Niflheim: Meaning And Mythology

Niflheim  or Niflheimr is one of the nine worlds in Norse mythology . Represents cold matter as opposed to Muspelheim or hot matter, according to one of the cosmogonic myths of Scandinavian creation mythology. In this kingdom inhabits the dragon Níðhöggr, a being dedicated to incessantly gnawing the roots of the evergreen ash or tree of life, Yggdrasil.

According to this myth, the world was born from the collision of these two forces in magical space, called Ginnungagap. That is, the space or gap that separated Niflheim from Muspelheim before creation. In Norse mythology, the world is a flat disk that is located in the branches of the tree of life.

What does the name Niflheim mean?

Niflheim (‘Nylfheim’ or ‘NielHeim’) means Home of the Mist . In Norse mythology it is known as the kingdom of darkness and darkness, which remains shrouded in a perpetual mist.

The word is made up of several roots. Nifl ( from where) that together with the Anglo-Saxon Nifol means dark. Nevel in Dutch and Nebel in German mean fog. Niflheim is pronounced “NIF-el-hame”, from Old Norse niflheimr, or “world of mist.”

Niflheim was the kingdom of cold and ice, which is crossed by the frozen rivers of Elivágar and the well of Hvergelmir. From there all rivers are born, according to the first section of the Scandinavian mythology book, Minor Edda .

Beneath this gigantic, dark and icy realm of darkness, is the realm of the dead, called Helheim. In it, the goddess Hela reigns, with her dog Garm.

Helheim is one of the darkest and darkest areas of this gigantic and frozen world. There reigns the powerful goddess or giant Hela, daughter of the trickster god Loki.

The two fundamental kingdoms were Niflheim, the world of cold, and Muspelheim, the world of fire. As the two kingdoms, that is, cold and heat, unite, creation begins through the “creative vapor.” Then the world of Niflheim became the abode of the goddess Hela.

According to the Norse creation account of the medieval-Christian Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, the first being created was the giant Ymir. It was born from the violent fusion of the cold of Niflheim and the fire of Muspelheim in the middle of Ginnungagap, the abyss that initially separated them.

Niflheim or Niflheimr?

The word “Niflheim” is only described in Snorri’s works. It is used interchangeably as “Niflhel”, which comes to be a “poetic embellishment” of the world of the dead “Hel”.

On the other hand, the word “Niflhel” is found in poems of the old Norse language that is older than the works of Snorri. It is probable then that the term “Niflheim” is actually a linguistic invention of Snorri.

It is impossible to know exactly if it is a word of late origin or it is an old term. The only source of information on the mythology of the Norse creation comes precisely from the works of Snorri.

In the poem Hrafnagaldr Óðins, Niflheimr is briefly mentioned as a place in the north:

“The powers rose

Alfs illuminator

north before Niflheim

chased the night. “

The world of the dead

Niflheim is also the world of the dead and is ruled by the goddess Hel. It is the last of the nine worlds, where evil men passed after reaching the death zone (Hel).

Hel was originally called the world of the dead, but later it will mean the goddess of death. It is situated under one of the roots of Yggdrasill, the world tree and in a northerly direction. In Niflheim inhabits the dragon Níðhöggr that gnaws the roots of the tree of life, which sustains the nine worlds.

After Ragnarök or the battle of the end of the world, the dragon would travel the world to dedicate himself to torment the souls that remain.

Niflheim or the World of Darkness, was divided into several sections, one of them was Náströnd, the shore of the corpses. Where stood a castle overlooking the north, full of the venom of snakes.

In this fortress murderers, perjuries and adulterers suffered torments and the dragon Nidhogg sucked the blood from their bodies.

This mention appears in an early poem by Niflheim.

The Nine Worlds of Scandinavian mythology

These nine worlds are mentioned in a poem of the Poetic Edda or Minor Edda. However, no source of information on Norse mythology offers a complete and exact list of the nine worlds.

Some authors based on the types of creatures and beings found in Scandinavian mythology and the reference made to their homeland in various literary sources, have made the following tentative compilation:

  1. Niflheim , the primordial world of ice, is ruled by the goddess or giant Hela.
  2. Muspelheim, the primordial world of fire, is inhabited by the Fire Giants.
  3. Midgard , the world of men, created by the god Odin and his brothers, Vili and Ve.
  4. Jotunheim , the world of the giants from which the men of Midgard and the gods of Asgard are threatened.
  5. Svartalfheim , the world of the dwarves, in which the dark elves live.
  6. Asgard, the world of the Aesir tribe of gods and goddesses. It is ruled by Odin and his wife Frigg.
  7. Vanaheim , the world of the Vanir tribe, which is one of the two clans of gods and goddesses existing in Norse mythology.
  8. Hel , the world of the goddess of the same name Hel and the dead. It is located in the deepest and darkest part of Niflheim.
  9. Alfheim, the world of elves: the light elves (ljósálfar) and the svartálfar (dark elves who live in the interior of the mountains).

With the exception of Midgard, all of these worlds are primarily invisible. However, they can sometimes manifest with some features of the world visible.

For example, Jotunheim may overlap with the physical desert, Hel with burials or tombs (ie the “underworld” below the ground), and Asgard with the sky.


  1. Niflheim. Retrieved March 1, 2018 from
  2. Niflheim. Consulted of
  3. Mc Coy Daniel: The Viking Spirit: An Introduction to Norse Mythology and Religion. Consulted of
  4. Niflheim. Consulted of
  5. The 9 Worlds. Consulted of
  6. Norse Mythology (II). The creation of the Universe. Consulted of

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