sunna being the sun; Monday, Máni being the moon; Tuesday; Wednesday; Thursday; and Friday - followed by Saturn's day Each occurs once a week in cultures that use the Germanic root names.
Norse Mythology survives to this day as the basis for Heathen, Ásatrú, and Theodish (etc.) mythology. In Scandinavia, the conversion from this faith to Christianity never fully replaced belief in Norse God/desses. Sources from the 17th century suggest that Odin was still believed to be a protector of horses. In the 1950s, studies showed that some people in Sweden still believed in Norse Mythology, though they did not worship the God/desses. Modern day Scandinavians and Icelanders that worship the Norse God/desses are called "new heathens" and refer to their faith as "the Old Creed" and the deities as "the Old Gods."
By the way, note that this page is called Norse Mythology, not Viking Mythology. Originally, the word "viking" meant the act of faring overseas and the sailor participating, while in English it denotes a profession meaning something like "pirate." Only a minority of Norsemen were Vikings.
Works that are part of Norse mythology on the wiki:
Götterdämmerung Sort of — the original word, "Ragnarök", means "fate of the gods", but Richard Wagner relied on an old world play; ragnarökkr which means "Twilight of the Gods", and thus created the title of the finale of his opera tetralogy The Ring of the Nibelung.
Hammer Space Thor could shrink his hammer to incredibly small sizes, seemingly being able to pull his hammer out of nowhere.
Hell Named after Hel. This word was applied both to the Germanic underworld and to the goddess who ruled over it. The Anglo-Saxons used the name for the Christian underworld.
A disproportionate amount of modern works depict Thor as having blond flowing hair, most famously Marvel Comics' The Mighty Thor. Traditionally, he's depicted as red-headed and -bearded, reflected in the pic for this page. (Though some older writings do depict Thor as fair-haired and red-beardednote which is actually fairly common among Scandinavians.)
The 2011 movie Thor at least gives him the beard back. Ultimate Thor also has the beard, despite still being blond.
The Ageless: The Aesir and Vanir are immortal in this way so long as they continue to eat the Golden Apples of Idunn. When the Goddess and her apples were abducted by the Jotunn giant Thjazi, all the Gods aged rapidly... except for Loki, who was forced to go and steal the Goddess and her apples back.
Was Loki imprisoned for killing Baldur, or was he imprisoned for calling the gods out on crap they were actually guilty of? Depends on which story you read.
In the Gesta Danorum, Baldur and Höder weren't brothers, but romantic rivals. Baldur was a god and Höder human. After Höder beat Baldur in fair combat for the hand of Nanna, Baldur declared that it wasn't fair because he was a god. So in order to keep his bride, Höder had to travel to the underworld to fetch the sword Mistilteinn (Mistletoe), which he used to kill Baldur off for good.
Always Chaotic Evil: Averted. While many of the giants are a source of trouble for the Aesir, many of the Aesir are married to giants or have giants as lovers, and all nine of Heimdallr's mothers (he has no father) are giants, which means that Heimdallr is a giant. Thor himself is half-giant on his mother's side (Jord). Then there's Loki, who is more Chaotic Neutral.
Always Need What You Gave Up: Loki hands Idunn and her golden apples over to a giant to save his own life, forgetting that these apples not only keep him immortal, but are very important to the violent, short-tempered battle gods he lives with. Woopsie-doodle.
Thor and Jormungand. First, Thor was tricked to lift it in the disguise of giant cat by Utgard-Loki. Thor later caught it while fishing, but Hymir cut his string. Then they are destined to kill each other in Ragnarök.
Loki and Heimdall. The very first story they costarred in set them against each other. Like Thor and Jormungand, they are also destined to kill each other in Ragnarök.
Tyr and Fenrir, the wolf that bit off his hand.
Many adaptations (probably thanks to Marvel) tend to set up Thor and Loki as arch-enemies. While they butted heads once in a while (Sif's hair was certainly a Berserk Button for Thor), they were more friends than enemies, and often traveled together.
