Ymir is killed by the sons of Borr in this artwork by Lorenz Frølich
Ymir is killed by the sons of Borr in this artwork by Lorenz Frølich
Founder of the race of frost giants
Name in Old Norse Aurgelmir
World between Muspelheim and Niflheim
Children Þrúðgelmir and Ymir's son and Ymir's daughter

In Norse mythology, Ymir, also called Aurgelmir (Old Norse gravel-yeller) among the giants themselves, was the founder of the race of frost giants and was later killed by the Borrs.



Analysis of different Indo-European tales indicate the Proto-Indo-Europeans believed there were two progenitors of mankind: *Manu- ("Man"; Indic Manu; Germanic Mannus) and *Yemo- ("Twin"), his twin brother. The latter, like Ymir, was sacrificed and carved up by his brother to produce mankind.[1]

Traces of this dualistic structure of (also) the Proto-Indo-European creation myth can be found in parallel mythological entities with the same etymology, like the Indic death deity Yama and Avestan Yima, progenitors of mankind; of Remus (according to Jaan Puhvel), the brother of Romulus in the story of the founding of Rome, and Ymir. The underlying Proto-Indo-European form is *yemo ("twin"). The corresponding Proto-Germanic form was either *umijaz or, in better accordance with this theory, *jumijaz (W. Meid).

Yama shares with Ymir the characteristics of being primordial and mortal, but otherwise developed towards a very different character, the first of mortal men and kings who after death becomes ruler of the realm of the dead.

Here it is also worth noting that amongst the actual speakers of Old Icelandic, as opposed to reconstructed ProtoIndo-European,the name Ymir meant, not "twin", but "noisemaker,roarer, bellower".

Creation myth

Snorri Sturluson combined several sources, along with some of his own conclusions, to explain Ymir's role in the Norse creation myth. The main sources available are the great Eddic poem Völuspá, the question and answer poem Grímnismál, and the question and answer poem Vafþrúðnismál. The Völuspá opens with the Norse account of the creation of the present universe:

Odin and his brothers create the world out of the body of Ymir in this artwork by Lorenz Frølich.
Old tales I remember  |  of men long ago.
I remember yet  |  the giants of lore [...]
Of old was the age  |  when Ymir lived;
No Sea nor cool waves  |  nor sand there were;
Earth had not been  |  nor heaven above,
Only a yawning gap  |  and grass nowhere.

According to these poems, in the beginning there was nothing except for the ice of Niflheim, to the north, and the fire of Muspelheim, to the south. Between them was a yawning gap called Ginnungagap and there a few pieces of ice melted by a few sparks of fire created a moisture called eitr, the liquid substance of life. Ymir was the first to be conceived as drops of eitr joined together and formed a giant of rime frost (a hrimthurs) and sparks from Muspelheim brought him to life. While Ymir slept, the sweat under his arms became two more giants, one male and one female, and one of his legs mated with the other to create a third, a son Þrúðgelmir. These were the forebearers of the family of frost giants or jutuns. They were nursed by the cow giant Auðumbla who, like Ymir, was created from the melting ice in Ginnungagap. Auðumbla herself fed on a block of salty ice, and her licking sculpted it into the shape of a man who became Búri, the ancestor of the gods (Æsir) and the grandfather of Odin.[2][3]

Buri fathered Borr, and Borr fathered three sons, the gods Vili, , and Odin. These brothers killed the giant Ymir, and unleashed a vast flood from Ymir's blood killing all the frost giants but the son of Þrúðgelmir, Bergelmir, and Bergelmir's wife who all took safety in a hollow tree. Odin and his brothers used Ymir's lifeless body to create the universe. They carried it to the center of Ginnungagap and there they ground his flesh into dirt. The maggots that appeared in his flesh became the dwarves that live under the earth. His bones became the mountains, his teeth rocks and pebbles. Odin strewed Ymir's brains into the sky to create the clouds, and took sparks and embers from Muspelheim for the sun, moon and stars. The gods placed four dwarvesNorðri (North), Suðri (South), Austri (East), and Vestri (West)—to hold up Ymir's skull and create the heavens.[2][3]

Two other names associated with Ymir are Brimir and Bláinn according to Völuspá, stanza 9, where the gods discuss forming the race of dwarfs from the "blood of Brimir and the limbs of Bláinn". Later in stanza 37, Brimir is mentioned as having a beer hall in Ókólnir. In Gylfaginning "Brimir" is the name of the hall itself, destined to survive the destruction of Ragnarök and providing an "abundance of good drink" for the souls of the virtuous.

See also


  1. ^ In Search of the Indo-Europeans, Mallory, 1987, p. 140.
  2. ^ a b Leeming 2009, pp. 209–212
  3. ^ a b Littleton 2005, p. 1428


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