While Greek mythology has remained one of the more influential canons with exception to those in The Bible, the Norse and Germanic tribes aren’t far behind. In fact, without their stories we wouldn’t have Wagner’s operas or Tolkein’s Middle Earth as well as a certain Marvel comics superhero. Yet, like the Greeks, their myths aren’t very consistent but many of them were written down after the turn to Christianity so there’s no set canon and beliefs differ from place to place. Still, unlike their Greek counterparts, the Norse gods are fallible and can be killed and are much more held accountable for their actions. But they still have their moments. Yet, sometimes you can’t really tell them apart from the giants, especially in the Marvel universe. I’m only going to list the most important gods here so without further adieu, here is the list of Norse gods you need to know if you’re stuck in Asgard or Yggdrasil. (I’ll only give you as much important information as I can.)
Domain: All-Father and King of Asgard as well as associated with wisdom, war (emphasis on strategy), the hunt, poetry, magic, frenzy, and death. Patron god of the Viking beserkers.Gathered the souls of beautiful women for the Valkyries and the souls of warriors for Valhalla (Norse Heaven). Popular among royalty and beserkers.
Pro: He is seen as a noble god and warrior whose aim is to prevent and delay Ragnarok (Norse apocalypse) as well as keep all the other gods in line. Knows whatever mistake he makes will eventually catch up to him as well as willing to face the consequences for his actions. Can also be the occasional trickster but likes people and generally helps them, well, anyone who’s nice to him anyway. Considers killing and harming women monstrous.
Con: He could be a philanderer and major league jerk at times (though not nearly as much as Zeus). He subsists on mead and wine (though doesn’t seem to suffer from the negative effects). Believes that any of his ruthless actions necessary at preventing Ragnarok are justified no matter how cruel and does plenty of terrible things to Loki. His devoted and competent followers tend to be killed in messy ways to join him at Valhalla for the upcoming Ragnarok, which is a battle he’s destined to lose and can do nothing to change that. Also, not very trustworthy.
Domain: Queen of Asgard associated with motherhood, women, and the home.
Pro: She is regal and majestic as well as highly benevolent as well as can’t be easily fooled. She also knows how to get her own way and has much to teach her husband Odin. As far as the Norse pantheon goes, she’s one of the nicer gods as well as an attentive mother mostly.
Con: She can see into the future but can do nothing to change it. Also, doesn’t play a big role in Norse myths.
Domain: God of rebirth, light, love, and beauty as well as has a widely recounted death story.
Pro: Is one of the best looking gods and is invulnerable to almost anything. Not to mention, is one of the most pure and righteous of the gods that it’s scary. Doesn’t really do anything morally ambiguous.
Con: In some myths he’s not so nice (especially in the older ones when he has a rivalry with the brother who killed him) and isn’t immune to misteltoe (which could either be the plant or a sword) but doesn’t get it until after being tortured by the other gods. Best remembered for his death story than anything else as well as being the first to die though he may return to Ragnarok. Not to mention, his myths may have a Christian bias to them. His death is said to signal the end of times for the Norse gods.
Domain: God of thunder as well as order and favorite of the average Norse farmer. Also, protector of slaves as well as one of the best known Norse gods. I mean he’s a Marvel superhero and Avenger as well as Friend of Humans and Protector of Midgard (Middle Earth like in the Tolkein works).
Pro: He’s one of the more benevolent gods who’s willing to fight giants as well as demonic threats to mankind. He is widely feared by his enemies as well as surprisingly clever. Also has a badass wife he’s happily married to and his famous hammer. Seen as an honest, hardworking god who represented the common people and slaves.
Con: Well, he’s almost nowhere near the Shakespearean talking blonde you see in the movies or in the Marvel Comics. Can be a complete dick in the older myths though. Has a fiery temper you’d expect from a hot-blooded redhead like him and wouldn’t hesitate to hit a girl if he has to despite what his dad Odin may think. Also, will be fatally poisoned at Ragnarok so he’s not invulnerable.
Domain: God of war (emphasis on protection), law, soldiers, and heroic glory. Might’ve been the original head god before Odin became more popular in Scandinavia. Probably more liked in the Germanic tribes.
Pro: He’s a very brave warrior who’s not afraid to lose an arm and a leg over fighting a monster. Is the only god not afraid of a giant wolf in which binding it cost him his hand. Also, gets called upon in courts as a god of justice.
Con: Only appears in three myths and doesn’t have a high degree of specialization since almost every Norse god is a war god. Destined to be killed at Ragnarok. Also, myths about his family relations vary and was not nearly as popular as Thor or Odin.
Domain: Goddess of love, night magic, witches, warrioresses, and fertility yet also connected with bloodthirst and is commander of the Valkyries. Carries the souls of dead warriors in battle to Folkvang and takes the female warriors who go down with her.
Pro: She’s benevolent as well as someone you don’t want to piss off. Also, has an all girl soul army called the Valkyries. Not to mention, she knows magic and can go long ways looking for her husband Oder that she has a different name in every nation she searched for him. Not to mention, she’s part of the Vanir and originally came to Asgard as a hostage so she had to pull a few strings to get where she is. Cries tears of gold.
Con: She’s kind of really gets around (well, she’s a love and fertility goddess) despite being married. Has a really bad temper that can cause Asgard to shake during her tantrums as well as be very unpleasant. Also, most Germanic warriors would rather be with Odin in Valhalla than Folkvang (unless it’s a Viking Heaven for lady warriors even though it’s not that bad but not the same).
