Glory is just but a flicker of emotion that eventually dies out. Although he was not as popular as Thor, Odin was the most important deity in the Norse pantheon. Almost all accounts in Norse mythology mention him at some point or the other. They talk of his great power and his many quests for wisdom.
He made dangerous self-sacrifices for knowledge and survived, gaining unmatched powers and abilities. Taking this into account, it would seem unlikely that Odin could ever be harmed. But like all legends, Odin would eventually meet his end. The question is, how did he die? Who killed him and why? In this post, we will discuss the events that led up to the death of the great All-Father and who was responsible for his death.
How Did Odin Die?
Odin’s death was prophesied to happen on the day of Ragnarok. This was described as the apocalypse that would see the destruction and end of the entire cosmos, bringing an end to the Norse era. On that day, Loki would be the one to lead the army of giants and the dead into Asgard, for the last ultimate battle against the Norse gods. The events leading up to Ragnarok were however set long before that day.
Many of the Norse deities did their best to prevent the coming of Ragnarok, but there is only so much one can do to change fate. Frigg for example knew that the killing of Baldur, her son with Odin, would set off the events that would later lead to Ragnarok. To avoid this and also to protect her son, the queen of Asgard, did everything in her power. She made every living thing take an oath to not harm Baldur but forgot to take an oath from the mistletoe, a plant she viewed would be harmless in any case. Loki, however, used this to his advantage and fashioned a spear out of the plant. He then tricked Baldur’s blind brother to use the spear to kill him, and so the coming of Ragnarok was set into motion.
Odin also did his level best to avoid Ragnarok from coming to pass. Many say that that was why he had an insatiable desire for knowledge. He believed that by knowing all there was to know, he would be able to find a solution and avoid meeting his death. Aside from seeking knowledge, the All-Father also tried separating the three key creatures who would play major roles on that doomed day. He captured Fenrir, the wolf (another one of Loki’s children) who was destined to put an end to Odin during Ragnarok. He brought him to Asgard where he could raise and observe him. Odin also cast the giant serpent Jörmungandr deep into the dark ocean and banished Hel into the underworld, where she became the goddess of the dead. In addition to that, Odin gradually built an army made up of the souls of the brave fallen warriors, who he planned to summon to his aid on the day of Ragnarok.
Despite all of the effort, the day finally came and every Asgardian was woken up with the most unwanted alarming sound. Grabbing their weapons, they were ready for the final battle where they would each face their enemies. Loki will battle with Heimdall and both will kill each other. Thor will battle with the giant serpent, Jörmungandr, and manage to kill it, but will die after taking nine steps, due to the snake’s poison in him. As for the bigger question, how will Odin die? He will be swallowed by the wolf Fenrir. But to avenge his death Víðarr, who will be Odin’s last surviving son, will avenge his father’s death by killing the wolf. The prophecy states that after Fenrir swallows up Odin, out of anger, Víðarr will kick his foot into the great wolf’s lower jaw. Gripping his upper jaw, he will rip Fenrir apart through to his tail. This marks the end of Ragnarok.
Did Fenrir Kill Odin?
According to the prophesies Fenrir is indeed the one who puts an end to Odin. During Ragnarok, the great wolf is destined to swallow the All-Father whole. His death is however avenged by his son Víðarr, who rips apart Fenrir, killing the wolf and bringing an end to Ragnarok. So, despite his great efforts to raise Fenrir in Asgard, Odin would still meet his fate just as was prophesied. But have you ever wondered, why Odin died? What was the reason behind Ragnarok?
The truth is, Odin’s death was fated from the time he and his brothers killed the first giant Ymir. From then on, it was a matter of blood for blood and the giants would never stop until they avenged Ymir’s death. Even as Odin and the other Norse gods attempted to prevent Ragnarok, all their efforts did was bring them closer and closer to that day. Things like separating Fenrir, Hel, and the giant serpent, or stealing the mead of poetry from the giant Suttun, only continued to brew the hatred the giants had for the Norse gods. The last straw could have been the ill-treatment Loki and the two children Nafri and Nari received.
Although the Norse gods saw their actions as fair and for the good of their kind, they were only fueling the fire that would later come to consume them. Still, they did try their best to minimize the damage Ragnarok would have to the cosmos.
The Norse gods may have been powerful, but they were not immortals, and despite the kind of power Odin possessed, neither was he. Although it is safe to say that he lost the battle during Ragnarok, his death was at least avenged by his son and he also did his best to avoid the bloodiest battle. Although Ragnarok was said to have brought an end to the cosmos, there are newer accounts that speak of this epic battle as a transition and not an end. According to these accounts, the end of Ragnarok leads to a new chapter, a rebirth, where the surviving gods are said to continue rebuilding what was left of the world after the war.
Guide to Norse Mythology
- Odin Loki Heimdallr hermod hodr Hoenir Jord Lodurr Meili Mimir Thrúd Gefjun Forseti Fjorgynn and Fjorgyn Dellingr Bragi Baldur Tyr Thor Ullr Sol and Mani Vali Modi and Magni Vili and Ve
- Frigg Lofn Nanna Njorun Ran Rindr Sif Sigyn Saga Sjofn Skadi Snotra Sol Syn Fulla Gefjon Gerdr Hlin Idun Ilmr Odr Eir Hjuki and Bil Gna and Hofvarpnir Porgerdr Holgabrudr and Irpa
- Midgard Asgard Vanaheim Jotunheim Niflheim Muspelheim Alfheim Nidavellir/Svartalfheim Helheim Yggdrasil Valhalla Bifrost Ginnungagap Hlidskjalf Ragnarok