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Yggdrasil

From Academic Kids

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Yggdrasil.jpg
Yggdrasil
For other uses of the term Yggdrasil, see Yggdrasil (disambiguation)

In Norse Mythology, Yggdrasil (pron. ig'dra-sil; Old Norse: Yggdrasill) also sometimes called Mimameid or Lerad was the "World tree", a gigantic tree, thought to connect all the nine worlds of Norse cosmology. It is often suggested to be an ash tree, an interpretation generally accepted in the modern Scandinavian mind. Another possibility is that the tree was formerly conceived of as a yew, consistent with its Eddic attribute of being evergreen. sgard, lfheim and Vanaheim rested on the branches of Yggdrasil. The trunk was the world-axis piercing through the center of Migar, around which Jotunheim was situated, and below which lay Nidavellir or Svartlfheim. The three roots stretched down to Helheim, Niflheim and Muspelheim, although only the first world hosted a spring for Yggdrasil (see below).

Contents

Etymology and alternative names

The most commonly accepted etymology of the name is ygg "terrible" + drasil "steed". Yggr is taken to be an epithet of Odin, giving a meaning of "Odin's steed", taken to refer to the nine nights Odin is said to have spent hanging from the tree in order find the runes. The gallows are sometimes described in Old Norse poetry as the "horse of the hanged." Another interpretation of the name is "terrible horse", i. e. the association with Odin may be secondary. A third interpretation, with etymological difficulties, is "yew-column", associating the tree with the Eihwaz rune ᛇ.

Fjlsvinnsml, a poem in the Poetic Edda, refers to the World Tree as Mimameid (ON: Mmameir, "Mimir's tree" ). Most probably, the tree is also identical to Lerad (ON: Lrr) a tree whose leaves and twigs reach down to the roof of Valhalla and provide food for the goat Heidrun and the stag Eiktyrnir (ON: Eikyrnir) that both live on the roof.

Yggdrasil in the Edda

Three roots supported the trunk, with one passing through Asgard, one through Jotunheim and one through Helheim. Beneath the Asgard root lay the sacred Well of Urd (Urabrunnr), and there dwelt the three Nornir, over whom even the gods had no power, and who, every day, watered the tree from the primeval fountain, so that its boughs remained green. Beneath the Jotunheim root lay the spring or well of Mimir (Mmisbrunnr); and beneath the Helheim root the well Hvergelmir ("the Roaring Cauldron").

In the top of the tree was perched a giant eagle, and sitting upon its forehead was a hawk, who unlike the eagle is provided with a name by the sources, namely Vedrfolnir (Old Norse: Verfolnr). The Niflheim roots of Yggdrasil were gnawed at by a dragon, Nidhogg. Ratatosk, a squirrel, scurried up and down the tree between Nidhogg and the eagle, forwarding insults between them. Four stags fed on the bark of Yggdrasil: Duneyrr, Durathror, Dvalin, and Dainn.

The name Yggdrasil, interpreted as "Odin's steed," is taken to Odin's self-sacrifice described in the Havamal (although the tree is not explicitly identified as Yggdrasil):

I hung on that windy tree for nine nights wounded by my own spear.
I hung to that tree, and no one knows where it is rooted.
None gave me food. None gave me drink. Into the abyss I stared
until I spied the runes. I seized them up, and, howling, fell.

The Germanic custom of hanging sacrificial victims from trees was probably in reference to this myth (see also Human sacrifice, Tyr). In 1950, the preserved corpse of the so-called "Tollund Man" was found in a peat bog in Jutland. The excellent level of preservation made it possible to deduce that he had been ritually hanged and respectfully consigned to the bog, not more than a hundred yards from where a ritually hanged woman had been found some decades previously.

Many people have discussed the parallels between Odin's self-sacrifice in search of knowledge and the Crucifixion, particularly as Odin, like Jesus, was pierced with a spear before death. However, while possibly influenced by Christianity the myth certainly has pre-Christian origins.

Yggdrasil is also central in the myth of Ragnarok, the end of the world. The only two humans to survive Ragnarok (there are some survivors among the gods), Lif and Lifthrasir, are able to escape by sheltering in the branches of Yggdrasil, where they feed on the dew and are protected by the tree.

"The bellowing fire will not scorch them; it will not even touch them, and their food will be the morning dew. Through the branches they will see a new sun burn as the world ends and starts again."

