Origin of the Hrímþursar


5. “Tell me,” said Gangleri, “what was the state of things ere the races mingled, and nations came into being.”

“When the rivers that are called Élivágar had flowed far from their sources,” replied Har, “the venom which they rolled along hardened, as does dross that runs from a furnace, and became ice. When the rivers flowed no longer, and the ice stood still, the vapour arising from the venom gathered over it, and froze to rime, and in this  manner were formed, in Ginnungagap, many layers of congealed vapour, piled one over the other.”

“That part of Ginnungagap,” added Jafnhárr, “that lies towards the north was thus filled with heavy masses of gelid vapour and ice, whilst everywhere within were whirlwinds and fleeting mists. But the southern part of Ginnungagap was lighted by the sparks and flakes that flew into it from Muspelheim.”

“Thus,” continued Þriði, “whilst freezing cold and gathering gloom proceeded from Niflheim, that part of Ginnungagap looking towards Muspelheim was filled with glowing radiancy, the intervening space remaining calm and light as wind-still air. And when the heated blast met the gelid vapour it melted it into drops, and, by the might of him who sent the heat, these drops quickened into life, and took a human semblance. The being thus formed was named Ymir, but the Frost-giants call him Aurgelmir. From him descend the race of the Frost-giants (Hrímþursar), as it is said in the Völuspá, ‘From Vidolf come all witches; from Vilmeith all wizards; from Svarthofdi all poison-seethers; and all giants from Ymir.’ And the giant Vafthrûdnir, when Gangleri asked, ‘Whence came Aurgelmir the first of the sons of giants?’ answered, ‘The Elivagar cast out drops of venom that quickened into a giant. From him spring all our race, and hence are we so strong and mighty.'”

“How did the race of Ymir spread itself?” asked Gangleri; “or dost thou believe that this giant was a god?”

“We are far from believing him to have been a god,”  replied Har, “for he was wicked as are all of his race, whom we call Frost-giants. And it is said that, when Ymir slept, he fell into a sweat, and from the pit of his left arm was born a man and a woman, and one of his feet engendered with the other a son, from whom descend the Frost-giants, and we therefore call Ymir the old Frost-giant.”

From the Poetic Eddas


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