Inspired by the Prose Edda narrative, Ymir suckles from the cow Auoumbla
while she licks Buri from the ice in a painting by Nicolai Abildgaard (1790)
In Norse mythology, Ymir, Aurgelmir, Brimir, or Blainn is a primeval being born of primordial elemental poison and the ancestor of all jotnar. Ymir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier tradition material, in the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century, and in the poetry of skalds.
Taken together, several stanzas from four poems collected in the Poetic Edda refer to Ymir as a primeval being who was born from venom that dripped from the icy rivers Elivagar and lived in the grassless void of Ginnungagap. Ymir birthed a male and female from the pits of his arms, and his legs together begat a six-headed being.
The gods (unspecified) fashioned the Earth (elsewhere personified as a goddess; Joro) from his flesh, from his blood the ocean, from his bones the hills, from his hair the trees, from his brains the clouds, from his skull the heavens, and from his eyebrows the middle realm in which mankind lives, Midgard. In addition, one stanza relates that the dwarfs were given life by the gods from Ymir's flesh and blood (or the Earth and sea).
In the Prose Edda, a narrative is provided that both draws from, adds to, and differs from the Poetic Edda accounts. According to the Prose Edda, after Ymir was formed from the elemental drops, so too was Auoumbla, a primeval cow, whose milk Ymir fed from. The Prose Edda states that three gods killed Ymir; the brothers Odin, Vili, and Vé, and details that, upon Ymir's death, his blood caused an immense flood. Scholars have debated as to what extent Snorri's account of Ymir is an attempt to synthesize a coherent narrative for the purpose of the Prose Edda and to what extent Snorri drew from traditional material outside of the corpus that he cites.
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving to the modern day. The mythology from the Romanticist Viking revival came to be an influence on modern literature and popular culture.
Norse mythology is the study of the myths told in Germanic countries (Germany, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Faroe Islands) during the pre-Christian times, especially during the Viking age.
Odin is the All-Father. He is the oldest and most powerful of the Gods. Through the ages he has ruled all things. He created heaven and earth, and he made man and gave him a soul. But even the All-Father was not the very first.
At first there was only a great void, Ginnungagap. Eventually a region of mist and ice, Niflheim, was formed in the North and a region of fire, Muspellsheim, was formed in the South. The great world-tree, Yggdrasil, reached through all time and space, but was perpetually under attack from Nidhogg, the evil serpent.
The fountain of Mimir, source of hidden wisdom, lay under a root of the tree. Niflheim came into contact with Muspellsheim, and the fires melted the ice, which yielded Ymir, the Frost-Giant with a human form. From Ymir's sweat came a race of Giants, so that a huge cow (Audhumla) was created to feed them.
One day the cow licked the ice and hair emerged, on the next day a head, and on the third day Buri emerged, fully formed. Buri begot a son, Bur, who in turn had three sons: Odin, Vili, and Ve. These three were a new race, not Giants but gods. They banded together and murdered Ymir.
Most of the other Giants drowned in Ymir's blood, which created a great sea. From Ymir's body the three gods made solid land, the earth, and from his skull they made the heavens. They then created a race of dwarves from the maggots that fed upon Ymir's body. This was followed by the creation of the first man and the first woman. They shaped the man from an ash tree and the woman from a vine.
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