Yggdrasil apparently had smaller counterparts as the enormous evergreen of unknown species that stood at the Temple at Uppsala and Irminsul, which was an oak venerated by the pagan saxons and which was said to connect heaven and earth. The Old Norse form of Irmin was Jrmun and interestingly, just like Ygg, it was one of Odin's names. It appears, then, that Irminsul may have been representing a world tree corresponding to Yggdrasil among the pagan Saxons.

It has been proposed as an explanation for the World Tree myth that the Cirrus clouds to a ground standing observer appearing to be virtually stationary on the sky was imagined to be the branches of a gigantic tree, turned seemingly pale the same way that far away mountains do. Accordingly, rain was held to be the dew dropping from the World Tree. Two old German synonyms for clouds, Wetterbaum and Regenbaum, are said to attest to this hypothesis.

Popular culture

  • Yggdrasill is a character in the novel, Infintrinity: The beginning, by Eric Nordgren

Spoiler warning: Plot or ending details follow.

  • Yggdrasill is considered to be the highest of the Angelus Realm in the novel, Infintrinity, but it is soon found out that he is working to revive the darkest of them all, Trice, who soon takes over the universe, but is stopped by Locke, Celestia, and Blight, The protagonists of the story, the Infintrinity.

"Lord Yggdrasill, please see. Trice is soon to be revived any moment now." said Nyx. "Good, now have member Delta communicate with Trice's consciousness and find the next step of the operation." said Yggdrasill..." -Infintrinity

Spoiler warning: Plot or ending details follow.

Yggdrasill, or Mithos, is the character who split the world in two as part of his plot to resurrect his sister, Martel (See Tales of Symphonia for more details.) At the end of the game(as shown in previous games that occur later, such as Tales of Phantasia), the regrown Mana Tree is named Yggdrasill.

  • In Breath of Fire III he was the Tree of Wisdom and incarnated in the form of Peco, and in Breath of Fire IV he was a Dragon whose help could be called upon through Evocation.
  • Yggdrasil is also mentioned in Valkyrie Profile - though some liberties are taken, it is fairly faithful to the original myth.
  • In the Korean MMORPG Ragnarok Online Yggdrasil leafs, berries, and seeds all provide beneficial effects to ones character.
  • Yggdrasil is the name of Bart's ship in Xenogears.
  • For an even more esoteric reference, Yggdrasil is one of the "Spirit Cards" that appears in weapon-smithing in Legend of Mana, but that plays no role in the story at all.
  • Yggdrasil is the last word in the novel House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. The book has many ambiguous mythological references. The house presumably referred to in the title is on Ash Tree Lane, leading many of the book's readers to believe that the "House of Leaves" is in fact a metaphor for Yggdrasil.
  • "Nordrassil", which sounds similar to Yggdrasil, is a gigantic tree in the popular game Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, and is known in it to be the "World Tree", and is the source of the world's power and also gives the nightelves substantial power over nature and immortality.
  • In the computer-generated imagery anime movie Digimon X-Evolution, Yggdrasill is the sentient supercomputer that controls and oversees the goings-on in the Digital World, whose will is done by the Royal Knights, Digimon sworn to uphold the peace...or, at least their version of it. As the anime's antagonist, it envoked the genocidal Project Ark and created the digimon DOGUmon in order to do so. Although the reason behind this plan was never fully explained, after it was destroyed by the Royal Knights Alphamon and Omnimon, it was speculated that its ultimate goal was precisely what had happened after its demise: the 'rebooting' of the Digital World back to a prior, less complex and war-torn state. It was depicted as an orb on a pedestal in a geometric room, all of which was made out of either a crystal or ice-like substance. It never spoke in the anime, though the fact that the Royal Knights get their orders straight from Yggdrasill itself seems to indicate that it IS capable of vocal speech, or, more than likely, a text-based instant messenger system similar to how the Royal Knights communicate with each other over long distances, as seen in the anime.

See also:

Template:NorseMythologyca:Yggdrasil cs:Yggdrasil da:Yggdrasil de:Yggdrasil es:Yggdrasil fr:Yggdrasil fi:Maailmanpuu it:Yggdrasill nl:Yggdrasil ja:ユグドラシル no:Yggdrasil nn:Yggdrasil pl:Yggdrasil pt:Yggdrasil sv:Yggdrasil

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