Saturday, March 10, 2012

Jörmungandr - more than your average sea-serpent!

Image Courtesy: Kool-Mike

Special isn't he?

May I introduce Jörmungandr, from Norse Mythology. Anyone who is at all familiar with Norse Mythology will know that Jörmungandr (also known as Midgarðsormr in Old Norse) is one of the three children of the god Loki and a giantess Angrboða.   Quite frankly if I were in Loki's position, I'd be asking for some serious paternity testing... as from the varying appearances of Loki and Angrboða's children, you've seriously got to wonder what she got up to in her spare time...

Anyway, Jörmungandr full siblings were; Hel (humanish woman) and Fenrir (a giant wolf). I am particularly interested in Fenrir, mainly because one of my favourite authors JK Rowling, chose to name  her werewolf after him (Fenrir Greyback). Rowling is always clever with her use of mythology.
I will say that Jörmungandr also had a number of half-brothers, from Loki's wife Sigyn. One of these half brothers turns into a wolf and disembowels the other. Nice family. However, the most bizarre fact about Jörmungandr's family is that his father, when in the form of a mare, actually gave birth to an eight legged horse named Sleipnir - who rather horrifically, was fathered by an enormous stallion.... seriously, the mind boggles.

Image courtesy Wiki Loki and Svadilfari (1909) by Dorothy Hardy
(personally I'd entitle this one "RUN LOKI RUN!")

Anyway, Loki's three children by the giantess were all thrown into the ocean by Odin (a fellow God).  In the ocean, Jörmungandr grew to immense size. He apparently grew so large his body ran the circumference of the Earth and he could place his tail in his mouth.

Naturally all great Serpents must have an enemy, and in this case Jörmungandr's arch enemy is the God Thor. Legend has it that the last meeting between the serpent and Thor is predicted to occur at  Ragnarök (an epic battle for supremacy) when Jörmungandr will come out of the ocean and poison the sky. Thor will kill Jörmungandr and then walk nine paces before falling dead, having been poisoned by the serpent's venom.

There isn't anything particularly unusual about Jörmungandr as a serpent, with the except of his massive size and his unique family. Most cultures have a serpent mythology. If you're interested in sea serpents (and seriously why wouldn't you be?!)  Here are some other very interesting serpent like beasties to check out.

Bobbi-Bobbi - Australian Aboriginal benevolent mythical serpent.
Kolowisi - Zuni Northern American mythical serpent
Yofune-Nushi - Japanese malevolent sea serpent, with a very similar story to George & the Dragon.

I got this massive list from the Mythical Creatures List - which is a great resource if you're looking for something unusual to ad to your creature data base!

If you liked the one's above, I'm sure you'll find something even more exciting there.

Have a wonderful week!


  1. Fascinating, Nicola. And what a list!

  2. Thanks Eleni, I was always fascinated with sea-serpents as a child an this particular one is pretty out-there. :)