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The History behind Ragnarök

What if I told you Ragnarök might have been based on real events? And what if I told you that these events may have triggered some of the Norse exploration (before and during the Viking Age) which led to them visiting North America?

Norse Mythology, as it is known, from which we get stories on Thor or Odin pre-dates the Vikings. The Viking Age is the period following the Germanic Iron Age from around the year 793 to 1066.  

Behind the modern myth is an older myth: rich, complicated, sometimes contradictory, and often missing critical information. Characters in Time by Einstein attempt to tell some of these tales to Jamie. They barely scratch the surface. Unfortunately, not all stories have survived to present times. For the Scandinavians, the tales of the Nine Worlds and Yggdrasil and the Ragnarök would have been oral traditions handed down generation to generation. They did not have handy movies, comic, or even books on the lore.


Nothing was written down. The Norse Mythology we reference today is a collection of poems, stories, and sagas. Lots of sagas. The primary information, aside from the sagas, is two sources called the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. As with much oral tradition in any other culture, the stories were written later by people who did not directly witness the events. As a result, what we read can be fragmented—information gets lost or changed over time. Snorri Sturluson is thought to have written the Prose Edda around 1220, well after the Viking Age. Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was also a renowned Christian. With no disrespect to the Christian faith, this point begs two questions. Why would he write in such detail about gods and myths that contradict his Christian faith? And, how much of his Christian faith influenced how he wrote of the Norse gods? These questions we cannot answer.


Nor can we answer fully if Ragnarök was real. (Wait, what? It was a great movie but...) Archaeologists have provided credible theories. For example, one archaeologist believes that historical and environmental events could have contributed to the foundation to the story. Neil Price specializes in the study of Viking Age-Scandinavia and the archaeology of shamanism. He is currently a professor in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University, Sweden, and he has a theory. No one is laughing at this theory, and it could make absolute sense.


Because Norse Mythology is rooted in oral tradition, and because ancient Scandinavian peoples associated  forces of nature with gods, goddesses, and other creatures like trolls, fairies, and giants, and so many more, an historical event could evolve over time. Likely centuries. With all that repetition over time, what if (once upon a time) a world event triggered the story of Ragnarök? What would this event be?


In Norse mythology, Fimbulvetr commonly spelled as Fimbulwinter, is the immediate prelude to the the events of Ragnrök. It means "great winter.” This could refer to the extreme weather events of 535 - 536, which resulted in a notable drop in temperature across northern Europe.


This may have been caused by volcanic eruptions around the same time. Volcanologists have researched such events. It is believed there were two substantial volcanic eruptions in the years 536 and 539 - 540. One of these may have been in the tropics. The second was at Lake Ilopango in what is now  El Salvador. This explosion was so vast that the entire volcano collapsed, and today contains the capital city. This is one of the greatest volcanic events, even if it is less known than Pompeii. Such an explosion as this could produce 87 cubic kilometers of ejecta which would have significantly impacted global weather. Consider, too, what would happen if the Yellowstone volcano erupted. The national park exists atop a supervolcano. It is believed that such an eruption could impact all of North America and further.


An eruption of that magnitude could impact weather as far away as Scandinavia. Mythological events leading up to Ragnarök reference two wolves named Skoll and Hati, which pursue Sol and Mani, the sun and moon, through the sky in hopes of devouring them. At Ragnarök the downfall of the cosmos, they catch their prey as the sky and earth darken and collapse. Could these stories be based on when the sky was covered with a “veil” of ejecta from a volcano?


Following these volcanic eruptions, the time is called the Migration Period. With cooler temperatures and darkened

skies (winters with no summer, as the mythology speaks), people were forced to relocate to find food. Crops would not grow in many areas due to lack of sunlight. Parts of Scandinavia, specifically Norway, already had limited farm land. For these people it could have felt like the end of the world. Add to that a pandemic. Yes, there was also a pandemic back then. (The characters in this book call it a plague, which is more appropriate language for the time.)

By the time Vikings arrived in history, these volcanic eruptions, the following climate change, and the pandemic were events more than two centuries in the past. It is conjecture with supporting historical facts to assume that these events could have inspired Ragnarök or any other myths. It does lend a possible natural cause to a supernatural story. We can only wonder.


Norse Mythology has inspired many authors. The best known would be J. R. R. Tolkien and his Middle Earth (Midgard) full of creatures that jump right out of the myth. He is not alone in his inspiration. Here is a timeline which would include the proposed volcanic eruptions for Jamie Poole. Additionally, the biography of Columba, the Irish warrior-monk has been added as he also influenced the story arc, and I have made every attempt to add historical accuracy for his life events as they overlap with Jamie and Eliyana.

Time by Einstein is available in May 2024.

While you wait for Time by Einstein and The Wild Hunt, you can purchase any of the Jamie Poole Books directly from the author. Arrangements can be made by emailing: 

Additionally Dartmouth Book Exchange is a preferred vendor who can assist you in getting the books any time of year.


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