Religion in Norway was pagan until about 1000 AD, when Christianity
finally took hold. Norwegian cosmology--native ideas about the origin
and structure of the universe, and the place of humans in
it--reflected the most basic elements of a harsh arctic environment,
as well as the brutal combat common among warring North Germanic
tribes. The Prose Edda, written around 1220 AD by Icelandic historian
Snorri Sturluson, described this ancient creation belief.
In the earliest time, nothing existed except a yawning chasm. Icy
mists swirled to the north, fire and blinding light stretched to the
south, and a hard frost formed in the middle. The frost was poisonous
because an evil influence was already at work. This frost produced
Ymir the Frost Giant, a mighty and evil creature in the likeness of
A giant cow was also formed from the hard-frost region. Her milk fed
Ymir and his children. One day the cow licked a block of ice and
uncovered a giant, Buri. From Buri sprang a young Odin and his two
brothers. Odin became chief among the heroic gods called the Aesir,
who mirrored the Old Norse culture of a warrior aristocracy.
The three young gods and the frost giant could not live together in
peace, and when the gods were old enough, they killed Ymir and
dismembered him, forging the earth and sky from different parts of his
body. Then Odin and his brothers carved out the first man and woman
from two trees, and breathed life into them.
This creation myth was widely shared among different clans, and was
symbolic of a culture where the martial virtues of strength, courage,
and resourcefulness were admired. Conflict was regarded as natural, if
not inevitable, and was typically resolved by violence. Warriors
Odin, even though he was known for arbitrarily sponsoring and then
abandoning mortal heroes.