Ymir

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Ymir

Nationality/Culture

Norse

Pronunciation

EE-mir

Alternate Names

Aurgelmir

Appears In

The Eddas

Lineage

Born of ice and fire

Character Overview

An ancient frost giant of Norse mythology , Ymir was formed at the beginning of creation from rivers of ice that flowed from Niflheim (pronounced NIV-uhl-heym), the land of mist, into Ginnungagap (pronounced GIN-oon-gah-GAHP), the yawning emptiness. Ymir emerged from the ice as it melted from the heat of the fire kingdom that lay near these two regions.

As the evil Ymir slept, other frost giants formed from the sweat of his body. The first male and female emerged from his left armpit, and another man came from his legs. Ymir drank milk from an ancient cow, which in turn licked blocks of ice and released a man called Buri. Buri's grandsons were the gods Odin (pronounced OH-din), Vili (pronounced VEE-lee), and Ve (pronounced VEH). These three gods eventually attacked Ymir while he slept and killed him. As Ymir's blood gushed from his body, it caused a flood that drowned all the frost giants except Bergelmir (pronounced BEHR-gel-meer) and his wife. They escaped in a ship and founded a new race of beings.

Odin and his brothers used Ymir's body to form the world. They took his flesh to make earth; his bones became mountains; his teeth turned into stones and boulders; and his hair became trees and vegetation. The gods made the sky from Ymir's skull and threw his brains into the air to form clouds. Dwarves emerged out of hills and rocks and helped to hold up the sky. Finally, Odin and his brothers used Ymir's eyebrows to make a great wall to surround and protect Midgard, the world of humans.

Ymir in Context

The myth of Ymir is a Nordic example of the centrality of sacrifice — often violent—in many creation myths throughout the world. According to the Norse myth, all life arose from the violent sacrifice of Ymir. Other Norse gods also bore the scars of violent sacrifices they endured for the good of the larger community: Odin sacrificed an eye in order to gain knowledge of the future and the pain humans would have to endure; and Tyr sacrificed his hand in order to secure the giant wolf Fenrir.

Key Themes and Symbols

One of the most important themes in the myth of Ymir is the idea of creation through death. It is only when Ymir is killed by Odin and his brothers that the world as humans know it is created. Ymir's blood drowns the old giants, while his hair becomes the vegetation of the land. This also suggests the cycle of death and rebirth that is seen throughout nature every year, but on a much grander scale. Frost is used to symbolize barrenness and hostility, just like the hostile winters the Norse people faced.

Ymir in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Though his body was used to create the world, Ymir is not one of the more popular figures from Norse mythology. In modern times, Ymir is used as the inspiration for a character of the same name in the Marvel Comics Universe; the Marvel version of Ymir is a giant made completely of ice who seeks to destroy all other forms of life on Earth. This character also appeared in the 2006 video game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. The giant's name was used for one of the planet Saturn's many moons. Ymir was also used as the name of the alien monster in the classic science fiction film 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), though he did not resemble the Norse frost giant.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The idea of all life originating from a primordial sacrifice is found throughout the world. Using your library, the Internet, or other available resources, research origin myths from different continents that have sacrifice as an important element of world creation. Do these myths have anything in common? Do the cultures they come from have anything in common? Why do you think sacrifice is such an important element in creation myths?

SEE ALSO Creation Stories; Dwarfs and Elves; Floods; Giants; Norse Mythology; Odin

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Ymir

A primeval frost giant of Norse* mythology, Ymir was formed at the beginning of creation from rivers of ice that flowed from Niflheim, the land of mist, into Ginnungagap, the yawning emptiness. Ymir emerged from the ice as it melted from the heat of Muspelheim, the fire kingdom that lay near these two regions.

As the evil Ymir slept, other frost giants formed from the sweat of his body. The first male and female emerged from his left armpit, and another man came from his legs. Ymir drank milk from a primeval cow, which in turn licked blocks of ice and released a man called Buri. Buri's grandsons were the gods Odin*, Vili, and Ve. These three gods eventually attacked Ymir while he slept and killed him. As Ymir's blood gushed from his body, it caused a flood that drowned all the frost giants except Bergelmir and his wife. They escaped in a ship and founded a new race of beings.

primeval from the earliest times

Odin and his brothers used Ymir's body to form the world. They took his flesh to make earth; his bones became mountains; his teeth turned into stones and boulders; and his hair became trees and vegetation. The gods made the sky from Ymir's skull, and they threw his brains into the air to form clouds. Dwarfs emerged out of hills and rocks, and they helped to hold up the sky. Finally, Odin and his brothers used Ymir's eyebrows to make a great wall to surround and protect Midgard, the world of humans.

See also Creation Stories ; Dwarfs and Elves ; Floods ; Giants ; Norse Mythology ; Odin.

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Ymir in Scandinavian mythology, the primeval giant killed by Odin and the other gods, from whose body they created the world; his blood formed the seas, and his bones the rocks.