Domain: God of fertility, prosperity, sunshine and fair weather, kingship, and sex. Lord of the elf realm Alfheim
Pro: Generally seen as more benevolent than his sister Freyja and originally came to Asgard as a Vanir hostage but also somehow to get to be head of the Elves. Gives up his magic sword to win a giantess Gerd’s heart.
Con: He’s kind of gets around (since he’s a sex god). Oh, and he kills Gerd’s brother and sends a servant to threaten her family until she marries him. And despite being elf lord, his subjects can be quite unpleasant (but are very much like Tolkein’s). Also, giving up his magic sword costs his life at Ragnarok.
Domain: God of mischief and possibly fire. The trickster and technically a god since he’s Odin’s blood brother. Most scholars aren’t really sure about his role and only appears in Scandinavia myths in which nobody is sure how he got there and almost has no common parallel in other Indo-European pantheons. His true nature is unknown, which is appropriate.
Pro: He keeps his word whether for good or for ill and goes on even when the likes of Odin have given up. Is good to his kids (like Odin and Thor are mostly) and sometimes can use his talents for trickery and deceit to benefit the gods though he isn’t praised for it.
Con: Where to begin? Has a tendency to cause a lot of trouble with his deceit and trickery (though usually forced by the other gods to fix) as well as humps anything that moves (whether it be man, woman, or horse). Also, tends to receive a lot of crap from the gods which results in him turning against them as well as his cave imprisonment as well as set the events of Ragnarok in motion when he breaks free (but he won’t survive it). In his antics he could range from trickster to outright troll and he does have his fiery redhead moments. Still, he’s pretty much an enigma and capable of doing anything but is usually unrepentant of his heinous deeds (like putting the blind Hoor to accidentally kill Baldr). As for his kids, some of them are literally monsters who also get a lot of crap from the other gods.
Domain: Loki’s giantess consort.
Pro: She’s a competent fighter and has super strength. She’s also highly resistant to fire. May have been a very powerful witch who could see into the future.
Con: She may or may not know whether her monstrous kids will help their daddy end the world. Also, may have been consumed in flames or demoted as Loki’s mistress. Either way having kids turning out to be monsters didn’t do much good for her.
Domain: Goddess of death and graves as well as ruler of Hel who welcomes souls who’ve died in old age, disease, or in accidents (a dark and shady place but a peaceful one, well, most of it anyway unless you’re a Norse warrior. Actual Viking Hell is Na-strond which monstrous fortress of torture with poison dripping serpent skeletons, sucking blood, and goat’s urine).
Pro: Usually keeps her word when she gives it but isn’t really a malevolent being per se. Only interferes with other Asgardians’ plans only when it concerned her directly.
Con: She’s stoic, dour, and cold as well as not well liked by both gods and mortals. She was said to use her broom and rake when plague would hit and is kind of a necrophile (though she wouldn’t really bang a corpse).
Domain: Loki’s Asgardian wife who assists him during his captivity holding a dish over his face to collect the venom and only leaving his side to empty it.
Pro: She’s devoted to Loki and never leaves his side despite the crap he gives her. Still, she’s not blind to his flaws either.
Con: Can come off as a doormat when Loki is depicted as a domestic abuser who may not go out of his way to be kind for her or even care about her loyalty either. Her sons don’t have nice fates either.
Domain: God of Vengence, silence, space, and footwear, and associated with Vali.
Pro: Can fight and slay great monsters without breaking an arm in the process and even using a leather boot. Survives Ragnarock and avenges his father Odin’s death. Is often very quiet which may be due to his scheming.
Con: He and his half-brother Vali were mainly conceived for avenging their half-brother Baldr’s death. Also, doesn’t really keep himself clean until Baldr’s killer is dead. Too bad the culprit was Hoor who is blind and really didn’t mean it.
Domain: Associated with Vioarr. God of Revenge.
Pro: Managed to kill someone despite being one day old as well as helped capture Loki. Also a great marksman. Destined to survive Ragnarok.
Con: He and his half-brother Vioarr were mainly conceived to avenge Baldr’s death and neither keep themselves clean until then. Also, has a very brief childhood in the course of a day and kills the blind Hoor who didn’t really mean to it. Not to mention, there’s really not much about him.
Domain: Goddess of hunting, winter, mountains and skiing. She’s a frost giant as well as goddess through her marriage to Freyr and Freyja’s dad Njoror she chose herself and Scandinavia may have been named after her so she has some importance to Vikings.
Pro: She is certainly not someone to mess with and though she originally goes to Asgard to avenge her dad’s death, the gods seem to treat her surprisingly well that she was allowed to choose a husband (considering her dad kidnapped Iounn).
Con: Once used a dead snake on Loki that dripped poison in his eyes in retaliation for him killing Baldr. Also, it’s very much a challenge to make her laugh.
Domain: Watchman of the Aesir guarding the Bifrost Bridge against any threat as well as represents the benefits of fire and sired the humans and passed runes to them.
Pro: Can see and hear everything that happens in the world and never needs to sleep. Also, doesn’t talk much and almost never leaves his post (save once or twice).
Con: Has an ongoing rivalry with Loki and convinced Thor to dress in drag at one point. Might’ve had nine mothers (this is Norse mythology don’t ask me). Also, destined to die at Ragnarok.
Domain: Goddess of agriculture and youth as well as keeper of the golden apples.
Pro: Though she doesn’t have much presence, she has a very important job since the golden apples preserve the gods’ youth and immortality. When she’s kidnapped, they progressively age, which are reversed when she comes back.
Con: Doesn’t appear much in myths unless she’s kidnapped or absent from Asgard. Also, will be no help at Ragnarok.
Great job on this article.
Do you remember where you found the picture of Hel you used? I’m trying to find the artist, and so far my search has brought me here.