The Great Winter, and the Hungry Wolf

Ragnarok, or the Twilight of the Gods, is the great Norse Apocalypse. While two human youth will survive, hidden away in what may be the alcove of Mimir, deep in the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, it doesn’t change the fact that the Nine Realms will have already been wiped out by an interminable frost, a winter that appears endless.

How long does it last, you ask?

Three unforgiving years. Pure Winter, Pure Darkness.

This, among the Norse, was known as Fimbulwinter, the Great Winter.

To understand what leads to the Great Winter, and subsequently to Ragnarok, we have to look away from the usual cast of characters: Odin, Thor & Loki.

Not that Loki won’t be playing a pivotal part.

However, we need to start with a jötunn, a giantess, named Angrboda.

*

The giantess old       in Ironwood sat,

In the east, and bore       the brood of Fenrir;
Among these one       in monster’s guise
Was soon to steal       the sun from the sky.

There feeds he full       on the flesh of the dead,
And the home of the gods       he reddens with gore;
Dark grows the sun,       and in summer soon

Come mighty storms:       would you know yet more?

Völuspá (stanzas 40–41)

Loki, though married, disappeared for a while. During his ‘vacation’, he and Angrboda had a tryst, which resulted in three children:

  • Fenris the Wolf (see a Boy And His Dog)
  • Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent (see Thor & Loki get Punk’d by a Giant)
  • Hel: Half dead and necrotic on one side of her face, alive on the other. Queen of the Underworld, and busy raising an army of the undead to match Odin’s warriors from Valhalla, all to avenge her father, Loki. Incidentally, it was Odin who made her Queen of the Underworld, moved by compassion for her condition, something he would later regret at Ragnarok…

Angrbod’s children would lead the march against the Aesir, as well as their children, the Vanir.

The result: complete annihilation.

However, not before Fimbulwinter…the unforgiving winter.

*

As someone with a predisposition towards science, I am confused – truly confused – by those who deny climate change.

As a parent, I am terrified at the world we might be leaving our children.

As a mythologist, I understand.

Fimbulwinter is coming.

*

So, what is the Fimbulwinter ?

Three years of unending winter: snow, hail, freezing rain.

Something fierce enough to make the Norse Gods tremble

(and shiver to their bones).

The stars grow dim; the earth is fallow;

When even the Gods hide in fear

How should mortals feel?

*

At the end of it all, maybe we can just end with words of wisdom

from the short lived, alcoholic, self destructive poet, Dylan Thomas;

He inspired a young Jewish boy to take his name, and pick up a six-string

Bob, if I’m not mistaken

And in more recent days, he inspired a young girl to take onto herself the namesake

of the hospital where he died (all Hail Saint Vincent!)

Because even if the end is nigh, and the Fimbulwinter…the unforgiving winter

awaits us,

We do not have have to go gently into that winter night…

*

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

– Dylan Thomas

*

But then, of course, there is still Ragnarok, always waiting.

And Fenris Wolf, who is always hungry.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,

But he is a Wolf

In Santa’s Clothing…

So what do we do?

The only thing we can do, Interstellar style:

Rage, rage against the dying of the light…

winter
Photo by Nick Eugenis

 

 

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