In the incident where Thor and his companions are tricked by the giant Utgard-Loki into competing in rigged contests of strength, one of those companions, Thjalfi is a seemingly normal human who does fairly well in a race against a thought from Utgard's mind. Thjalfi also killed a clay giantnine leagues wide across the chest in single combat, and easily at that.
Höder in the Gesta Danorum. A human in love with Nanna, he defeated Baldur for her hand.
Bishie Sparkle: Balder is described "as being so fair of face that a beam of light emanates from him".
"Blind Idiot" Translation: Arguably the common choice of translating the Jotuns as giants. The intention was probably to create a parallel to the Greek Gigas as both are races of beings that predates the gods, but to most readers the association probably goes to a different type of giant. While some of the Jotun were giants* Norse: Risar (sing.), Risi (plur.) this is because all of them were naturally shape-shifters and could be any size they wanted. Most of them, like Loki, where the same size as the Gods. Similar is the rarer choice to call them trolls. While it is possible that Jotuns may have been part of the inspiration for the later troll-folklore they are by no means the same thing.
Völund (or Wayland) the Smith is portrayed as more a force of nature than as a man. Consequently, he's less judged for his Roaring Rampage of Revenge than a normal man would be. Also, this was back when killing a man's young sons and raping his daughter was less forbidden than it is now.
Norse mythology in general. Many modern audiences mistake the conflicts as being about good vs. evil, when in fact it's more about order vs. chaos. They're not the same thing, and if you conflate the two, you'll come away with the wrong idea.
Evil isn't even considered a problem, unless you're really horrible. It's more about whether you're honorable. And species that are instinctively evil? They don't get punished because they can't help it.
Bride and Switch: The below-mentioned wedding caper with Thor in drag as the false bride.
Brother-Sister Incest: The main difference between Aesir and Vanir appears to be this. Freyr and Freyja are widely held to be the product of a union between Njord and his unnamed sister. The Lokasenna also accuses Freyr and Freyja of having been caught in flagrante at some point.
Not quite straight, but Höder does unwittingly kill his brother Baldur. He's killed for it. In older versions of the myth, Baldur and Höder have an actual rivalry, and so this trope is played a bit straighter.
Thor and Loki become this in Christian retellings of Norse myths (while Loki was Odin's brother in the original myths) as well as in Marvel Comics.
Canis Major: You can't make a wolf much bigger or meaner than Fenrir. He is destined to kill Odin. Meanwhile, Fenrir's two sons — Skoll and Hati — are trying to eat the sun and the moon* (Come Ragnarök, they succeed.). With his mouth wide open, Fenrir's top jaw touches the sky while the bottom jaw scrapes against the ground.
Chekhov's Gun: Frey gives his sword to Skirnir so he could help him win Gerd's heart. It isn't until Ragnarök that this event has a huge impact — Frey fails to stop Surt since he is without weapon, allowing Surt to burn the world. Some translations even imply that it's Frey's own sword that Surt uses to accomplish this.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Loki's first wife Glöd (Glow), and their daughters Eisa (Embers) and Einmyria (Ashes). It is theorized that their absence may be do to really being daughters of Logi, who is often confused with Loki. The Saga of Thorstein Víking's son names them as Logi's children and has little to do with the Aesir. Also, Thjalfi's sister is rarely mentioned.
Clever Crows: Ravens served as Odin's lookouts/messengers (and in some depictions, the Valkyries rode them to collect the dead).
In addition to their love of Volleying Insults, torturing Baldur was apparently a favorite pastime of the Asgardians. What's the point of having someone Nigh Invulnerable around if you don't throw heavy objects at him? In fairness, he was completely immune to everything they threw... except for mistletoe, which was eventually used to kill him.
The Aesir also enjoy screwing over dwarves. One such instance created cursed treasure; another, a pile of headless little bodies. It's even said that Thor kicked a dwarf into Baldur's funeral pyre. No wonder Alberich was such a prick to the gods.
And whenever the gods need to put the blame on someone, they grab Loki and threaten him with torture and death if he doesn't put the situation right. Granted, often Loki was responsible for or at least involved in the thing that went awry in the first place, but still...
Sleipnir's father Svadilfari, who is so talented he can build walls.
