Snow fell on the four quarters of the world; icy winds blew from every side; the sun and the moon were hidden by storms. It was the Fimbul winter: no spring came and no summer; no autumn brought harvest or fruit; winter grew into winter again.
There was three years'. winter. The first was called the Winter of Winds: storms blew, and snows drove down, and frosts were mighty. The children of men might hardly keep alive in that dread winter.
The second winter was called the Winter of the Sword: those who were left alive amongst men robbed and slew for what was left to feed on; brother fell on brother and slew him; over all the world there were mighty battles.
And the third winter was called the Winter of the Wolf. Then the ancient witch who lived in the Ironwood fed the Wolf Managarm on unburied men, and on the corpses of those who fell in battle. Mightily grew and flourished the wolf that was to be the devourer of Mani, the moon. The Heroes in Valhall would find their seats splashed with the blood that Managarm dashed from his jaws; this was a sign to the Gods that the time of the last battle was approaching.
A cock crew; far down in the bowels of the earth he was, and beside Hel's habitation; the rusty-red cock of Hel crew, and his crowing made
a stir in the lower worlds. In Jotunheim a cock crew, Fjalar, the crimson cock, and at his crowing the Giants aroused themselves. High up in Asgarth a cock crew, the golden cock, Gollinkambi, and at his crowing the Heroes in Valhall bestirred themselves.
A dog barked; deep down in the earth a dog barked; it was Garm, the hound with the bloody mouth barking before Gnipa's Cave. The Dwarfs who heard groaned before their doors of stone. The tree Yggdrasil shook; it shivered and moaned in all its branches. There was a rending noise as the Giants moved their ship; there was a trampling sound as the hosts of Muspellsheim gathered their horses.
Jotunheim, and Muspellsheim, and the Realm of Hel waited tremblingly; it might be that Fenrir the Wolf could not burst the bonds wherewith the Gods had bound him. Without his being loosed the Gods might not be destroyed. Then was heard the rending of the rock as Fenrir broke loose. For the second time the hound Garm barked before Gnipa's Cave.
Then was heard the galloping of the horses of the riders of Muspellsheim; then was heard the laughter of Loki; then was heard the blowing of Heimdall's horn--fate was heard in the note of the Gjallart-horn that Heimdall blew before the abodes of the Gods; then was heard the opening of Valhall's five hundred and forty doors, as eight hundred heroes made ready to pass through each door.
Oithin took counsel with Mimir's head. Up from the waters of the Well of Wisdom he drew it, and by the power of the runes he knew he made the head speak to him. Where best might the Aesir and the. Wanes and the Heroes meet with, and how best might they strive against, the forces of Muspellsheim and Jotunheim and the Realm of Hel? The head of Mimir counselled Oithin to meet them on Vigrith, and to wage there such war that the powers of evil would be destroyed for ever, even though his own world should be destroyed with them.
The riders of Muspellsheim reached Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge. Now they would storm the City of the Gods and fill it with flame. But Bifrost broke under the weight of the riders of Muspellsheim, and they came not to the City of the Gods.
Mithgarthsorm, the serpent that encircles the world, reared itself up from the sea. The waters flooded the lands, and the remnant of the
world's inhabitants was swept away. The mighty flood floated Naglfar, the Ship of Nails that the Giants were so long building, and floated the ship of Hel also. With Hrym the Giant steering it, Naglfar sailed against the Gods with all the powers of Jotunheim aboard. And Loki steered the ship of Hel with the Wolf Fenrir upon it; they steered for the place of the last battle.
Since Bifrost was broken the Aesir and the Wanes and the Heroes with the Valkyries rode downward to Vigrith through the waters of Thund. Oithin rode at the head of his Champions. His helmet was of gold, and in his hand was his spear Gungnir. Thor and Tyr were in his company.
In Mirkvid, the Dark Forest, the Wanes stood against the host of Muspellsheim. From the broken end of the Rainbow Bridge the riders came, all flashing and flaming, with fire before them and after them. Njorth was there with Skathi, his Giant wife, fierce in her war-dress; Freyja was there also, and Freyr had Gerth beside him as a battle maiden. Terribly bright flashed Surt's sword. No sword ever owned was as bright as his except the sword that Freyr had given away when he wanted to win Gerth, the Giant maiden, for his bride. Freyr and Surt fought; he perished; Freyr perished in the battle; he would not have perished had he his own sword, but he had no weapon except the horn of a stag.
