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Dragons in Norse mythology

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Today, we are going to make an incursion into Norse Mythology. We are going to focus on one of the most mysterious beings, which arouses the curiosity of everyone: the Nordic Dragon. Chances are that you have in mind the typical prototype of the dragon that appears in all movies and video games: a large winged creature with claws and a breath of fire. However, the image of the Dragon in the Nordic Culture is different from the one we think of nowadays. ?

Dragons in Norse mythology

This article is devoted to the dismantling of some of these myths, based on some of the most famous dragons of northern mythology. We will not talk here about Jörmungand or the snake that Ragnar Lodbrok faces, as they are clearly snakes and not dragons. ? Before you start, get one of our dragon necklaces, you will see that they are worthy of the greatest Viking warriors!

Fafnir (Scandinavian Mythology)

The quintessence of the Nordic dragon is surely Fafnir in Nordic mythology. Son of the dwarf king Hreidmar and brother of Regin and Ótr, according to the Völsunga saga. Yes, Fafnir was a dwarf. When Loki killed Ótr (in the form of an otter), Hreidmar took him prisoner and asked him for the weight of Ótr in gold. The treasure given to them by Loki in return for this death included, in addition to enormous riches, a cursed ring that brought bad luck to its owner.

Fafnir and Regin took the life of their father Hreidmar, who did not want to share the treasure, and followed Regin’s ploy against Fafnir. To recover the gold from his brother, Regin raises Sigurd and forges a sword named “Gram” for him. At that time, Fafnir in the form of a dragon was guarding his treasure. Sigurd ends up killing Regin (who wanted his head), and dies in turn at the hands of two warriors: Gunnar and Högni, who end up recovering the precious treasure.

fafnir scandinavian mythology

This “snake” or “big worm” that Fafnir had become because of his greed is often called “dragon”, which is not untrue: it is simply that the Scandinavians did not conceive of the dragon as a winged being, but as a snake of great size and strength. In fact, in the same saga, but one chapter before the one mentioned, Regin talks about his brother Fafnir using the term Lingworm or Longworm, equivalent to dragon, but which could literally be translated as “big worm”.

Nidhogg (Norse Mythology)

It is said of this Nordic dragon, Nidhogg, that he gnaws the roots of the world tree “Yggdrasil” in Ragnarok, references are very confused about Nidhogg in Nordic mythology. In the stanzas of the Völuspá, he is considered both a dragon and a snake. He is also mentioned several times in the “Grímnismál” and another one in the “Gylfaginning”, without saying whether he is a dragon or a snake.

Based on these descriptions, one would have to rethink a hybrid being between the “European” dragon and a snake. In fact, if we look at the most famous representation of Nidhogg, we see that it corresponds to the physiognomy of the recently mentioned Lindworm, with two legs, a snake body and a possible dragon head. We can also talk about Guivre, a creature mixing the two forms: dragon and winged snake.

Jormungand (Norse Mythology)

Our third Nordic dragon, Jörmungand, also known as Midgardsormr, is the “Midgard Serpent/Dragon“, a titanic creature. The dragon Jörmungand is a representative of the human kingdom in Nordic mythology. Son of Loki (god of malice) and Angrboda (a giant), he is the result of a union between beauty and evil. Prophecies (Ragnarok) predicted that he would be a great danger in the future causing many deaths. To avoid this prophecy from a young age, he was thrown to the bottom of the sea by the god Odin, where he lives in darkness and loneliness. Nevertheless, he grew up so fast that he ended up surrounding the world of men.

jormungand norse mythology

Once brought to the surface, the Midgar’s snake bites its tail (Ouroboros) and threatens to poison the sky with its teeth. This giant Viking Dragon dies at the hands of Thor, the god of thunder, who throws his hammer at his head, he falls dead to the earth after rising into the sky. Thor takes nine steps before he, too, dies, poisoned by the creature.

jormungand mythology norse

Drakkar (Viking Ship)

The word drakkar (“dreki” in Old Danish means “dragon”, plural “drekar”), in Viking language was used to designate the figurehead carved on warships, created in the effigy of the dragon, a fabulous creature. The purpose of the drakkar was to dispel evil spirits and instill fear in enemies during Viking attacks by sea. The term drakkar is also used to designate the Viking ship in its prestigious ensemble. ?

Drakkar Viking Ship

In northern culture, the figurehead in the shape of a dragon’s head (also called drakkar) is used only during raids to foreign lands, it is a symbol of war. ? When a group of Vikings embark on a ship with the intention of going into battle, the drakkar has several uses, such as :

  • To hunt Landvaettir. These spirits of the earth, protect the people and places from which they come from from invaders.
  • Symbol of Nordic belief, the dragon on the bow, considered as magical, was, morally, the essential element of the boat and had a very great religious importance.
Drakkar ship Viking

In Norse mythology, the ship Skidbladnir was built by the dwarves, Loki donated it to Freyr. This ship allowed to sail on land as well as on sea, changing its size at will, like going into a pocket or containing all the deities of Asgard.

In conclusion, the story of Fafnir was a warning to the Norse against the chaotic and destructive powers of greed, and the dangerous way it can spread from father to son and through the villages. It is a reminder that wealth should not be accumulated, but rather used to form strong alliances and build communities in which everyone can prosper and support each other. This was the basis of Scandinavian culture. If you liked the article on the northern dragons, you can visit our Dragon Shop and find dragon products in the Viking spirit! ?

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