The Survivors of Ragnarok


By Jackson CrawfordUniversity of Colorado, Boulder

In Ragnarok, during the final battle, the world burns with towering flames, reaching all the way up to the stars, and even the sky is burned black. And finally all things, up to the very stars, sink into the sea. And yet, even after the death of all the gods and all of humankind, even after the complete fiery destruction of the earth, the survivors of Ragnarok will rise again.

Illustration of the world burning during Ragnarok
Even though the world burns in flames as tall as the stars, Ragnarok isn’t the complete end of the world. (Image: Emil Doepler/Public domain)

Survivors of Ragnarok

Here is what is predicted. For the earth will rise again from out of the sea, green and new. Fields of grain will grow without any human labor required. And somehow, some of the gods will return to the land of the living from Hel. The returning gods will include Vithar, Odin’s avenger, and Vali, Balder’s avenger. Now Vithar and Vali will reunite at the former site of Asgard with Thor’s sons Magni and Mothi, who will bear their father’s hammer. 

Then Balder himself will emerge from Hel, together with his blind brother and accidental slayer, Hoth. There in the grass within, where the enclosure of the old gods was, they will find the golden game pieces that the gods had played with at creation.

Illustration of Balder
Balder is one of the gods who survived Ragnarok. (Image: Johannes Gehrts/Public domain)

Aside from these children of the former ruling gods—the alliterating pairs Vithar and Vali, who are Odin’s sons, and Magni and Mothi, who are Thor’s—another survivor will be Loki’s enigmatic, frequent companion Honir, who is said to ‘choose fate-sticks’ after the end. What this vague action by this vague figure means cannot be known with certainty, but possibly he will take over the role of the three Norns and determine the fates of those who live after Ragnarok.

Life and Pulsing-With-Life

But now not just some from among the gods, but also two mortals will survive. The two human beings, named Life and Pulsing-With-Life (the former seems to be the woman, and the latter the man), will survive in an unknown place called Hoddmimir’s Forest, where they will keep themselves alive by feeding on the morning dewdrops. The children descended from this couple will come to repopulate the whole world.

A new sun will then shine down upon this new world, a ‘daughter’ of the old sun. Since it’s never clear that heavenly bodies like the sun and moon are living beings in Norse myth, this may be only a metaphorical daughter, a spark from the same flame. But this new sun will travel the same path as the old one, and night and day will return with their old lawful regularity, with no more of the permanent darkness of Ragnarok.

This article comes directly from content in the video series Norse MythologyWatch it now, on Wondrium.

There’s No Getting Rid of Evil

The world tree Yggdrasil
Nithhogg, the huge serpent who happens to chew on the root of Yggdrasil in the mythic present, returns after Ragnarok, proving that the conflict between good and evil is far from done. (Image: Oluf Olufsen Bagge/Public domain)

And yet, not all will be well in the reborn world after Ragnarok. The prophecy of the seeress, the poem Voluspa, ends not on a note of hope in the new age, but on a profoundly disturbing note. For the witch speaks finally of the survival of the huge serpent, Nithhogg, who chews on a root of Yggdrasil during the mythic present. He returns now, flying over the surviving gods:

Then the dark dragon

will come flying

down from the dark mountains,

that glistening serpent.

Nithhogg will bear corpses

in his wings

as he flies over that valley . . .

The world is destroyed by evil, then repopulated by good, then threatened anew by surviving evil. Is it a cycle of ages akin to that envisioned by the ancient Maya? While it is tempting to speculate so, there is no firm evidence that the Norse thought in terms of a cycle or steady progression of ages. 

Only our age, and then the one single Ragnarok, and then the one single following age, are ever mentioned, not a looming specter of more Ragnaroks after the first one hits the cosmic reset button. 

In fact, the looming end for the Aesir gods and all other life, predestined since early in cosmic history, parallels the long-destined death day for each individual human being. And with no indication that anyone save a few chosen gods and two human beings will survive, Ragnarok is not really a ‘rebirth’ of our world. It is more like the next ‘generation’ afterward, whose welfare or demise is unconnected to the one we are living in today.

Common Questions about the Survivors of Ragnarok

Q: Who is said to ‘choose fate-sticks’ after Ragnarok?

One of the survivors of Ragnarok will be Loki’s frequent companion, Honir. He is said to ‘choose fate-sticks’ after the end. What this means isn’t completely clear but it possibly suggests that he will take over the responsibility that the three Norns once held. That is, to decide the fate of those who live after Ragnarok.

Q: How will humanity emerge after Ragnarok?

It appears that the only human survivors of Ragnarok are a woman and man called Life and Pulsing-With-Life. They will survive by consuming the morning dewdrops in an unknown place called Hoddmimir’s Forest. The two will be responsible for repopulating the world with humans.

Q: How does the prophecy in the poem Voluspa that foretells the events after Ragnarok end?

The prophecy ends on a disturbing note since it foretells that the huge serpent, Nithhogg, will also be one of the survivors of Ragnarok which means evil will also live on and threaten the new good which has emerged after Ragnarok.

Keep Reading
Hoth and the Death of Balder
Balder’s Funeral and Journey to Hel
The Differing Accounts of Balder’s Death