THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS
Snow fell on the four corners of the world .Icy winds blew from every side and the sun and the moon were hidden by storms. It was the Fimbul Winter .No spring came and no summer; no autumn brought harvest or fruit, and winter became endless.
There was three years’ of winter. The first was called the Winter of Winds. Storms blew and snows drove down and there were great frosts. The children of men could hardly stay alive in that terrible winter.
The second winter was called the Winter of the Sword and those who were left alive amongst men robbed and killed for what was left to feed on. Brother attacked brother and killed him, and all over the world there were mighty battles.
The third winter was called the Winter of the Wolf. Then the ancient witch who lived in Jarnvid, the Iron Wood, fed the Wolf Managarm on unburied men and on the corpses of those who fell in battle. The wolf that was to be the devourer of Mani, the Moon grew and flourished. The Champions in Valhalla would find their seats splashed with the blood that Managarm spilled from his jaws.This was a sign to the Gods that the time of the last battle was approaching.
The rusty red cock of Hell crowed far down in the earth beside Hela’s home and his crowing made a stir in the lower worlds. In Jötunheim Fialar, the crimson cock crowed, and at his crowing the Giants aroused themselves. High up in Asgard the golden cock Gullinkambir crowed, and at his crowing the Champions in Valhalla got ready.
Deep down in the earth, Garm the hound with bloody mouth barked. It was, barking in Gnipa’s Cave. The Dwarfs who heard groaned in front of their doors of stone. The tree Ygdrassil moaned in all its branches. There was a tearing noise as the Giants moved their ship and there was a trampling sound as the armies of Muspelheim gathered their horses.
But Jötunheim and Muspelheim and Hell waited nervously. Perhaps Fenrir the Wolf might not break the chains which the Gods had bound him with. Without his being released the Gods would not be destroyed. Then the breaking of the rock was heard as Fenrir broke loose. For the second time the Hound Garm barked in Gnipa’s Cave.
Then the galloping of the horses of the riders of Muspelheim was heard; then the laughter of Loki was heard; then the blowing of Heimdall’s horn was heard; then the opening of Valhalla’s five hundred and forty doors, as eight hundred Champions made ready to pass through each door was heard.
Odin met with Mimir’s head. He drew it up from the waters of the Well of Wisdom, and by the power of the runes he knew he made the head speak to him. Where would be the best place for the Æsir and the Vanir and the Einherjar, who were the Champions of Midgard, to meet, and how best could they fight against the forces of Muspelheim and Jötunheim and Hell? The head of Mimir advised Odin to meet them on Vigard Plain and to wage there such a war that the powers of evil would be destroyed forever, even though his own world would be destroyed with them.
The riders of Muspelheim reached Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge. Now would they storm the City of the Gods and burn it down. But Bifröst broke under the weight of the riders of Muspelheim, and they did not reach the City of the Gods.
Jörmungand, the serpent that encircles the world, reared itself up from the sea. The waters flooded the lands, and what was left of of the world’s inhabitants was swept away. That mighty flood floated Naglfar, the Ship of Nails that the Giants had been building for so long, and floated the ship of Hell also. With Hrymer the Giant steering it, Naglfar sailed against the Gods, with all the powers of Jötunheim aboard. Loki steered the ship of Hell with the Wolf Fenrir on it to the place of the last battle.
Since Bifröst was broken, the Æsir and the Vanir, the Asyniur and the Vana, the Einherjar and the Valkyries rode downward to Vigard through the waters of Thund. Odin rode at the head of his Champions. His helmet was gold and in his hand was his spear Gungnir. Thor and Tyr were with him.
In Mirkvid, the Dark Forest, the Vanir stood against the army of Muspelheim. From the broken end of the Rainbow Bridge the riders came, all flashing and flaming, with fire in front of them and behind them. Niörd was there with Skadi, his Giant wife, fierce in her war dress; Freya was there also, and Frey had Gerda beside him as a battle maiden. Surtur’s sword flashed terribly bright. No sword ever owned was as bright as his except the sword that Frey had given to Skirnir. Frey and Surtur fought and Frey perished in that battle, but he would not have died if he had had in his hand his own magic sword.
