This guy’s one of my favourites. As I told you on the About page, I study Medieval stuff, which is true. More specifically, I study Old Norse stuff. And right here we have a prime example of a pretty bad-ass Old Norse dragon. Well, before you get it into your head that this is a dragon with wings and feet, well, it’s not. It’s more of a serpent. And when I say more of a, I mean that is is, absolutely, a serpent. But don’t worry! He’s very huge and scary and he spits poison, so don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just your regular slithery fella, just like Hamilton sump pump repair isn’t your regular sump pump repair.
Jörmungandr is a child of the trickster god Loki. More specifically, he is one of the children of Loki and the giantess Angrboða. Oðinn wasn’t super thrilled about having the children of a giantess around, for a number of reasons, so he banished or bound each one of them in turn. Loki’s daughter, Hel, was sent to guard the underworld, and his other son, the wolf Fenrir, was tricked into being bound until the end of the world (at which time he will eat the sun … I know, a little intense).
Jörmungandr, however, was tossed into the sea that encircles Midgard. Midgard is one of the nine worlds in Norse mythology, and happens to be – you’ll be thrilled to know – the one that we live in. So next time you get scared of a spider, remember that there’s apparently a giant snake in the ocean. Spider won’t seem so scary after all. And when I say giant snake, I mean he’s so big that he encircles the whole world and can bite his own tail. So, like, BIG snake. For this reason, the world-circling, I mean, he is also known as the Midgard Serpent or the World Serpent.
The Midgard Serpent is mentioned a number of times in the mythology, the most interesting of those times being when he encounters his enemy, the thunder god Þórr (pronounced, as you’ve probably seen it written, Thor). I’ll just tell you about a couple here, because we’ve only got so much time. One of my faves is when Thor is out fishing with the giant Hymir. They go out far-enough that Hymir catches whales, but Thor’s like nah … further, so further they go, even though Hymir’s like, man, there’s big scary stuff out here, like the Midgard Serpent. But Thor doesn’t care. He’s the god of thunder.
So turns out that they do get far-enough out to encounter Jörmungandr, because they do! And Thor catches him, using the head of Hymir’s best ox, no less. And Thor is out there, dodging the serpent’s poison, reeling him in, but Hymir’s like no thanks, and cuts the fishing line, allowing the serpent to slip back into the sea. Would probably have been good for Thor if he had killed the serpent that day, because at the end of the world, at Ragnarök, Thor will fight Jörmungandr for the final time, and he will kill him. But not before the giant serpent spits poison onto Thor, and Thor, having finally killed the monster, will die of his wounds.