The Vikings envisioned an expansive mythological universe, which makes for a rich world of belief and storytelling, but it also means there are a lot of names to remember. It gets even more confusing when some place names sound like the names of worlds but apparently do not pick out any of the typically identified Nine Worlds. Additionally, trying to picture how this conception of the cosmos was physically configured can be a little tricky, given that it bears no resemblance to the cosmos as we understand it.
According to the mythology, the universe originated from a void (Ginnungagap), but in modern terms, it is not a true void, as two of the Nine Worlds already exist within it: Niflheim and Muspellheim. Snorri Sturluson’s The Prose Edda describes the poisonous spring Hvergelmir in the north and the rivers that flow from it, freezing and hardening into the hoar frost Niflheim, while the fires of Muspellheim burn in the south. Near the borders of these two proto-worlds, the heat from the south melts the frost from the north. These drops formed the giant Ymir, from whose body Odin and his brothers would create the land and skies and seas of the remaining worlds. Yggdrasil, “the world-tree,” appears to form the central axis of this universe.
On this resource page, you will find the names and descriptions of the Nine Worlds, as well as various regions, palaces, and other important locations in the Old Norse mythology, many of which appear in Black Wolf: The Binding of Loki.
For more information on the gods and other beings mentioned below, please see The World of Black Wolf: Characters and Special Items.
The Nine Worlds
Álfheim: The world of the elves. It is also the home of the Vanir god Freyr, as it was given to him as a teething gift.
Asgard: The world of the Aesir gods and goddesses (Odin, Frigg, Thor, etc.).
Helheim: The world ruled by Hel, and the place where those who die of age, illness, or accidents stay in the afterlife. Helheim may be part of Niflheim, as that was where Odin sent Hel after the Aesir captured her and her brothers Jörmungandr (the Midgard serpent) and Fenrir (the giant wolf who kills Odin at Ragnarök).
Jötunheim: The world of the Jötnar (“giants”) and one of the most common settings in Old Norse mythology.
Midgard: The world of humankind (Earth, or “Middle Earth”).
Muspellheim: The primordial world of fire.
Niflheim: The primordial world of mist and ice.
Svartálfheim: The world of the dvergar (dwarves or “black elves”).
Vanaheim: The world of the Vanir gods and goddesses (including Njörd and his twin children Freyr and Freyja).
Regions, Palaces, and Landmarks
Bifröst: The rainbow bridge between Asgard and the Well of Urd, referred to as the “best of bridges.” However, the Bifröst will be destroyed at Ragnarök when the Jötnar, referred to as the sons of Muspell, ride over it. According to Lindow,1 the name is a compound of terms that mean “shaking” and “stopping place” or “weak spot.” It is also called Bilröst (“bil” appearing to mean “road” in this context) or Ás-brú (“Aesir bridge”).
Bilskírnir: Thor’s palace, which Snorri Sturluson describes as having 540 rooms.
Breithablik (“the far-shining one): Baldr’s palace.
Eljudner (“the one dampened by rain”): Hel’s hall in the underworld.
Fensalir (“marsh halls”): Frigg’s dwelling.
Fölkvangr (“field of the people” or “field of the army”): Freyja’s residence, which also houses the fallen warriors she chooses from the battlefield. The hall at Fölkvangr is called Sessrumnir.
Gjallar bridge, or Gjallarbrú: The bridge that crosses the Gjallar River and is guarded by the shieldmaiden Módgud.
Gjallar River: The wide, deep, fast-moving river through Niflheim that bars the way to Helheim.
Glitnir (“shining one”): Home of Forseti.
Himinbjörg (“heaven’s castle”): Heimdall’s hall, which stands near the Bifröst.
Idavӧll: A plain that forms part of Asgard and survives Ragnarök to become the new home of the gods. According to Simek,2 the name has multiple interpretations, including “splendour” and “field of activity.”
Thrúdheim, or Thrúdvangar (“power field”): Thor’s home, where he lived in the palace Bilskírnir.
Thrymheim: The land where the Jötun Thjazi and his daughter Skadi live. The name loosely translates to “noise land,” but has no obvious connection to the Jötun Thrym, who stole Thor’s hammer.
Valhalla (“hall of the slain”): Odin’s hall, where the fallen warriors chosen by Odin eat, drink, and fight in the afterlife until the final battle at Ragnarök.
Vígríd Plain: Field of battle where the Aesir confront the Jötnar at Ragnarök.
Well of Urd (“well of fate”): A well beneath the branches of Yggdrasil and near the end of the Bifröst opposite the Himinbjörg. It is associated with the Norn Urd (“Fate” or “What Has Become”). In The Prose Edda, Sturluson indicates that this is where the Aesir hold their council.
Ydalir: Ullr’s dwelling.
Yggdrasil (“Odin’s horse” or “tree of terror/gallows”): The world-ash or world-tree, which is the largest and best of trees. Yggdrasil’s roots hold the worlds of men, Jötnar, and Hel; beneath its branches lie the Well of Urd, the Well of Mímir, and the spring Hvergelmir. In the poem “Hávamál,” Odin (“Yggr”) speared himself to the tree and, in his self-sacrifice, learned the power of the runes.
Last updated September 17, 2019.