Cool Sword: Tyrfing ("finger of Tyr"), which never missed a strike and could cut through metal and stone as if through cloth. Extremely useful for cutting down entire armies of Huns. Unfortunately, also a death sentence for anyone standing nearby whenever it was drawn. Not always healthy for its wielders either.
To be fair, Hel was not a place of suffering but of shadows, and is rather peaceful... That is, unless you had committed crimes and did wrongs that would have earned you Hel's wrath, and you would be punished. Also, if you study the story closely, you realise that Vallhala isn't a eternal paradise of joyful violence; the Gods are simply recruiting an army for Ragnarök.
The giantesses are hot enough that gods married them on a regular basis. Frey's wife Gerd was even said to be the most beautiful woman in the world, which makes her more beautiful than Freya, who's already extremely beautiful. But the male giants are described as pretty fugly. Half-giant Loki is an exception, being extremely good-looking (though he is a shape shifter); on the other hand, his children with a giantess are horrible monsters.
In some adaptations or retellings, Hel is quite attractive. In others, she's a rotted corpse. Sometimes she's half and half, either top and bottom or split right down the middle.
Heimdallr's parents (all nine of them) are giantesses, which means that Heimdallr is a giant, and there's no indication that he's ugly. Considering that so many giants turn out not to be ugly, it almost comes off as their alleged ugliness being more trash-talking than truth.
Dark Is Not Evil: The dark elves/dwarves originally weren't necessarily all evil, and Hel herself was neutral if not outright good. Hijacking took place, however.
Freyr fell in love with Gerd, a giantess. He eventually managed to melt her heart, albeit with the help of a lackey threatening her with a magic sword.
In another instance, the frosty giantess Skadi demanded reparations of the Aesir for the murder of her father, asking for his eyes made stars in the heavens, a godly husband for herself, and asked that the gods make her laugh. Only Loki had the keen sense of humor to achieve that last one, resulting in a temporarily melted literally-minded giantess.
Demonic Invaders: Not "demons", but several groups can be substituted well enough. From Jotunheim come giants, who are always looking to invade Asgard and Midgard, and from Ironwood come trolls, who are looking to invade Midgard and apparently, Jotunheim as well as giant wolves. Also, the fire giants from Muspelheim, who will arrive after two of those wolves eat the sun and moon and kick off Ragnarök.
Diabolus Ex Nihilo: Surt, the being who will eventually destroy the universe, is never mentioned outside the universe-destroying context, except for some versions which state he had a role in creating the universe.
Disabled Deity: Both Odin and Tyr are missing body parts (an eye and a hand, respectively).
Dragon Hoard: Dragons appear frequently as treasure guardians, which is why Old Norse poetry uses "dragon's bed" (dreka beđr) as one of its numerous poetical paraphrases for "gold". The backstory of how dragon and hoard came together can vary, but an idea often encountered is that dragons are former human(oid)s that have permanently changed into dragons so they can guard their riches more effectively.
Nidhoggr, a serpent-like dragon that chews on roots of Yggdrasil and human corpses.
Ymir the primeval giant. The world is made from his corpse.
Elemental Embodiment: (Arguably) the jotnar. Just for a few examples, there is an entire class of giants (among them Surtr, Loge and Eldr) that are associated with fire, Laufey with trees, Farbauti with lightning, Jord and Gerd with earth, and Skadi with cold mountain streams.
Elemental Plane: Most of the Nine Realms can be seen as one of these, though their elemental connotations are believed by to be metaphors for the human psyche as they seem to fit planes of the psyche in other religions.
The realms that can be attributed to be elemental planes are Alfheim, home of the Light Alfs; Svartalfheim, home of the Dark Alfs; Muspellheim, home of the Fire Giants; Niflheim, home of the Ice Giants; Vanaheim, home of the Vana Gods (typically seen as marshes or wetlands); and Jotunheim, home of etins (very mountainous).
Elemental Powers: Associated with the rune system. It's more complicated than what most consider to be "the standard four," as each rune in the Elder Futhark can be interpreted to be a building block of The World Tree* the runes we know of are only one set - the set given to human beings - so even comprehending every aspect of the Elder Futhark will not explain everything.