And now, for the third time, Garm, the hound with blood upon his jaws, barked. He had broken loose on the world, and with fierce hounds he rushed towards the battle-field where the Gods had assembled their powers. Loud barked Garm. The eagle Hraesvelg screamed on the edge of Heaven. The skies were cloven; the tree Yggdrasil was shaken in all its roots.
To the place where the Gods had drawn up their ranks came the ship of Jotunheim and the ship of Hel, came the riders of Muspellsheim, came Garm, the hound with blood upon his jaws. And out of the sea that surrounded Vigrith the serpent Mithgarthsorm came.
What said Oithin to the Gods and to the Heroes who surrounded him? "We will give our lives and let our world be destroyed, so that these evil powers will not live after us." Out of Hel's ship sprang Fenrir the Wolf. His mouth gaped; his lower jaw bung against the earth, and his upper jaw scraped the sky. Against the Wolf Oithin
[paragraph continues] All-Father fought. Thor might not aid him, for Thor had now to encounter Mithgarthsorm, the monstrous serpent.
By Fenrir the Wolf Oithin was slain. But the younger Gods were now advancing to battle; and Vithar, the Silent God, Oithin's son, came face to face with Fenrir. He laid his foot on the wolf's lower jaw, that foot that had on it the sandal made of all the scraps of leather that shoe-makers had laid by for him; with his hands he seized the upper jaw and tore the gullet. And thus died Fenrir, the fiercest of all the enemies of the Gods.
Mithgarthsorm, the monstrous serpent, would have overwhelmed all with the venom he was ready to pour forth. Thor sprang forward and crushed him with a stroke of his hammer Mjollnir. Then Thor stepped back nine paces. But the serpent blew his venom over him; blinded, and choked, and burnt, Thor, the World's Defender, perished.
Loki sprang from his ship and strove with Heimdall, the Warder of the Rainbow Bridge and the Watcher for the Gods. Loki slew Heimdall and was slain by him.
Bravely fought Tyr, the God who had sacrificed his sword-hand for the binding of the Wolf. Bravely he fought, and many of the powers of evil perished by his strong left hand. But Garm, the hound with bloody jaws, slew Tyr.
And now the riders of Muspellsheim came down on the field. Bright and gleaming were all their weapons. Before them and behind them went wasting fires. Surt cast fire upon the earth; the tree Yggdrasil took fire and burned in all its great branches; the World Tree was wasted in the blaze. But the fearful fire that Surt brought on the earth destroyed him and all his host.
The wolf Hati caught up with Sol, the sun; the wolf Managarm seized on Mani, the moon; they devoured them; stars fell, and darkness came down upon the world.
The seas flowed over the burnt and wasted earth, and the skies were dark above the sea, for Sol and Mani were no more. But at last the seas drew back; earth appeared again, green and beautiful. A new sun and a new moon appeared in the heavens, one a daughter of Sol, the other a daughter of Mani. No grim wolves kept them in pursuit.
Four of the younger Gods stood on the highest of the world's peaks:
they were Vithar and Vali, the sons of Oithin, and Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor. Modi and Magni found Mjollnir, Thor's hammer, and with it they slew the monsters that still raged through the world, the hound Garm and the wolf Managarm.
Vithar and Vali found the runes of wisdom of the elder Gods. The runes told them of a Heaven that was above Asgarth, of Gimle, that was untouched by Surt's fire. There were righteous rulers there, Vili and Ve. Baldr and Hoth came from Hel's habitation; they sat on the peak together and held speech with each other, calling to mind the secrets and the happenings that they had known before Ragna rök. Deep in a wood two of human-kind were left; the fire of Surt did not touch them; they slept, and when they wakened the world was green and beautiful again. These two fed on the dews of the morning: a woman and a man they were, Lif and Lifthrasir. They walked abroad in the world, and from them and from their children came the men and women who spread themselves over the earth.