Jormungandr (Old Norse Jǫrmungandr pronounced [ˈjɔ̃rmoŋˌɡɑndr], sometimes written Jörmungandr or Iormungandr) is in Norse mythology a gigantic sea serpent, attested in scaldic poems and the Eddas written between the ninth and thirteenth centuries.

According to Snorri's Edda, he is the son of the evil god Loki and the giantess Angrboda, and the brother of the wolf Fenrir and the goddess of the underworld Hel. Shortly after his birth, the god Odin throws Jörmungand into the sea that surrounds Midgard, since prophecies tell that he will cause great damage to the gods.

But he grows so big that he ends up surrounding the world and biting his own tail, hence his other name, Midgardsorm (Miðgarðsormr), "snake of Midgard".

In several myths, Jörmungand appears as the rival of the god Thor, whom he meets during a famous fishing party, described in six texts and pictorially reproduced on four known runic stones. At the end of the prophetic world, the Ragnarök, Jörmungand will cause tidal waves by rising from the seas to fight the gods alongside the giants.

He will finally be killed by Thor, but the god will succumb in his turn after nine steps, poisoned by the venom of the serpent.

Jormungandr Etymology

Jörmungandr is composed of the Old Icelandic jörmun-, "immense", and gandr, meaning "monster", so this name means "immense monster ".

Only in Snorri's Edda is it named Miðgarðsormr, which in Old Icelandic means "snake-world", or "Midgard snake ", with ormr meaning "snake". It is sometimes only called Ormr, or Naðr, "serpent, dragon ".


Jörmungand is described as a gigantic and hideous sea serpent or dragon, capable of spitting deadly venom, and with a terrifying look if we refer to the myth of Thor's fishing party. Its size is such that it surrounds the Earth and bites its own tail. In the prophetic battle of Ragnarök, it is said that when it emerges from the sea it will cause tidal waves.

The scaldic poem Húsdrápa names Jörmungand by the kennings men storðar "necklace of the world", and stirðþinull storðar "rigid rope of the world ".

The scaldic poem Ragnarsdrápa names Jörmungand by the kennings endiseiðr allra landa "border-fish of all lands", þvengr "strap" or hringr "ring" of the ocean, hrøkkviáll drekku Völsunga 'twisting eel of the Völsungs' drink' (the Völsungs' drink is poison, in reference to the myth of the hero Sinfjötli), and vrangr œgir vágs 'twisting agitator of the waves'.

The scalde Eysteinn Valdason refers to Jörmungand as kenning seiðr jarðar 'fish of the earth' , and Gamli gnævadarskáld as grundar fiskr 'fish of the ground' (these are kennings for snakes, but take on a whole new dimension when referring to Jörmungand, the world-serpent).

According to Snorri's Edda, he is the son of the evil god Loki and the giantess Angrboda, and thus the brother of the monstrous wolf Fenrir and Hel, the goddess of the world of the dead. His kinship with Loki is also attested in the Eddic poem Hymiskvida and the Scaldic poem Þórsdrápa, where the kenning faðir lögseims, "father of the serpent", refers to Loki.

As a young boy, Jörmungand is brought up in the world of the giants, Jötunheim, but is thrown into the sea by the god Odin because prophecies foretell that he will bring bad luck.

Jormungandr's Myths

The stories about Jörmungand come from the Eddas. The Edda of Snorri, composed in the thirteenth century, recounts in prose and in great detail all the myths known about Jörmungand, and also preserves various scaldic poems, one of which dates back to the ninth century and describes the same myth.

Otherwise, the Hymiskviða and the Völuspá, from the poetic Edda written in the thirteenth century but composed of older poems, also evoke myths related to Jörmungand. Of the four known myths, three are centered on the encounters between Thor and this sea serpent who end up killing each other.

Jormungandr's Birth

Chapter 34 of the Gylfaginning, in Snorri's Edda, tells that the god Loki and the giantess Angrboda have three monstrous children; the wolf Fenrir, the serpent-world Jörmungand and Hel, whom they raise in Jötunheim. However, the Aesir gods know from prophecies that Loki's offspring will cause their misfortune.

So Odin demands that these children be seized, and he throws the still small snake Jörmungand into the sea. But the snake grows so fast that it soon surrounds the world of men, Midgard, until it bites its own tail9.

"He threw the serpent into the deep sea around the land, but it grew so large that, living in the middle of the sea, it now surrounded all the land and bit its own tail."

- Gylfaginning, chapter 34

The lifting of the cat

Chapter 46 of Gylfaginning, in Snorri's Edda, tells of Thor and his companions being lodged in the castle of the giant-king Útgarða-Loki, who, in order to humiliate them, offers them seemingly easy challenges that they inexplicably do not succeed in. Among these challenges, Thor must lift a cat.