Some runes are attributed to ice, such as Hagalaz or Isa, but even then they are not specifically An Ice Person* Hagalaz is also called the weather event "hail", but is attributed to cycles of destruction and rebuilding, while Isa is also called "ice" and is attributed to barriers between mankind and nature. Others are attributed to water, such as Laguz, but it still is not Making a Splash* again, it is called "lagoon" but is attributed to more than the classical element of "water". This is explicitly seen when one looks at Eihwaz, which could mean "tree" or "plane of existence" or even "travel (between planes of existence)."
Endless Winter: The Fimbulvetr or Fimbulwinter is an especially harsh winter that lasts trice as long as usual and signifies the beginning of Ragnarök.
The End of the World as We Know It: Oh, yeah. Big time. Ragnarök (literally meaning "The Final Fate of the Gods," but famously mistranslated as "The Twilight of the Gods" (Ragnarokkr) by Richard Wagner). When it happens, war and chaos engulf the entire world, a winter three years long will be so cold that life will cease to exist, the sun and the moon will be devoured by wolves, Fenrir the Wolf and Jormugandr the World Serpent will be unleashed, the army of the Underworld will stream forth, all chaotic beings will engage in an epic battle with the gods and the warriors of Valhalla, everyone dies while the fire giant Surt engulfs the world in flames, the burning world will be buried by water, and everything will collapse into Yggdrasil.
Originally, Ragnarök is simply the end of an age and a symbol of the cyclical worldview of germanic paganism much like the giants were leftovers from the age of Ymir. The younger Gods would take upon the roles of their fathers and mothers. Nidhögg whould still be alive, meaning that evil will never vanish. It is belived that the return of Balder and the mighty one that rules over all mentioned in the Eddas is a late addition an an expy for the christian God and Jesus. However, some believe based on phrasings earlier in the text that the mighty is in fact Odin rising from the dead.
Exact Words: In one story, Loki makes a bet with some dwarves and offers them his head as a wager — an expression for "my head's weight in gold" — as his part of the bargain. When they win and claim his actual head, he argues that since they can't take that without also cutting his neck, the deal is void. The dwarves content themselves with sewing his lips together, earning him the nickname Scarlip, and the scars remain in his various forms.
Exactly What It Says Onthe Tin: Many magical items have names that are literally descriptions; for example, Thor's magical, strength-doubling belt is literally named "Power Belt" in Old Norse.
Excrement Statement: Loki claims Njord was captured by Hymir and then received by way of his daughters.
Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Elves, dwarves, giants, deities, dragons — it's got all of them. It's no wonder Tolkien developed such an exhausting series of works out of inspiration from this mythology. Many Western fantasies incorporate elements from Tolkien's works unknowingly using aspects of this mythology.
Fate Worse than Death: The gods can't kill Loki for what he did to Baldur on account of him being blood-brother to Odin. Thus, they instead bind him in chains made from the entrails of his son, whom they murdered, and allow a snake to drip venom on his face for eternity. Loki's loyal wife Sigyn collects the venom in a bowl most of the time, but she eventually has to empty it, allowing the venom to drip and causing him excruciating pain. His thrashing around caused earthquakes.
Fiery Redhead: Thor (despite his Marvel Comics incarnation being blond) is commonly described as having flaming red hair and beard and a temper to match.
Fingore: According to the legends, the nails of the dead were forcibly pulled off so they wouldn't be used for building material for the Naglfar. Yes, the Naglfar is a boat made of the nails of the dead. One added legend states that if you cut your nails, they go to Naglfar, so to keep Ragnarök from happening, you should only file your nails, because Ragnarök cant happen before Naglfar is completed.
Friendly War: This is one of the appeals of Valhalla: Party all night, fight all day. Casualties don't matter, they're only temporary. Well, until Ragnarök, anyway.
From Bad to Worse: There will be war, winter, and incest, life as we know it will end on Midgard. Then comes Ragnarök, just because there was not enough misfortune for life as we don't know it and the other eight worlds.
Full Boar Action: Hildesvini, the Battle Swine. Freya's personal mount whenever she was not using her cat-drawn chariot.
