10 Most Powerful Weapons in Norse Mythology
Powerful weapons abound in Norse mythology. This comes as no surprise as the Norse gods, especially, the Aesir race of gods, were prone to violence and engaging in warfare. Take for instance the weapons and artifacts forged by the dwarfs in their realm Nidavellir, which are usually considered the greatest objects in the Norse cosmos. Majority of those weapons were extremely powerful and could devastate or incapacitate an opponent in just a few seconds.
Below World History Edu delves into the major myths surrounding the 10 most powerful objects in the Norse cosmos.
In the myths, Thor, the god of thunder and oldest son of Odin, wields a powerful hammer known as Mjolnir. The hammer is undoubtedly the most famous weapon in Norse mythology. For a hammer with such destructive capability it makes a lot of sense that it is wielded by Thor, the Norse god of thunder and strength.
In the myths, Mjolnir is so powerful that it can be used to decimate huge mountains. Thor could also use the hammer to channel lethal thunderstorms from the sky towards a target. What makes Mjolnir even more fascinating is that whenever it is thrown it comes right back into the hand of the person who threw it.
Forged by the dwarfs in Nidavellir (a realm beneath the earth), Mjolnir is said to have a short handle, meaning that it is a one-handed weapon. The hammer was forged after Loki, the god of mischief, asked two dwarfs – Sindri and Brokkr – to make a hammer that will appease Thor. Loki had incurred the wrath of Thor for cutting off the beautiful golden hair of the goddess Sif, Thor’s wife.
And had it not being for Loki’s constant disturbance of the dwarfs while they were forging the hammer, Mjolnir would have come out perfect with a normal handle. Loki had shapeshifted into a fly and then buzzed around the workshop of the dwarfs. This resulted in the dwarfs making the mistake of using a short handle instead of a long handle.
Come Ragnarok, Thor would wield Mjolnir and do battle against the Midgard Serpent Jörmungandr. After a ferocious fight, Thor is able to kill Jörmungandr; however, the thunder god dies after taking nine steps. After the death of Thor, his hammer Mjolnir will pass on to his sons Móði and Magni.
Gleipnir, which means “open one” in Old Norse, was the unbreakable chain the Aesir gods used to bind the great wolf Fenrir. The chain was said to be so strong that it could not be compared to any steel chain in all the Nine Realms. What makes it even more interesting is that it appears to be soft-looking, almost as thin as a silken ribbon, yet not even a beast as strong as Fenrir could break it.
A very unique object in Norse mythology, Gleipnir was made by the dwarfs, who poured copious amount of magic into the chain. One chain to bind the great wolf Fenrir! The Aesir gods made the decision to bind Fenrir as there was increasing fear among the gods over Fenrir’s explosive growth and power.
In forging Gleipnir, the dwarfs used six items – the spittle of a bird; the breath of a fish; the sinews of a bear; the roots of a mountain; the beard of a woman; and the sound of a cat’s footfall.
The gods told Fenrir that they only wanted to test how strong Gleipnir, and that he would be released once the test was complete. So Fenrir agreed provided one of the gods placed their hand in his mouth as a sign of good fate. Tyr, the god of war, was the only one brave enough to put his hand in Fenrir’s mouth. But Fenrir was deceived, for the gods never intended releasing Fenrir once he was bound. Upon realizing the deceit, Fenrir quickly bit off Tyr’s hand.
According to the myth, Gleipnir will hold Fenrir bound until the onset of Ragnarok, at which point the great wolf will break free from the chain and then proceed to fight and devour Odin.
Read More: The Three Monstrous Children of Loki
Coming in at number 3 on this list is Odin’s magic spear which was forged by the dwarfs. It’s said that the spear could hit any target anywhere regardless of the wielder’s skill or strength. As a result of this feature, the name of Odin’s spear translates as “The Swaying One”.
Immaculately balanced, Gungnir served Odin on many occasions, especially during battles. In one of the myths, Odin firmly throws Gungnir over the heads of the Vanir gods, the second race of gods in Norse mythology. This scene probably took place during the famous Aesir-Vanir War which saw both groups of gods fight each other over the sacrifices that humans gave them. The Vikings practice of throwing spears over the heads of one’s opponent in battle most likely came from this story. The Vikings saw this as a way of invoking Odin, who by the way is also a god of war.
