Asgard, Midgard and (maybe) Utgard are among the best-known regions in Norse myth. The picture above shows not only Yggdrasil*, but the generally accepted modern view of how the Norse may have themselves viewed the interconnection of all the worlds.**
6 more realms…
The other realms include: Jotunheim, Alfheim, Svartalfheim, Niflheim, Helheim and Muspell(s)heim. I use all 9 of these realms, but they are not “organized” in the same way as the picture nor do I use them in quite the same way.
What’s that mean?
A quick aside on a few things Old Norse that should help make the various place names a little clearer:
- -gard means something along the lines of “protective enclosure or wall”
- Asa = Aesir
- -heim = means home / world / realm
- Mid means middle (e.g., Tolkien’s Middle Earth)
- Ut-gard means outer-world/-enclosure — that place outside of the region inhabited by the gods and men.
- And, yes, in the myths, there is a blur between -gard and -heim
What I’ve done is make the naming scheme more consistent, very simply: a “-gard” is bigger than a “-heim.” I figure that’ll make the reader’s job a bit easier.
The main two…in my world
Below, I’ve included a little of my nearly final worldbuilding***. It details the two regions that are most important in the first books.
- Asgard: The realm of the Aesir. Asgard is divided into districts, each ruled by a Jarl. Within each district are various cities several cities — Gladsheim, Ifington, Hals.
- Gladsheim (Bright Home / Joy Home, according to Simek) is the main city; it’s where Odin and Frigg rule from. The city is built on, and around, a hill. At the top of the hill is the “old wall,” the one built before the Vanir War. The New Wall encircles the hill/city and it was built by the Jotunn master builder with the help of his horse Svadilfari. The Plains of Vigrid lie outside Gladsheim’s eastern gates.
- Ifington is to the northeast of Gladsheim. It is a town built along the mighty Ifing river. Ifington had been built by the Jotunn, but they were driven from it by the Aesir. At the time my story happens, Ifington is a trade hub.
- Utgard (the outer world): This is the land of the Jotunn who mostly live in a single city called Jotunheim.
- After the Aesir and Jotunn fled their original home (after Ymir’s murder), both Jotunn and Aesir lived in what came to be called Asgard.
- Years later, after a war with the Aesir over land/territory, the Jotunn were forced back into what came to be called Utgard — a frozen place full of glaciers, lakes, snow, ice and rock. Over the years, the Jotunn have learned to live in Utgard, both by living a nomadic existence in the steppes, rough forests and along the rivers and lakes, but also by making homes in natural caverns and even cutting their own, with the aid of the Svartalvar (while they were still around).
In my first two books, “Midgard” is as-yet undiscovered. This may strike folks as strange, but as faithful as my books are to Norse myth, I’ve also put my own spin on ’em — hopefully in a way that readers think is cool. I think it is, at least :).
The other realms mentioned (and pictured) are all included in my books, but not in exactly the same way as the myths suggest. I still need to do a full worldbuilding pass on the first book — something I’ve been delaying b/c when I worldbuild, I’m not writing. Usually. And right now, finishing the current revision (focused mostly on plot/character) is more important.
*Yggdrasil is worthy of at least one blog post.
**The picture is based on references from the Eddas as to where things are; we obviously can’t know what the Norse actually believed. Moreover, where things are changed over time. For example, Asgard was once a set-off place within Midgard. Over time, it came to reside “above” Midgard much like the Christian belief that Heaven is above.
***At some point I’ll probably post on my worldbuilding process — as an example of what not to do.