Gaia's Vengeance: When you consider that the jotnar are nature personified, Ragnarök is basically this.
Gate Guardian: Garm was a bloodstained watchdog that guarded the gates of Hel (the Norse land of the dead).
Glamour Failure: According to some stories, even though he could change shape, Odin was always one-eyed in every form.
Götterdämmerung: Interestingly enough, civilization reaches its height after the fall. It's the Trope Namer, as the above mentioned mistranslation of Wagner "Twilight of the Gods" is Götterdämmerung in German.
Groin Attack: Loki does this to himself when he's faced with the seemingly-impossible task of making Skadi laugh. He ties a rope to his own testicles, then ties the other end to the beard of a goat. Hilarity Ensues.
He Who Must Not Be Named: Once Ragnarök is over, the world will be renewed and taken over by a new deity known as "The One". No one knows his/her name, because he/she will only reveal himself at the end of days.
Thor and Loki, at least in some stories. In others, not so much.
Odin and Loki, who are blood brothers.
Hijacked by Jesus: It's impossible to tell which myths are hijacked and which are not, since all of them were written down more than 200 years after the turn to Christianity. Even the Poetic Edda is not immune, since the oral stories the book was based on had 200 years to adapt some Christian ideas and values.
Baldur may or may not be treated as a Christ figure. A better world emerges following the chaos immediately after his death. But that may also represent the old Norse people's wish of having their genes survive into the following generations, just as Baldur's rebirth ensured that Odin's, and the Aesir's, genes lived into the new world.
The story of Loki getting Baldur killed is Hijacked by Jesus. Originally (as shown in Poetic Edda), it was only hinted (in an insult of Frigg by Loki himself) that Loki was guilty. It was only when he gravely insulted every single one of the gods that they tied him down and fed him poison. The two stories were then merged and expanded by Snorri Sturluson to make Loki look like a Satan figure.
The myth of Freya's acquisition of the Necklace of the Brisings is recorded only in a Christianized version.
There's also The History of the Danes, which was commissioned of Saxo Grammaticus, stories that depicted the gods merely as cunning wizards who tricked people into thinking they were gods. They were still pretty badass in it, though.
Hel was hijacked by Satan, twice. Originally, Hel's hall in Helheim was not so bad, since most people would end up there anyway. It was not until Valhalla was merged with the Christian Heaven that Hel became, well, Hell. Also, the fire giant Surt conquered Hel during Ragnarök.
Hel herself changes, too. In post-Christianity versions, she becomes a cruel, corpse-like monster, but in older sources, she is described as half pale, half corpse black symbolizing the duality of life and death. She takes care of the souls of sick and aged and treats everyone well. Unless you were a murderer of innocents and such then you would be sent to Nástrand. But that part may also be a Christian addition.
Like Hel, Loki gets associated with Satan. In some myths, he's a contriver of trouble, a trickster, and a total jerkass, but still not all that bad of a guy as he saves the day a few times and once in a great while goes out of his way to be nice. In later, post-Christian stories, he's Handwaved as the cause of anything wicked, with no explanation as to why or how he'd managed it, and then he's the cause of the end of the world.
Some of the myths also speak of Odin sometimes appearing as three beings, which may be an idea influenced or inspired by the Christian Trinity.
There's some evidence that even the entire concept of Ragnarök was an introduction by Christians attempting to promote their own faith over the pagan traditions. Basically saying, "See? Your gods have all died, so you should follow our God and Jesus now." Of course given it was a foretold future event and many gods would survive or revive it was not an effective promotion if it was at all.
Sleipnir is the biological child of Loki and a stallion called Svadilfari. Loki was shapeshifted into the form of a mare (a female horse) at the time. A mare who happened to be in heat, to lure away the stallion. However, getting pregnant had not been part of Loki's plans, and it owned him the nickname of "horse-mother".
The unspecified number of children Odin and Njorth accuse Loki of bearing in the Lokasenna.
Honor Before Reason: When Loki saves Asgard (and the entire world) from the schemes of a giant trying to get his hands on Freya, the sun, and the moon, everyone except Thor rejoices - Thor's too busy being angry over the fact that they broke a vow.