According to the prophecy in the myth, Odin will wield Gungnir one last time during Ragnarok, where he will face the mighty wolf Fenrir. In spite of his hard-fought attempt, Odin will end up devoured by the wolf.
Read More: Major myths about Odin and his other favorite weapons
Known as “resounding horn”, Gjallarhorn was the horn that Norse god Heimdall carried all the time so that he could blow it just in time to alert the Norse gods of the onset of Ragnarok (i.e. the demise of the gods). Gjallarhorn would go off immediately Heimdallr spies Loki and his band of evil forces make their way towards the Bifrost bridge, a bridge that leads to Asgard (Realm of the Aesir). The horn is so powerful that when sounded it can be heard across all the Nine Realms.
In Old Norse, the name of Angurvadal means “A Stream of Anguish”. The name of this sword is testimony to sheer power it possesses. According to the myth, Angurvadal was owned by the Norse hero Frithiof, son of the hero Thorstein Vikingsson.
On the many adventures that Frithiof embarked upon, Angurvadal was always by his side, including the mission to Orkney where he tried to show that he was worthy of marrying Princess Ingeborg. Unfortunately, Frithiof did not get what he wanted as he was stabbed in the back by the brothers of Ingeborg. Not only did they burn down Frithiof’s house, they also forced their sister Ingeborg into marrying an old king known as King Ring.
A disappointed Frithiof then sails away with a group of Viking warriors to pursue other adventures. After making a name for himself in so many battles and Viking raids, a wealthy Frithiof makes his way back to Orkney, where he was welcomed by an ageing King Ring. Just before Ring dies, he bequeaths his entire kingdom to Frithiof. The warrior also goes on to marry the love of his life, Ingeborg. Friethiof thereafter exacts a huge punishment on the men who wronged him earlier.
Hofund, spelt as Hǫfuð in Old Norse, is the powerful sword that Norse god Heimdall uses to keep the realm of Asgard safe from intruders. Known in Norse mythology, as the “Eternal Watcher”, Heimdall stands guard at his watchtower at the Himinbjörg (also known as the sky cliffs) watches everything that took place in Asgard. It was also said that his watchtower sat on top of the Bifrost – a rainbow bridge that leads into Asgard.
The Hofund sword complemented Heimdall’s impeccable abilities as a the watchman of the Aesir gods.
With this deadly sword of his, Heimdall will go toe-to-toe against Loki during Ragnarok. According to the prophecy, both Heimdall and Loki are fated to kill each other.
Read More: Top 10 Norse Gods and Goddesses
Other important artifacts and weapons in Norse mythology
The following are some other famous artifacts and weapons that were used by the Norse gods:
- Draupnir – In addition to his spear, Odin had a magical ring called Draupnir. Every ninth night, the ring multiplied and formed eight new rings.
- Mead of Poetry – an alcoholic beverage brewed from the blood of the slain Kvasir, the wisest being among the Aesir gods. When drank, the mead is said to make the drinker an extremely wise scholar and poet.
- Vidar’s shoes – In the myths, Vidar, the son of Odin, uses his powerful shoe to avenge the death of Odin at the hands of Fenrir. Upon witnessing his father’s death, Vidar lunches himself at Fenrir and uses his shoes to pry open the jaw of Fenrir before thrusting his sword into the mouth of the wolf, thus killing Fenrir.
- Skíðblaðnir– A magical ship made by the dwarfs for the god Freyr. The ship has the ability to sail without wind. It could also be folded up so small that it will fit in one’s pocket. When unfolded, the ship is roomy enough that it can accommodate all the Norse gods as well as their weapons and other battle gear.
Who are the dwarfs in Norse mythology?
According to the myths, the dwarfs were considered some of the most intelligent and skillful creatures in all of the nine realms. They were master craftsmen who famously crafted powerful objects like Thor’s hammer Mjölnir, Odin’s spear Gungnir and his ring Draupnir, the boar Gullinbursti (“Golden Bristles” or “Golden Mane”), and Freyr’s ship Skidbaldnir.