Mark Neumayer

author of the Valda & the Valkyries series

Tag: Niflheim

Fast Facts About Nifllheim

misty-mountains-coldLast week I wrote about Muspellheim, the land of fire. This week we’ll be heading in the opposite direction, to Niflheim, the land of ice and mist. I started with these two since the Eddas tell us that they were the first two lands formed “many ages before the earth was made.” Let’s see what we can learn about the icy land of Niflheim.

What’s In A Name?
We have two parts to the name. Nifl has been translated as “dark” and “misty.” Heim means “home” or “land” depending on the source you’re checking. So Niflheim is the dark-land or the mist-home. If you do an internet search “Abode of Mists” seems to be the more popular interpretation. However, the index of my copy of the Eddas says it means “Nebulous-Home.” The takeaway from all of this is that Niflheim is a cold, dark, misty place – the opposite of Muspellheim’s bright, hot. dryness.

It Takes Two
Niflheim was one half of the equation that created the first being. When it’s icy cold encountered the raging heat of  Muspell, the two combined and created Ymir, the father of the race of Frost Giants.  Odin and his brother Ve and Villi would later kill Ymir and use the parts of his body to create the world.

A Helish Place
You can find various arguments stating either that Helheim, or simply Hel, is located inside of Niflheim or right next to it. Hel is listed as one of the Nine Worlds so I am more inclined to believe the latter. There are some instances that say just the gates to Hel are located inside of Niflheim so it is more likely to me that they are separate worlds and you must travel through Niflheim to get to Hel.

It Has Roots
One of them at least, for we are told that one of the three roots of the World Tree Yggdrasil stands over Niflheim. The root is constantly gnawed on by Nidhoggr, the great serpent or dragon who lives there.
Underneath this root we also find the spring called Hvergelmir (roaring cauldron) which, being a hot spring, must be the only source of warmth in this dismal land. Hvergelmir is also the source of twelve different rivers, one of which is Gjoll, the river nearest the gate to Hel.

Come back next week as we visit another of the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology.

Nine Worlds Travel – Niflheim

NiflheimTravelWhile considering what kind of Norse-inspired art to do this week,  I thought it would be fun to do some vintage-looking travel posters for each of the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology. Since I just posted some fast facts about Niflheim the other day I decided to start out with the land of primordial cold. I found a number of cool posters online for the different Nordic countries to give me some inspiration and dove into the piece.

That retro look I was going for uses big bold shapes and fairly simple outlines so I fired up Illustrator and got right to it. I was really happy with the results. It was bold, it had a nice icy palette, my mountains and snowscape were nice and crisp and bleak. I added Hela, rocking a dark green dress. All it needed was the text. I found a cool font and typed out Niflheim – Abode of Mists. That’s when it hit me – I didn’t have any mist at all in my picture! Niflheim translates as home of mists or misty lands and I had created this crisp, clear landscape.

Not a major problem because in addition to Illustrator I have Photoshop. We’ll just slide the artwork over there and add some nice mist. And it was easy, but then I decided I needed a little texture for the snowfield. Again, not that hard. So I decided I needed a little texture for the mountains. Then the text needed some fixing. Then… Photoshop locked up! Something is wiggy with the text engine and it crashes every time I try to do anything. I’m running an older version that isn’t supported anymore and it has always been a bit rough on Win7. Hopefully I’ll be able to work past this little hiccup later on. For now I went back into Illustrator and added some not-quite-as-good mist effects. So after considerable rambling, we have this week’s Norse inspired art and will hopefully have an enhanced version of it sometime soon.

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