Little Gods: Your Guide to Norse Deities

Thor and Loki.

After the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) superheroes became popular, more people became aware of Norse deities. (Image: via Marvel Cinematic Universe)

After the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) superheroes became popular, more people became aware of Norse deities. However, Thor and his evil sibling Loki are the only two Norse deities that most people can name. However, Norse mythology is quite fascinating, and there are many other gods and goddesses.

Norse or Scandinavian mythology is the body of myths of the North Germanic peoples, stemming from Norse paganism and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia, and into the Scandinavian folklore of today.

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Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes derived from numerous sources from both before and after the pagan period, including medieval manuscripts, archaeological representations, and folk tradition.

People outside Scandinavia were largely unaware of Norse mythology and Norse deities for a long time. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the tale of Norse deities became popular outside the region.

Thor is one of the best-known Norse deities.
‘Thor’s Fight with the Giants’ by Mårten Eskil Winge, 1872. (Image: via Public Domain)

Japanese animation and MCU made Norse deities popular worldwide

Later, Japanese animation and the hugely popular MCU series spread the popularity of Norse deities to other countries. Historians generally agree that Norse mythology was passed down verbally from one generation to another before it was printed. An Icelandic historian named Snorri Sturluson made the first attempt at a printed form.

The Norse deities can be segregated into two main groups, the Æsir and the Vanir. The former is associated with warfare and chaos, and the latter is associated with fertility and nature.

The greatest god in Norse mythology is Odin, referred to as the all-father. Odin has an eight-legged steed named Sleipnir. The god of war, wisdom, and poetry has five sons and four wives. Of these sons, Thor is the most popular. While in cinematic interpretations, Odin is depicted as a leader and focused on morality, this is not the case in ancient Norse mythology.

The god of thunder, Thor, is possibly the most popular deity of Norse mythology and the Marvel franchisee is partly responsible for his popularity. Thor is robust and has a mighty hammer called Mjölnir. He is assigned to protect Asgard and the earth (Midgard) from external threats. 

Frigg, the goddess of motherhood, marriage, and family is also the spouse of Odin. However, she is the mother of Baldr and Höðr. Along with her husband Odin, only she can sit on Hliðskjálf — the throne of Asgard. Týr is also another god of war, and he is said to be a brave deity. He has one hand, and the other had been chopped off by a wolf named Fenrir. 

Heimdall, also known as Heimdallr, is the guardian deity who guards the Bifröst Bridge. This bridge is what connected the Earth with Asgard. He has sharp eyes and ears and has a horn named Gjallarhorn. Heimdall is said to be a deity with a keen sense of morality.

Loki with a fishing net as depicted in an 18th-century Icelandic manuscript.
Loki with a fishing net as depicted in an 18th-century Icelandic manuscript. (Image: via Public Domain)

A discussion of Norse mythology can’t be complete without mentioning Loki, the god of mischief. Known for his cunning nature and sharp mind, Loki is the complete antithesis of Thor. He was the offspring of Laufey. Owing to his trickery, he is not thought to be one of the Asgardians. Due to his malicious plots, Baldr, a son of Frigg, was killed accidentally. 

Hel is the formidable goddess of the underworld, and she is Loki’s daughter. Hel is known to be capricious and greedy by nature. She is depicted as a deity with pale skin and a gloomy appearance. Historians, however, think she is not a person and is a place.

There are many other deities described in Norse mythology. They include the likes of Baldr, a beautiful god loved for his radiance and benevolence, and Vidar, a peace-loving god. There is also Vali, the archer god, Odin’s youngest son.

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