For the third time, Garm, the hound with blood upon his jaws, barked. He had broken loose on the world, and he rushed toward Vigard Plain, where the Gods had assembled their powers. Garm barked loudly. The Eagle Hræsvelgur screamed on the edge of heaven. Then the skies were covered, and the tree Ygdrassil was shaken to its roots.
The ship of Jötunheim ,the ship of Hell, the riders of Muspelheim, and Garm, the hound with blood on his jaws reached the place where the Gods awaited them Then the serpent Jörmungand came out of the sea that now surrounded the plain of Vigard.
What did Odin say to the Gods and to the Champions who surrounded him? “We will give our lives and let our world be destroyed, but we will battle so that these evil powers will not live after us.” Out of Hell’s ship sprang Fenrir the Wolf. His mouth gaped, his lower jaw hung against the earth, and his upper jaw scraped the sky. Odin All-Father fought against the Wolf. Thor could not help him, because Thor had to fight Jörmungand, the monstrous serpent.
Odin was killed By Fenrir the Wolf but the younger Gods were now advancing to the battle and Vidar, the Silent God, came face to face with Fenrir. He laid his foot on the Wolf’s lower jaw, that foot that had on the sandal made of all the scraps of leather that shoemakers had laid by for him, and with his hands he seized the upper jaw and tore his throat. So Fenrir died; the fiercest of all the enemies of the Gods.
Jörmungand, the monstrous serpent, would have overwhelmed all with the venom he was ready to pour forth but Thor sprang forward and crushed him with a stroke of his hammer Miölnir. Then Thor stepped back nine paces. But the serpent blew his venom over him, and blinded and choked and burnt, Thor, the World’s Defender, who then died.
Loki sprang from his ship and fought with Heimdall, the Warder of the Rainbow Bridge and the Watcher for the Gods. Loki killed Heimdall and was killed by him
Tyr, the God who had sacrificed his sword hand for the binding of the Wolf fought bravely. He fought, bravely and many of the powers of evil died at his strong left hand. But Garm, the hound with bloody jaws, killed Tyr.
Then the riders of Muspelheim came down onto the field. All their weapons were bright and gleaming. In front of them and behind them went wasting fires. Surtur hurled fire on the earth. The tree Ygdrassil caught fire and burned in all its great branches.The World Tree was destroyed in the blaze but the terrible fire that Surtur brought on the earth destroyed him and all his army.
The Wolf Hati caught up to Sol, the Sun and the Wolf Managarm seized Mani, the Moon. They devoured them so stars fell, and darkness came down on the world.
The seas flowed over the burnt and wasted earth and the skies were dark above the sea, for Sol and Mani were no more. But at last the seas drew back and earth appeared again, green and beautiful. A new Sun and a new Moon appeared in the heavens, one a daughter of Sol and the other a daughter of Mani. No grim wolves chased after them.
Four of the younger Gods stood on the highest of the world’s peaks. They were Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin, and Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor. Modi and Magni found Miölnir, Thor’s hammer, and with it they killed the monsters that still raged through the world, the Hound Garm and the Wolf Managarm.
Vidar and Vali found in the grass the golden tablets on which were inscribed the runes of wisdom of the elder Gods. The runes told them of a heaven that was above Asgard, of Gimli, that was untouched by Surtur’s fire. Vili and Ve, Will and Holiness, ruled in it. Baldur and Hödur came from Hela’s home, and the Gods sat on the peak together and spoke to each other, remembering the secrets and the events they had known before Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
Deep in a wood two of human kind were left. The fire of Surtur did not touch them. They slept, and when they awakened the world was green and beautiful again. They were a woman and a man, Lif and Lifthrasir. They walked over the world, and from them and from their children came the men and women who spread themselves over the earth.