Ragnarok

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Ragnarok

Nationality/Culture

Norse

Pronunciation

RAHG-nuh-rok

Alternate Names

None

Appears In

The Eddas

Myth Overview

According to Norse mythology , the world will end at Ragnarok, a time of great destruction when the gods will wage a final battle with the giants and other evil forces. Ragnarok has not yet arrived, but the events leading to it have already been set in motion.

Before Ragnarok begins, the world will suffer a terrible winter lasting three years. During this period the sun will grow dim, evil forces will be released, and wars will rage among humans. The trickster Loki (pronounced LOH-kee) will gather the frost giants and sail to Asgard (pronounced AHS-gahrd), the home of the gods. The wolf Fenrir (pronounced FEN-reer), the serpent Jormungand (pronounced YAWR-moon-gahnd), and Hel , the goddess of the dead, will break free and join Loki and other evil characters in a battle against the gods.

On the morning of Ragnarok, the god Heimdall (pronounced HAYM-dahl) will sound his mighty horn, summoning the gods to battle. During the terrible struggle that follows, all the great gods—including Odin (pronounced OH-din) and Thor —will be killed. Loki and the monsters, giants, and other evil beings will also perish. The earth will be set on fire , the sun and moon will be destroyed, the sky will fall, and the world will finally sink beneath the sea and vanish.

Ragnarok will not be the end of everything, however. The World Tree Yggdrasill (pronounced IG-druh-sil) will survive, and two humans—Lif and Lifthrasir—and some animals will be sheltered among its branches. New land will rise from the oceans, and a fresh green earth will emerge. Lif and Lifthrasir will repopulate the world. Some of the gods—including the once-dead Balder (pronounced BAWL-der)—will also return and rebuild Asgard, ushering in a new golden age. Giants and other evil beings will not reappear but will fade as a distant memory.

Ragnarok in Context

Nearly all cultures have a mythology related to the end of the world, or at least the end of humankind. The way in which the people of a culture view this end-time is a reflection of the values and beliefs found in that culture. In Norse mythology, the myth of Ragnarok reflects the cycle of death and rebirth seen in nature, but on a far grander scale.

Key Themes and Symbols

One theme found in the myth of Ragnarok is the physical death of the gods. Nearly all the Norse gods are said to be slain during the battle at Ragnarok. All of these deaths occur in very physical ways; Odin, for example, is eaten by the giant wolf Fenrir. One of the few gods spared at Ragnarok is Balder, who has already died and is reborn after the conflict.

Another important theme is the rebellion of the natural world. This is shown in the continuous winter that lasts for three years, and in the disappearance of the sun, moon, and stars. The myth also contains references to grand-scale earthquakes and floods. After the great destruction, however, the idea of renewal and rebirth remains a core element of the myth of Ragnarok.

Ragnarok in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

The myth of Ragnarok has captured the imagination of people around the world. Most notably, the myth was used as inspiration for the fourth and final opera of Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung cycle, first performed in its entirety in 1876. The opera, known as The Twilight of the Gods—a literal translation of “Ragnarok”—differs substantially from the Norse version of the myth.

Ragnarok has been used as the name of a popular Korean comic series, an animated television series, and a multiplayer online role-playing game series. The world depicted in these only loosely resembles the realms of Norse mythology, though many characters are modeled after the Norse gods and other mythical beings.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

Multiple times throughout recorded history, large groups of people have become convinced that the world was about the end. Throughout Europe, people were convinced that the year 1000 would be the end. When the next millennium arrived, dire predictions of global disaster resurfaced. Using your library, the Internet, or other available sources, research failed “end of the world” predictions. Pick one, then write a paper about the social environment surrounding the predication, who made the prediction, what evidence that person used, and whether any part of the prediction came true.

SEE ALSO Fenrir; Giants; Heimdall; Hel; Loki; Norse Mythology; Odin; Serpents and Snakes; Thor; Yggdrasill

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Ragnarok

According to Norse* mythology, the world will end at Ragnarok, a time of great destruction when the gods will wage a final battle with the giants and other evil forces. Ragnarok has not yet arrived, but the events leading to it have already been set in motion.

Before Ragnarok begins, the world will suffer a terrible winter lasting three years. During this period the sun will grow dim, evil forces will be released, and wars will rage among humans. The trickster Loki will gather the frost giants and sail to Asgard, the home of gods. The wolf Fenrir, the serpent Jormungand, and Hel, the goddess of the dead, will break free and join Loki and other evil characters in a battle against the gods.

On the morning of Ragnarok, the god Heimdall will sound his mighty horn, summoning the gods to battle. During the terrible struggle that follows, all the great godsincluding Odin* and

trickster mischievous figure appearing in various forms in the folktales and mythology of many different peoples

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

Thor*will be killed. Loki and the monsters, giants, and other evil beings will also perish. The earth will be set on fire, the sun and moon will be destroyed, the sky will fall, and the world will finally sink beneath the sea and vanish.

Ragnarok will not be the end of everything, however. The World Tree Yggdrasill will survive, and two humansLif and Lifthrasirand some animals will be sheltered among its branches. New land will rise from the oceans, and a fresh green earth will emerge. Lif and Lifthrasir will repopulate the world. Some of the godsincluding Balder*will also return and rebuild Asgard, ushering in a new golden age. Giants and other evil beings will not reappear but will fade as a distant memory.

See also Fenrir; Giants; Heimdall; Hel; Loki; Monsters; Norse Mythology; Odin; Serpents and Snakes; Thor; Yggdrasill.

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Ragnarok

A term meaning "rain of dust," derived from an ancient Scandinavian legend of a titanic conflict between gods and giants. It was also the title of a book by the Minnesota congressman and senator Ignatius Donnelly (1831-1901). More than a century before Immanuel Velikovsky 's bestselling Worlds in Collision, Donnelly's book speculates that a comet passed close to or struck the earth in ancient times, causing cataclysmic changes dimly remembered in mythologies and scripture history.

Donnelly was an original thinker, and although some of his ideas may not stand up to modern scientific scrutiny, the theme of catatrophism has remained a persistent if minority opinion in contemporary science.

Sources:

Donnelly, Ignatius. Ragnarok: the Age of Fire and Gravel. 1883. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1970.

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Ragnarök in Scandinavian mythology, the destruction or twilight of the gods; the final battle between the gods and the powers of evil, in which gods and men will be defeated by monsters and the sky will grow dark, the Scandinavian equivalent of the Götterdämmerung. The original Old Norse form is ragna rök, from ragna ‘of the gods’ + rök ‘destined end’, but the variant Ragna rökr (rökr ‘twilight’), which occurs in the prose Edda, has influenced understanding of the name.

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