The god puts all his strength into it, but despite his efforts, he only manages to get one of the cat's paws off the ground. We learn in chapter 47 that the next day, Útgarða-Loki reveals that he has given them visual illusions. In reality, the little animal was the huge Jörmungand himself, whom the king of the giants had given the appearance of a cat.

Rather than a humiliation, it was a feat that impressed all the giants. Indeed, Útgarða-Loki said to him:

"The fact that you lifted the cat seemed no less remarkable to me. To tell you the truth, all those who saw that you managed to lift one of its legs from the ground were afraid, because this cat was not what it seemed to you: it was the Midgard snake, which is found all around the land and whose size is barely big enough for its tail and head to touch the ground. But you lifted it up so much that you were only a short distance from the sky."

- Gylfaginning, chapter 4711

Thor's Fishing Trip

The myth of Thor's fishing trip is told in several texts, with some variations. It is first described in the scaldic poems Ragnarsdrápa composed in the ninth century by Bragi Boddason and Húsdrápa composed in 983 by Ulf Uggason.

In addition, we know only three stanzas from the scalde Eysteinn Valdason and one stanza from Gamli gnævadarskáld from the tenth century that describe the fishing party as well, thus attesting to the antiquity of the myth.

All these stanzas are preserved in Snorri's Edda, which also summarizes the myth, in prose with more detail, and Snorri describes this encounter as a direct revenge by Thor for the episode where he is deceived into believing that Jörmungand is a cat to be lifted. Finally, another detailed account is found in the Eddic poem Hymiskvida.

The Eddic poem Hymiskvida tells of Thor going fishing with the giant Hymir, taking with him the head of an ox from his host to use as bait. Thor demands that the giant take him further out to sea but the latter refuses. Then the giant catches two whales while it is the Midgard snake itself that bites Thor's line.

Thor is also named by the kenning as the "slayer of the serpent" in stanza 22, in reference to the myth of Ragnarök where he kills Jörmungand. The god manages to pull the huge snake on board and he hits it with his hammer Mjöllnir, which makes the monster sink. Disgruntled, Hymir takes the way back and does not cease to question the strength of Thor, who ends up killing him.

In Snorri's Edda, the author tells that Thor, in the form of a boy, goes on a fishing trip with the giant Hymir, and tears off the head of an ox to use as bait. Then Thor rows far out to sea despite Hymir's protests that he fears the Midgard serpent. Thor then prepares a strong line and hooks the ox head.

The hook gets stuck in Jörmungand's palate, and he struggles so much that Thor's feet go through the floor of the boat. Thor manages to pull the snake out of the water, and it spits its venom. As Thor is about to strike the snake with his hammer Mjöllnir, the terrified giant Hymir cuts the line and lets the snake escape.

Thor throws the hammer at him anyway without killing him. Furious, Thor knocks the giant overboard, then walks back to shore. Snorri Sturluson states that "some" say that Thor beheaded the serpent, perhaps referring to the version in the scaldic poem Húsdrápa (stanzas 3-6).

This poem briefly mentions this fishing party, and seems to describe in stanza 6 that Thor beheads the snake with a fist. Snorri disputes this version, saying that Jörmungand is still alive in the ocean. The version Snorri adopts is probably that of the scaldic poem Ragnarsdrápa, which he quotes, since the serpent cannot be killed since it reappears afterwards in Ragnarök.

The Ragnarsdrápa describes the fishing party in stanzas 14 to 196.

In addition to the large number of preserved texts that refer to it, the popularity of the myth is also confirmed by the fact that it is depicted on four known engraved stones from the Viking Age.



In Norse eschatology, it is prophesied that a great and final battle will take place during which the giants, led by the god Loki, will attack the Aesir and man on the plain of Vígríd. This event is called Ragnarök.

All chains will break, and the wolf Fenrir, like his father Loki, will be released, and will be accompanied by Jörmungand who will cause a tidal wave on the land. In this battle, the majority of the gods and all the men except a couple perish.

In the Eddic poem Völuspá, Jörmungandr is described in stanza 50 as "seized by the fury of the giants" and whipping up the waves. His battle with the god Thor is described in the poem as "a great battle". His battle with the god Thor is described in stanza 56. Thor kills Jörmungandr during the battle, but perishes in turn after nine steps:


Then comes the glorious
Son of Hlódyn,
The son of Ódinn goes
To kill the serpent,
Occites in wrath
The sentinel of Midgardr;
All men go
Desert their homes;
Fjörgyn's son,
Exhausted, retreats
Nine steps before the viper
Without fear of shame.

