Page 48 of Norse Mythology

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When that happens, we here in Midgard call it an earthquake.

They say that Loki will be bound there in the darkness beneath the earth, and Sigyn will be with him, holding the bowl to catch the poison above his face and whispering that she loves him, until Ragnarok comes and brings the end of days.

RAGNAROK:

THE FINAL DESTINY OF THE GODS

I

Until now I have told you of things that have happened in the past—things that happened a long time ago.

Now I shall tell you of the days to come.

I shall tell you how it will end, and then how it will begin once more. These are dark days I will tell you of, dark days and hidden things, concerning the ends of the earth and the death of the gods. Listen, and you will learn.

This is how we will know that the end times are upon us. It will be far from the age of the gods, in the time of men. It will happen when the gods all sleep, every god but all-seeing Heimdall. He will watch everything as it begins, although he will be powerless to prevent what he sees from happening.

It will begin with the winter.

This will not be a normal winter. The winter will begin, and it will continue, winter following winter. There will be no spring, no warmth. People will be hungry and they will be cold and they will be angry. Great battles will take place, all across the world.

Brothers will fight brothers, fathers will kill sons. Mothers and daughters will be set against each other. Sisters will fall in battle with sisters, and will watch their children murder each other in their turn.

This will be the age of cruel winds, the age of people who become as wolves, who prey upon each other, who are no better than wild beasts. Twilight will come to the world, and the places where the humans live will fall into ruins, flaming briefly, then crashing down and crumbling into ash and devastation.

Then, when the few remaining people are living like animals, the sun in the sky will vanish, as if eaten by a wolf, and the moon will be taken from us too, and no one will be able to see the stars any longer. Darkness will fill the air, like ashes, like mist.

This will be the time of the terrible winter that will not end, the Fimbulwinter.

There will be snow driving in from all directions, fierce winds, and cold colder than you have ever imagined cold could be, an icy cold so cold your lungs will ache when you breathe, so cold that the tears in your eyes will freeze. There will be no spring to relieve it, no summer, no autumn. Only winter, followed by winter, followed by winter.

After that there will come the time of the great earthquakes. The mountains will shake and crumble. Trees will fall, and any remaining places where people live will be destroyed.

The earthquakes will be so great that all bonds and shackles and fetters will be destroyed.

All of them.

Fenrir, the great wolf, will free himself from his shackles. His mouth will gape: his upper jaw will reach the heavens, the lower jaw will touch the earth. There is nothing he cannot eat, nothing he will not destroy. Flames come from his eyes and his nostrils.

Where Fenris Wolf walks, flaming destruction follows.

There will be flooding too, as the seas rise and surge onto the land. Jormungundr, the Midgard serpent, huge and dangerous, will writhe in its fury, closer and closer to the land. The venom from its fangs will spill into the water, poisoning all the sea life. It will spatter its black poison into the air in a fine spray, killing all the seabirds that breathe it.

There will be no more life in the oceans, where the Midgard serpent writhes. The rotted corpses of fish and of whales, of seals and sea monsters, will wash in the waves.

All who see the brothers Fenrir the wolf and the Midgard serpent, the children of Loki, will know death.

That is the beginning of the end.

The misty sky will split apart, with the sound of children screaming, and the sons of Muspell will ride down from the heavens, led by Surtr, the fire giant, holding high his sword, which burns so brightly no mortal can look upon it. They will ride across the rainbow bridge, across Bifrost, and the rainbow will crumble as they ride, its once-bright colors becoming shades of charcoal and of ash.

There will never be another rainbow.

Cliffs will crumble into the sea.

Loki, who will have escaped from his bonds beneath the earth, will be the helmsman of the ship called Naglfar. This is the biggest ship there will ever have been: it is built of the fingernails of the dead. Naglfar floats upon the flooded seas. The crew looks out and sees only dead things, floating and rotting on the surface of the ocean.

Loki steers the ship, but its captain will be Hrym, leader of the frost giants. The surviving frost giants all follow Hrym, huge and inimical to humanity. They are Hrym’s soldiers in the final battle.

Loki’s troops are the legions of Hel. They are the uneasy dead, the ones who died shameful deaths, who will return to the earth to fight once more as walking corpses, determined to destroy anything that still loves and lives above the earth.

All of them, giants and the dead and the burning sons of Muspell, will travel to the battle plain called Vigrid. Vigrid is huge: three hundred miles across. Fenris Wolf pads his way there also, and the Midgard serpent will navigate the flooded seas until it too is close to Vigrid, then it will writhe up onto the sand and force itself ashore—only its head and the first mile or so of its body. Most of it will remain in the sea.

They will form themselves into battle order: Surtr and the sons of Muspell will be there in flames; the warriors of Hel and Loki will be there from beneath the earth; the frost giants will be there, Hrym’s troops, the mud freezing where they stand. Fenrir will be with them, and the Midgard serpent. The worst enemies that the mind can imagine will be there that day.

Heimdall will have seen all this as it occurs. He sees everything, after all: he is the watchman of the gods. Now, and only now, he acts.

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