Ragnarok, (meaning “Twilight of the Gods” in Old Norse) in Norse mythology, was the predestined death of the gods. A three-year winter (Fimbulvetr meaning “Extreme Winter”) led to a final battle, where the gods and the frost giants fought the epic final battle. Ragnarok marks the end of the old world, and the beginning of the new, current world.
Odin, who had previously attempted to prevent Ragnarok from occurring, led the gods. They were assisted by the heroic dead, those who had died in glorious battle and had been taken to live in
Valhalla and await the final battle. The frost giants were led by the fire god Loki and assisted by the unworthy dead who came from Hel, and by other monsters.
The wolves Guilt and Hate catch the Sun and the Moon and swallow them. The stars disappear and the earth is dissolved in total darkness. The World Serpent who had been gnawing at the roots of the World Tree emerged from the waves, spewing poison all over the world, leading to a gigantic flood on earth. As the sea came to engulf the land, on it came a ship with Loki leading a group of giants. The ship was supposed to have been built out of uncut nails of dead men.
Odin knew that the end was near. During the massive battle, he gets swallowed by a giant wolf, which gets later gets killed by Odin’s son, as an act of revenge. Thor goes out to battle and manages to kill all, including the, but was overwhelmed by its deadly poison, which killed him ultimately. One by one all the gods and goddesses fell like nine pins and soon all gods and humans had perished after a pitched battle between the gods, giants, mortals and forces of nature.
Ragnarok is a scene of chaotic violence in which the fate of all races, all beings, is decided. The halls of the dead are emptied, as is the plain of Hel. All who have died, whether honorably or not, are brought back for a violent war. All creatures and races alive during that time are drawn to the field of battle and will fight, and die. All the gods and giants appear, and fight and the far majority of them die. Every human being except for two (which also means every single human in the culture who listened to this tale) die. Even those who were raised from
Valhalla die again.
The picture of intense cold as a background for mounting fire and smoke rising to the stars, in conjunction with a tidal wave which engulfed the inhabited land, may have drawn much of its vigour and terror from such remembered catastrophe.
But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. Amid the destruction, two humans were saved as they had taken refuge in the World Tree, who go on to start the world all over again.
The myth of destruction could have its influence from many Eastern myths, where a myth of destruction has been a common feature. This could have been used to depict the end of the Viking era, though one can’t deny the influence of the pre-Christian myths of destruction too.
Ragnarok is based on a famous poem Voluspa. Voluspa itself may have been inspired partly by the experience , either first hand or from vivid accounts from those who had witnessed it, of a major volcanic eruption in Iceland, such as we know took place at frequent intervals in historic times.