The same events are described in prose in the Gylfaginning section of Snorri's Edda, probably inspired by the verses of the Völuspá, which is quoted in the work. The arrival of Jörmungand is described in chapter 51:

"Then the ocean will break over the land, because the Midgard serpent, seized by its "giant fury," will gain the shore. The Midgard Serpent will blow so much venom that it will spray the whole air and the sea with it. It will be absolutely frightening and it will come forward at the side of the wolf (Fenrir).

- Gylfaginning, chapter 51

The text goes on to explain that when the god Odin fights the wolf Fenrir, Thor will not be able to help him because he will be fighting Jörmungand:

"At his side will ride Thor, but he will not be able to come to his aid, for he will have much to do when he fights the Midgard serpent. Thor will kill the Midgard Serpent and will take nine more steps before he falls dead to the ground, because of the venom that the serpent will spit on him."

- Gylfaginning, chapter 51

Jormungandr Archaeological evidence

The myth of Thor's fishing party is depicted on four Viking Age stones, testifying to its popularity.

The Altuna rune stone in Sweden, dated around 1050, is the clearest. It depicts Thor holding his hammer Mjölnir in one hand and a fishing line in the other, at the end of which is depicted a sea serpent, with Thor's feet crossing the floor of the boat. The other stones represent two people fishing an unidentified animal, but it can be deduced that it is indeed the same myth.

The Gosforth cross in England, dated to the tenth century, allows us to assume that it is indeed the fishing of Jörmungand since an ox head is represented at the end of the line.

The Ardre VIII stone (Gotland, vii century) as well as the Hœrdum stone (Denmark, between vii and xie centuries) also seem to represent this fight.


Otherwise, the scaldic poem Húsdrápa dated 983 consists of a poetic description by the scalde of woodcuts representing myths, including Thor's fishing party. However, this described piece of art has not been found.

Theories of Jormungandr

Comparative mythology

An unnamed serpent-world is also known in Germanic folk legends in the Middle Ages, outside of Scandinavia. Earthquakes were attributed to its writhing. Otherwise, the struggle between a god and a monster is found in several Indo-European mythologies, for example, the battles between Indra and Vṛtrá; Apollo and Pythonand Ra and Apophis .

The possible influence of the biblical Leviathan on the Jörmungand myth has also been discussed. Leviathan has been understood by Christian theologians as a personification of the devil, who is destroyed by Christ. A. Kabell even believes that Jörmungand was influenced by Jewish biblical apocrypha from the seventh century.

In any case, it seems certain that the battles of Thor against Jörmungand, and of Christ against Leviathan, were mutually influenced by the Christianization of Scandinavia, as evidenced by the Gosforth cross, which mixes pagan and Christian myths, and the linguistic equation between the Midgard serpent and Leviathan in late Icelandic translations of Christian texts.

Symbolism of Jormungandr

Jörmungand would have symbolized the vast and mysterious ocean and its dangers, and would have been a magnification of the movements of the waves, evoking the rings of a snake.

Jormungandr In popular culture


Jörmungand is mentioned in the song Twilight of the thunder god by the symphonic death metal band Amon Amarth.
A song by the metal band Skálmöld is named Miðgarðsormur ("Midgard Serpent").

Comics and manga

  • The serpent Jörmungand has been taken up by Marvel comics, which also feature the god Thor (first appearance in 1952 in Marvel Tales no 105). The fight between Thor and Jörmungand is described in Thor #272 - 273 (June-July 1978) and a second time in The Mighty Thor #380 (June 1987).
  • Jormungand (2006-2012) is also the title of a manga written by Keitarou Takahashi, reproduced in anime since 2012.

Video games

Jörmungand has inspired several creatures or technologies in video games, which borrow variants of his names, including:

  • Final Fantasy VII (1997),
  • The Ocean Hunter (1998),
  • Age of Mythology (2002),
  • Battlestar Galactica Online (2004),
  • Final Fantasy XII (2006),
  • World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (2008),
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld (2008),
  • Magicka (2011), Final Fantasy XV (2016),
  • For Honor (2017),
  • God of War 4 (2018),
  • Smite (2019)
  • Pokémon Sword and Shield (2019): Pokémon Tuttetecri featuring a design of the snake on its body.

Playing and Collecting Card Games

In the Kaldheim expansion for the card game Magic: The Assembly, released in 2021 and inspired by Norse mythology, the legendary great serpent-like creature Koma, serpent of the cosmos, is inspired by Jörmungand.

Amusement parks

In the attraction Thor's Hammer opened on June 22, 2013 in TusenFryd, Norway. Several mythological beings including Jörmungandr (a sea serpent); Fenrir (a giant wolf) and Surtr (a giant), make appearances during the ride.