The Creatures of Yggdrasil In Norse Mythology
How many creatures of Yggdrasil are there? In the poem known as the Grímnismál, Odin speaks of many creatures who have made Yggdrasil their home. Odin describes that Hel lives under the first root of Yggdrasil. Underneath the second are a multitude of frost Jotnar. Mankind, he says, has an abode under the third. Odin then then goes on to say that more serpents exist underneath Yggdrasil “than any fool can imagine.”
Odin also names these creatures. I have purposely left out their old Norse names and transalted them to make more sense of who they are. Under Yggrasil there is the Ditch Wolf, the Greyback, the One Ruling in the Ditch, the Twisting One, the One Who Puts to Death. The latter, Odin claims, will forever do damage to Yggdrasil by constant gnawing. Odin then famously says that “Yggdrasil suffers more agony than any man knows.”
Despite the majority of wretched beings described above, Odin also speaks of many creatures who live upon the World Tree. He describes an Eagle, A Squirrel, Four Deer, and a Hawk. He then remarks on the integrity of the Yggdrasil, calling it the noblest of all trees.
Vedfolnir was a hawk that sat in-between the eyes of an unnamed Eagle at the top of the highest branch on Yggdrasil. This branch, like many things in Norse mythology, had a name. This limb of Yggdrasil is known as Lerad. Vedfolnir is an Old Norse word. However, the word translates into English as “Storm Pale” or “Wind Bleached.” Vedfolnir trades insults rather vicariously with the dragon Nidhogg, who, as we said is located at Yggdrasil’s third root in Niflheim. The insults are carried back and forth by the squirrel Ratatosk, who gains a lot of pleasure from instigating the two.
“There is much to be told. An eagle sits at the top of the ash, and it has knowledge of many things. Between its eyes sits the hawk called Vedfolnir. The squirrel called Ratatosk runs up and down the ash. He tells slanderous gossip, provoking the eagle and Nidhogg.”
Ratatosk is the squirrel that runs up and down Yggdrasil each day carrying the insults between Vedfolnir and Nidhogg. Ratatosk does whatever he can manage to do to keep the hatred between the eagle Vedolnir and Nidhogg fueled. Every time Nidhogg says a curse or an insult about Vedfolnir Ratatosk will hurry up to the top of the tree, and inform the eagle what Nidhogg had said. The eagle was equally rude in his comments about Nidhogg. Ratatosk just loves to gossip which is the reason why the eagle and the serpent remain constant foes. Ratatosk has also been said to represent the communication of neurons firing electrical signals down the spine. (Which represents Yggdrasil).
Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr and Durathror
Four wild stags called Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr and Durathror move about in the branches of the World Tree. Moving about the branches they devour the tree’s foliage. They are said to be positioned with their necks arched as they consume the leaves. The color of the four is a reddish color.
Nidhogg, as we mentioned before, is the monstrous serpent that relentlessly gnaws on the third and deepest root of the Yggdrasill. The dragon does this in hopes he can chew through the root. His goal is to cause the World Tree to become unstable and fall. This event would bring about the end of the world. Yet, as we said, Nidhogg is not the only creature that eats away at Yggdrasill.
Because of the constant damage to Yggdrasil by the maliciousness of some of its inhabitants, the three Norns must attend to it every day. To heal the world tree, the Norns draw water from Urd’s Well. They also gather up the sand that lie that is found scattered around it. Together, they take this concoction and poour it over the World Tree. Yggdrasil welcomes the nourishment. This act is enough to heal it from all the damage done, even the damaging gnawing by Nidhogg.
There was one last creature of Yggdrasil not mentioned above. This creature is known as Jormungand. He is the evil ouroborus. This serpent was so incredibly large that it encircled the world tree Yggdrasil, biting its own tail. Jormungand literally translates into “wolf-serpent.” He was also known as the Midgard Serpent, or the World Serpent. The events of Ragnarok will be happening when this creature releases his own tail.
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