The north was frozen – only snow and ice, nothing else. It was called Nifelheim, the true personification of the wasteland.

The south was built of flame, ready to devour everything in its path. His name was Muspelheim. A true embodiment of madness.

Nothing vast spread between them. It was called Ginnungagap. And it was in anticipation.

There was bubbling water in the middle of the northern kingdom. It came from a spring known as Hvergelmir. From it, 11 rivers flowed straight into nothingness, filling the northern part of Ginnungagap. The icy rivers flowed slowly and densely, like half-frozen pith, and poisonous. And above them the ghostly winds roared hopelessly.

The southern part of Ginnungagap was hot. Muspelheim kept it molten, like lava.

The whirlwinds of the northern limits collided with the scorching heat of the South in the middle of Ginnungagap, making it almost a pleasant place: some rivers melted enough for water to drip across the vast expanses in the middle.

Nicolai Abildgaard (1743-1809), Ymir sucks from the cow, and she reveals Búri from under the ice

That was enough: the ice giant Ymir formed from the drops. His giant son and daughter emerged from the sweat under his left arm. The rubbing of his feet gave birth to a third icy giant child. Every movement, every thought of Ymir created new and new ice giants. They were all indescribably ferocious. And how else? Bitter blood flowed in their veins.

As the air warmed, Ginnungagap’s ice continued to melt. From them came a cow: a huge benevolent creature, from whose four udders flowed four rivers of milk. The cow’s name was Audhumla. She rose in the middle of the shiny blocks of salt ice and immediately began to lick, as is typical of a cow. She licked all day until hairs appeared on the ice from under her rough tongue. She continued to lick the next day, when a head appeared. By the evening of the third day, a whole creature had formed. This was Buri, the first god.

Buri soon had a son named Borr. Borr married the daughter of one of the ice giants, and she bore him three sons, Buri’s grandsons: Odin, Willie, and Ve.

This is how the troubles began: hatred nestled between Borr’s sons and the gang of ice giants. This could hardly have been avoided, as conditions in the world were still too harsh: ice at one end, fire at the other, and hatred in the middle. Borr’s sons killed Ymir.

Ymir attacked by Odin, Willie, and Ve, Lorenz Frølich

The blood of the ancient ice giant splashed all over Ginnungagap and crushed all but two of the other ice giants: Bergelmir and his wife. They boarded their ship and let the bloody current carry them.

Now, however, Borr’s sons had to decide what to do with the huge corpse. They saw a chance to give birth to life from death. This could become a natural cycle. And so, they gathered all the parts of the visited Ymir and created from them the diversity of the world. His blood turned to the seas and lakes. His flesh became dry. His bones formed the mountains. His teeth were rocks and stones.

Ymir’s hollow skull turned into the sky. Borr’s three sons caught the worms crawling in Ymir’s rotting flesh and created small creatures called dwarves. They placed a dwarf under each of the four ends of the skull in the sky to keep its body curved above the ground. The first dwarf was called Nordri – North; the second, Austri – the East; third, Sudri – South; the fourth Westri – the West. The other dwarves escaped and lived in the rock caves. They became skilled craftsmen. It was they who forged the exquisite treasures of the gods.

However, these were not all parts of Ymir’s body, the Sons of Borr sent his brain into the sky and created the clouds. With a few coals stolen from Muspelham, they created the Sun and the Moon, and from the sparks they made the multitude of stars.

From Ymir’s eyebrows they built a wall to deter the giants. The lands outside the wall were called Jotunheim. The last two surviving giants settled there. The lands surrounded by walls were called Midgard.

And so the land of Midgard was already protected from the giants, from the ice and from the fire, and the air of the day was pleasant. The ground turned green with leek stalks and fragrant clover. Emerging trees – spruce, elm and ash. The gods, whose numbers had meanwhile increased, roamed this land. Three of them took two pieces of wood thrown on the beach and created from them the man and the woman – the first people. Odin pressed his lips to theirs and breathed Ond – the Breath – into them to live and love. Hönir gave them Odd – The Mind- to understand and laugh. Lodur gave them the La – Feeling, to feel the beauty. So the only first man and woman, Ask and Embla, set out to have children to populate Midgard.

Midgard, Idunn 

At that time, the giants also had children. One of the giants had raven-black hair and bark-colored skin. Everything she touched trembled. Her name was Night. She gave birth to a son. The tips of his hair looked like the flames in Muspelheim, and his skin was the color of Audhumlla’s milk. Everything he touched was smiling. His name was Day. The contrast between them captivated Odin; the god put the Night and her son, the Day, in two chariots to race across the sky one after the other. The horse Hrimfaxi was harnessed to the chariot of the Night; his mane was frozen in ice crystals. The one of the day was pulling Skinfaxi – his mane was sparking.

One of the people living in Midgard had extremely beautiful children. In beauty they competed with the creation of the gods. The man called his daughter the Sun and his son the Moon. Such audacity was a gross mistake. Enraged, Borr’s sons abducted them and forced the Sun to drive the chariot of the Day, and the Moon to take the reins of the chariot of the Night. The chariots are always in a hurry, because after each race a ferocious wolf chases them – these are the sons of the giant witch who lives in the Iron Forest east of Midgard. The wolf Hattie Hrodvitnison chases the Moon – and will eventually catch up with him in the great final battle of Ragnarok. The wolf Skoll chatters with his teeth and growls after the Sun. Eventually he will catch her too.

That’s how it all started. And so it will end.