Inverted: The giants stole the hammer Mjölnir to try to get Freya. It didn't work out too well. (See Disguised in Drag.)
This one happened to Loki a lot, even at the hands of other gods, and caused - among other things, the cursing of Andvaranaut, the creation of Thor's hammer, and later on its theft. Thor even did it to Loki over a cute little prank Loki pulled on Thor's wife.
Jerkass Gods: Not quite to the level of the Greek pantheon, though. But they sure aren't far behind.
Karma Houdini: Nidhoggr is an evil dragon who gnaws the roots of the cosmic tree Yggdrasil, trying to kill it and threatening the whole of existance. According to some sources, he will be one of the few nasty monsters to survive Ragnarök, and will continue to chow down on the corpses of evildoers in Nastrond.
Karmic Transformation: Fafnir, son of Hreidmar, was affected by the curse laid upon his father's ring and treasure hoard. Consumed by greed, he murdered his father and ran away with the lot, denying his brother Regin the portion of the hoard promised to him. As Fafnir lay on his ill-gotten treasure, the selfishness and villainy in his soul caused him to metamorphose into a loathsome wingless dragon. He had become a monster — and was eventually slain like one by his nephew Sigurd on a vengeful Regin's instigation. Some variants of the legend say that Fafnir was transformed by the 'Oegishjalmr,' a helmet that is basically a transformation-ray. Said helmet was part of Hreidmar's hoard.
Kick the Dog: Loki killing Balder with mistletoe and then refusing to cry so he can't be brought back to life. One could argue the mistletoe thing was more of a prank but when he refuses to cry he crosses the Moral Event Horizon
Light Is Not Good: The light elves could be quite unpleasant. Loki himself, besides being portrayed as an attractive young man, also became associated with fire as he was mixed with Logi, an actual god of fire. Also, Freya was a beautiful goddess not only associated with love and jewelry but also bloodlust and indeed was quite unpleasant in most myths she appeared. Even her twin brother, Freyr, resided over the light elves and was a deity of rain, fertility, and war. Meanwhile, the idea that Balder, the shining god, was good seems to be exclusive to myths Hijacked by Jesus.
Lost Woods: Norse heroic legend has "Myrkviđr inn ókunna", "the unknown Mirkwood", a vast and little explored forest located in Eastern or Central Europe. The Eddas also makes mention of a certain Járnviđr or "Iron-wood", a forest inhabited by giantesses and giant wolves, somewhere "in the East".
Meaningful Name: About every name in Norse Mythology has a meaning. Thor means "Thunder"; he IS the thunder itself. Odin means "the furious one"; he IS fury. Freyr means "lord" and Freyja "lady". Hřnr means "the high one", Frigg "beloved", Ymir "scream" and Sunna & Máni means "sun and moon".
The Multiverse - the Nine Worlds, on three levels linked by Yggdrasil: Asgard, Vanaheim, and Alfheim; Jotunheim, Midgard, and Nidavellir/Svartalfheim; Helheim, Muspellheim and Niflheim.
Note that the above list of worlds is artificial. The nine worlds are never specified in the Norse myths themselves and this list was produced by Victorian scholars based on places and races mentioned in the texts and has since become standard through Memetic Mutation. Unfortunately, his list creates some Continuity Snarl as the myths imply that Hel* The proper name of Helheim. "Helheim" was constructed to better fit with the naming scheme of the rest of the worlds. is a place in Niflheim. Some scholars have tried to fix this by removing Hel from the list and putting Glađsheim in it's place. This however just creates a similar problem as Glađsheim is often implied to be in Asgard.
And as Snorre states that Odin gave Hel power over Nine Worlds, one can assume there are even more worlds.
Nine Beings, One Body: Modern artists usually portray the nine mothers merging into a creature with nine heads in order to give birth to Heimdall.
No Man of Woman Born: Although Baldur's death was foretold, he was given temporary Nigh-Invulnerability by having his mother asking all objects of the earth to swear not to harm her son, thereby allowing the gods to engage in some Comedic Sociopathy by throwing axes and other weapons at Baldur. Unfortunately, the plant mistle was ignored (it wasn't old or important enough), allowing a disguised Loki to have Baldur killed via a mistletoe dart given to Baldur's blind brother.
