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Basic Information

In Norse Mythology, Jörmungandr, also known as the Midgard Serpent was the middle of Loki's three children. He took the form of a gigantic serpent. Odin hurled Jörmungandr into the depths of the sea where he grew even larger, eventually encircling the earth and lying at the ocean's bottom with his tail in his mouth like an ouroboros. It is said that when he lets go of his tail, the end of the world will come.

The Prose Edda, an Icelandic collection of Norse poetry and epics, contains a number of stories in which Thor encounters the Midgard Serpent. In one, Thor goes fishing with a giant. The giant catches two whales, but Thor insists on going out deeper. When he casts his own line out, the Thunder god catches the Midgard Serpent, to the giant's horror. Thor almost kills the serpent with his hammer, but the giant cuts the line and Jörmungandr sinks back into the sea.

In another story, a cunning giant sets Thor a number of seemingly trivial tasks which are actually far more than they seem … one is to drain a horn of mead (which turns out to be the sea), one to wrestle an old woman (who is actually Time in disguise) and another is to pick up a housecat (which is actually Jörmungandr). Unsurprisingly he fails to complete any of the tasks, but gets what he was after regardless…

It is foretold that during Ragnarok, Thor will slay Jörmungandr, but then die of the serpent's poison before he can walk 9 steps. This is the apocalyptic Norse version of the Chaoskampf motif common in proto-Indo-European Mythology.


Game and Story Use

  • If you're running an epic-level campaign, you need epic-level monsters to throw at your characters. The Midgard Serpent certainly fills the bill.
  • Kenneth Hite's setting The Day After Ragnarok has the Midgard Serpent killed by an American nuclear weapon in the final days of World War II. The serpent, not fully grown but already with a diameter of several hundreds of miles and a length of several thousands of miles, drops to earth and poisons the land - with interesting geopolitical consequences.
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