The cosmology of Norse mythology begins with two opposites, two contrasting regions: Muspellheim in the south, a land of fire and light; and Niflheim in the north, a land of water and cold. This week we’re going to talk about the first one of them and learn what the Eddas tell us about the land of primordial fire.
Visitors Not Welcome
Muspell, we are told, is full of flame, so bright and hot that it is “too luminous and glowing to be entered by those who are not indigenous there.” In other words, if you don’t have a least of drop of fire-giant blood running through your veins, don’t bother coming because you won’t be able to stand the heat.
The Stars Above
The stars in the sky are errant sparks of flame and fire that drifted out of Muspell. The sons of Borr – Odin, Vili and Vee- took these sparks and set them in the heavens to cast light on the world.
Sparks of Evil
Surtur, guards the borders of Muspelheim. This fire-giant has a a flaming falchion, a sword that “outshines the sun.” At the end of the world he will lead the sons of Muspelheim to defeat the gods. Surtur’s most notable victim is the god Frey, who will come to regret giving away the magic sword that was able to fight by itself. After the battle Surtur’s flames will “consume the universe with fire.”
The sons of Muspell will shatter Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, when they ride across it. We are told that Bifrost is a most wonderful bridge and well constructed, but nothing in nature can withstand the destructive power of the fire-giants riding out to the final battle.
Next week we’ll look into the other half of this equation with some fast facts about Niflheim. See you then!