Noodle Incident: In the Lokasenna, Odin says Loki went around disguised as a milkmaid for awhile, and according to both Odin and Njorth, he's given birth to multiple children. It doesn't get any more elaborate than that.
Not Me This Time: Loki is the usual suspect when things go wrong in Asgard. Sometimes he isn't responsible, but the other gods tend to assign him the job of solving the problem anyway.
The Old Gods: The Jotnar, the Vanir and Alfar to some extent.
Our Dragons Are Different: The giant serpent Jormungand encircles the world, and is the son of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. The dragon Fafnir was once human, but was transformed by his ruthless greed.
One Steve Limit: Averted with Loki and Utgarda-Loki, and with Vali (Loki's son by Sigyn) and Vali (Odin's son by Rindr).
There's also the Norn/Valkyrie Skuld and the half-elven princess Skuld. This page suggests that Loki's wife Glut was a descendant of Logi and his wife of the same name, and that they named their daughters after the daughters of Logi and Glut.
Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Here's where it all started, though in the earlier depictions, dwarves were quite different than how they are today.
There are some scholars who suggest the svartálfr (black elves) and the dökkálfr (dark elves) may not be the same thing as they could come from different places in the nine worlds, depending on which places are counted as worlds. Those who think they are different will be divided on which group should be regarded as dwarves, all depending on which tale they happen to like the best(find more credible).
Our Giants Are Bigger: The jotnar, perennial foes of the gods and one of the ur-examples. Their sizes varied considerably, however (though the entire world, Midgard, was made from the body of the dead giant Ymir).
Size was not the only thing that varied. Sometimes the giants (at least the male ones) were hideous, sometimes the implication was that the giant(s) in the story looked about as human as the gods, sometimes the giants and the gods were constant, general enemies, and sometimes the gods had peaceably relations with some of the giants that hadn't managed to become an Asar or Vanir by marriage or adoption...
Jormungand, a snake so long it formed an Ouroboros by stretching around the world and touching its tail.
Pet the Dog: In "Loka Táttur," after Odin and Hönir fail to answer the prayers of a farmer to keep his child hidden from a bad-ass troll, they give up completely. Loki, ever the determinator, succeeds in protecting the kid and slays the troll, and is rewarded by the boy's parents with a big hug. Awww.
Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Odin and Rindr's son Vali grows to adulthood in a single day so he can kill Höder and avenge Baldur.
Primordial Chaos: Ginnungagap was the void between the unbearably hot Muspellheim and the bitterly cold Niflheim in which the world emerged.
Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Jormungand, the gigantic serpent that encircles Midgard, is a serious danger to humans and gods alike. Dragons, like Nidhogg and Fafnir, generally aren't much better (Nidhogg is actually far worse).
Robe and Wizard Hat: Odin, who was the inspiration for many stereotypical wizards, by way of Gandalf. The giant hat was to obscure his one-eyedness.
Rock Monster: Trolls are sometimes depicted in a stone variety. For example John Bauer's painting The Child and the Stone Troll. Normal Scandinavian/Norse trolls also turns into stones in sunlight.
As the German states were unified into one nation in late 19th century, they figured that they lacked their own national mythology. So they adapted the Norse mythology while celebrating everything Nordic (which was a reason why "The Twilight of the Gods" was so popular). Eventually, the celebration was bastardized into the unfortunate race ideology that the Nazis was all too glad to adopt. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, both of whom were very fond of Norse mythology and no fans of the Nazi regime, complained extensively in letters to each other that the Nazis had no idea what the were talking about whenever they talked about Norse myth.
Scars Are Forever: And when they are the gods, that's really forever. Both Odin and Tyr suffer under this.
Sea Monster: The Kraken is originally from Norse myth, but the standout example is Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent - a sea serpent so huge it encircles the whole world.
