Norse myths and legends to inspire your trip to Scandinavia
Learning a little about the history and culture of a destination helps you appreciate and understand it as a visitor from abroad. Similarly, having some knowledge about the stories and legends that have shaped a culture can give great insight into a place - and also be really entertaining!
The Vikings had a wealth of myths of legends that made up their culture, and these are still being told in various forms today - just think of the History Channel's popular TV series Vikings or Marvel's Thor films. In this blog we'll share with you a very brief rundown of some people and places in Norse mythology to help you get inspired for your very own trip to Scandinavia.
You may know of Valhalla from Mad Max: Fury Road as the paradise that supposedly awaits the War Boys. The concept isn't too far off the Viking concept of the afterlife.
Dying in battle was considered a great honour for Viking warriors, as it was believed that those who fought valiantly against their enemies would be rewarded in the afterlife by being led by Valkyries (female warriors on horseback) to Valhalla to join the ruler of their universe, Odin. This is perhaps why the Vikings gleaned such a reputation for being fearsome combatants. Instead of fearing death, they welcomed it, and fought all the harder to win the ultimate prize.
Yggdrasil is a giant tree that in Norse mythology that was believed to stand in the centre of the world, whose branches and roots were thought to connect the Nine Worlds of the cosmos. Numerous animals were said to have lived among Yggdrasil's branches and its three central roots were planted in Midgard (the human world), Jotunheim (the realm of the giants) and Hel (the underworld).
Asgard was one of the Nine Worlds in the cosmos, along with the few mentioned above. It was the realm of the gods, inhabited by those such as Odin and Thor. It could only be reached via a rainbow.
Gods and goddesses
As the ruler of Asgard who presided over Valhalla, Odin was undoubtedly the central figure in Norse mythology, and is one of the most well-known of the Norse gods. His legacy lives on in the day of the week Wednesday (which comes from "Woden's Day" after one of the variations of Odin's name).
Freya, also known as Frigg, was Odin's wife and a goddess of love and fertility. She gifts her name to Friday - one of the best days of the week in our opinion, so she must have been pretty special!
Thanks to Marvel's Thor films, this Norse god is experiencing a resurgence of popularity in Western culture. The son of Odin, Thor was the Norse god of thunder and was famous for his hammer, Mjölnir.
This trickster was the Norse god of mischief, and had the ability to alter his shape and sex. He's an interesting character in the Norse cosmos, as he often caused havoc among his fellow gods, even causing the death of one of them.
Norse mythology is a lot more complex than this short blog article can explain, so you'll just have to get yourself to Scandinavia to learn more about it for yourself!
Holland America Line's Viking Sagas and Norse Legends cruises take you into former Viking territory. Check out the itineraries and get in touch with your nearest World Travellers store or broker to book your Nordic adventure.