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Basic Information

In Norse Mythology, Yggdrasil (aka Ygdrasil, Mimameithr, Laerthr, or Hoddmimis Holt, see below) is the giant world-spanning ash tree that connects the nine worlds. Those worlds are tangled in its roots and branches. Some deities and supernatural beings can travel between those worlds by climbing the tree, but the Aesir often use Bifrost (the Rainbow Bridge) instead.

The roots of Yggdrasil grow out of three wells or pools. These are Urðarbrunnr (in Asgard, this well is where the Norns live), Hvergelmir (in Niflheim, where Nidhoggr gnaws), and Mímisbrunnr (Mimir's well in Jotunheim, where Mimir dwells).

The Norse Gods frequently gathered at Yggdrasil to conduct their allthing government.

The name "Yggdrasil" literally translates as "Odin's Horse" or "Odin's Gallows". When Odin (also known as "Yggr") sought wisdom and the knowledge of runes, mead and poetry, he went to Mímisbrunnr and struck a deal with Mimir. To gain this knowledge, Odin had to sacrifice his own eye, and then hang upside down (hence the gallows) from the branches of Yggdrasil while gazing into Mimir's well.

Warden Trees such as the Sacred Tree at Uppsala (in Sweden) and the Irminsul (in Germany) may be earthly avatars of Yggdrasil. The description of Urðarbrunnr (one of the root-wells of Yggdrasil) sounds a lot like Adam of Breman's medieval description of the Sacred Tree at Uppsala, so there's justification for a link between the places (or at least some explanation by way of coded myth).


At the top of Yggdrasil there's a giant eagle who is never named in any of the surviving myths. There is, however, a named hawk that lives right next to him. Literally on top of him. Veðrfölnir, as he's called, nests on the face of the larger Eagle, directly between his eyes. (The old myths don't really explain why this almost Russian-nesting-doll/fractal living condition exists. Why does the eagle tolerate it? How does the hawk earn his keep / pay his rent? Is this some sort of coded myth and we've just lost the key to understand it?)

At the opposite end of the tree, the vile and venomous dragon Nidhöggr sits gnawing on the roots. He is accompanied by many snakes.

The dragon and the eagle hate each other, so a gossipy squirrel named Ratatoskr runs up and down the branches carrying insults back and forth between them. Ratatoskr is sort of like their messenger, but he's also clearly some sort of agent provocateur stirring up trouble and making both the insults and the resulting feud that much worse.

There are also four stags that climb the branches of Yggdrasil and munch on its leaves. These are named Dainn, Dvallin, Duneyrr, and Durabror. (And yes, eagle-eyed viewers have already noted that J.R.R. Tolkien stole a couple of those names for dwarves.) Some scholars propose the four stags represent the four seasons, but we don't really know for sure as none of the serving myths go into much detail about them.

The Nine Worlds

While several surviving Old Norse poems mention that Yggdrasil connects to nine worlds, none of them clearly nor conveniently list all nine worlds. Which is no doubt vexxing for scholars and practitioners, but something of a blessing for GMs and authors who are looking to put their own personal stamp upon the setting. You can tweak the nine canonical worlds a bit here or there, and no one can truly say you're wrong.

Here is the most common list of the 9 worlds:

Some versions or interpretations of Norse myth identify the Dwarves and the Dark Elves as the same species. In such interpretations, Svartalfaheim and Nidavellir are two names for the same place, instead of being two different worlds. These versions generally cast Helheim as the ninth world (instead of just being a location within the world of Niflheim).

A Tree By Any Other Name

There are three other names for Yggdrasil. It's worth noting that none of the sources that use one of these three names ever expressly states that this name is a synonym for Yggdrasil. It's possible these are intended to be separate other trees, that also coincidentally span multiple worlds, but occam's razor suggests they are just alternate names. (But why let logic ruin the fun? If you can figure out a way to use multiple world trees, more power to you!)

One is Mímameiðr, or Mimameithr, a tree that also touches nine worlds (just like Yggdrasil does). Atop Mímameiðr there is a Rooster, which is not quite as epic as a giant eagle wearing a hawk as a hat. On the other hand, the fruit of Mimameithr is said to have restorative properties and ensure safe and healthy childbirth to a mother who eats it, so it may not have as epic a bird but it's still a powerful tree. Mímameiðr is mentioned in a single old norse poem.

The other is Hoddmímis Holt. During Fimbulvinter, the years-long winter that proceeds Ragnarok, Líf and Lífþrasir (sort of the second-draft of Adam and Eve in Norse mythology, the first draft being Ask and Embla) hide out in Hoddmímis holt near Mimir's well. There they survive the great cold and the great fires of Surtr. As the "holt" part implies, Hoddmímis Holt is described more like a woods than a single tree, but the "mimmis" part suggests it may be another name for Mímameiðr, and thus Yggdrasil. Alternately, you might view it as the forest the holds them both. Details are vague and in short supply.

The third is Læraðr, or Laerthr. Læraðr stands at the top of Valhalla. A goat and a hart, named Heiðrún and Eikþyrnir respectively, live in its branches and eat the leaves. Again, no first-hand sources directly says Laerathr and Yggdrasil are the same thing, but they're both trees at Valhalla large enough for large herbivores to live in the branches.


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