Serial Escalation: Freya is the most beautiful woman in the world (being a goddess of love is an advantage). Enter Gerd, Frey's jotun wife, who is the most beautiful woman in the world, which should make her more beautiful than Freya. And that is not mentioning Baldur, who was the most beautiful man in the world, being a god of love, and all.
Slasher Smile: Some tellings comment that after having his lips un-sewn, Loki was left with a "Glasgow smile" which in "Loki is evil" stories serves as his Red Right Hand.
The names of many beings and places typically have two letters that aren't found in the English alphabet. These letters are Þ/þ (thorn)note sounds like the "th" in "thing" and may be transliterated as "th" or "t" and Ð/ð (eth)note the "th" sound in "that" and may be transliterated as "th," "t," "d," or "dh" but other letters, such as the ash (Ć/ć), are also present.
The translations into different languages (e.g. Old Icelandic, Old English/Gaelic, or Norwegian, etc.) further alters name spelling. Odin's name alone could be Ódin, Oðin, or Wóðan.
The Stinger: The last part of Völuspá describes a new world after the resurrection of Balder, which sounds peaceful enough. Then it ends with a description of Nidhoggr with a corpse in its jaws, flying through the air...
Supernormal Bindings: The gods had the dwarves create a magical chain called Gleipnir to bind the mighty wolf Fenrir. To make Gleipnir impossible to break (at least until Ragnarök), it was made of six impossible things: the sound of a cat's footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish and the spittle of a bird.
Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Baldur. The only Norse god (the goddesses were all more or less decent people) that never did anything morally ambiguous. So of course he's the first one to actually die, and his death acts as a sign that the end times are approaching for the Norse gods.
Too Much Information: Frigg's response to Loki and Odin's bickering over who had the most perverse history.
Most of the standard "dragons and dragonslayers" tropes originally derive from either the Völsunga saga or Beowulf.
Long after the first occurrences of dragons and their slayers: Smaug is a Norse in-joke. It's also worth noting that the name the Norse gave to the world in which they lived, Midgard, means "Middle Earth" (literally, "Middle Protected Area").
The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: The hideous Jotnar (giants) occasionally have beautiful daughters. Naturally in stories involving them they get seduced by Norse gods. Odin (or Thor) was the usual culprit. The guy really got around, though not to the same extent as Zeus.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Frey is generally not depicted as pretty, while Gerd is the most beautiful woman in the world.
Volleying Insults: Two of the Poetic Eddas (Harbardsljoth and Lokasenna) consist of pretty much nothing but this.
War Is Glorious: So glorious that fighting for untold ages is considered heaven. It's helped by the fact the warriors are all resurrected every night for drinking and partying. The days of endless fighting served as training for Ragnarök, when the einhärjar would be called upon to do battle with the followers of Surtr.
Warrior Heaven: Valhalla may be the Ur Example, as a place where the bravest warriors were brought by the Valkyries to eat, party, and kill each other every day for all eternity until Ragnarök. Also Fólkvangr.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Odin's brothers Vili and Ve helped in creating the world (i.e., killing Ymir) and mankind, then they just disappearnote they are mentioned once ruling in Odin's stead while he was away for a time.
Would Not Hit a Girl: The gods decided against killing Skadi while she was invading Asgard, since it was considered an act of nīţ (dishonour) to hurt a woman. However, that did not stop Thor from killing Thrym's daughters after he got his hammer back. Nor did it stop him from breaking the spines of two other giantesses. The latter was in self defense and not intended but he showed no remorse for it. Odin also berates Thor for fighting she-wolves but Thor insists it was necessary.
You Cannot Change The Future: Everything (not just prophecy) is foreordained. How many steps did Thor take in the Gotterdammerung? It's written on a skein somewhere, weaved by the fates.
As in all myths, every prophecy is inescapable. Mind you, this includes virtually everything that actually happens in the stories, including the forthcoming destruction of the gods.
Some retellings of Loki's role in Baldur's death use this to explain Loki's actions. After devouring the heart of a witch with the power of prophecy, he saw that he was destined to suffer a horrific punishment at the hands of the other gods before dying in Ragnarök. Since Loki knew You Can't Fight Fate, he figured he might as well do something to earn that punishment and make the other gods suffer.