"Mighty wand." A huge serpent in Norse mythology, the second child of Loki and the giantess Angrboða, according to Snorri Sturluson. The gods perceived by prophecy that from Loki's offspring great misfortune would befall them, so Odin had these children brought to him. When they came to him, Odin straightaway cast Jörmungandr into the deep sea. It grew so greatly that he lies in the midst of the ocean encompassing all the land, and bites upon its own tail.
On a fishing trip with Hymir, Thor caught the giant serpent and hauled it aboard their vessel, repeatedly striking its head with his hammer, and its spasms caused the earth to quake, until Hymir cut the fishing line. The fishing up of Jörmungandr by Thor is found in poems by Úlfr Uggason (Húsdrápa), Gamli gnævaðarskáld, Eysteinn Valdason, and Bragi Boddason, fragments of which are preserved Skáldskaparmál:
- The line of Odin's Offspring
- Lay not slack on the gunwale,
- When the huge ocean-serpent
- Uncoiled on the sea's bottom.
- The strong fiend's Terrifier
- In his right hand swung his hammer
- When he saw the loathly sea-fish
- That all the lands confineth.
- And the vast misshapen circler
- Of the ship's sea-path, fierce-minded,
- Stared from below in anger
- At the Skull-Splitter of Hrungnir.
In Gylfaginning, Thor had to prove his strength in Útgarða-Loki's court by lifting up a big gray cat, but even with his immense strength was unable to complete the task. It is later revealed to him that the cat was in fact the Midgard Serpent, and that Thor lifted it up almost to heaven.
It is said in Völuspá that during the cataclysmic events of Ragnarök, Jörmungandr shall advance upon the land and its writhings shall cause the water to gush forth upon the land; this shall loosen the ship Naglfar. The serpent shall blow venom so that he shall sprinkle all the air and water. Thor shall slay the serpent, his great enemy, but before the god has taken nine steps from that spot, he shall fall dead to the earth, because of the venom the serpent has blown at him.
Various eddic and skaldic sources use the terms "the girdle of the world," "the serpent," or "the dragon."
The episode in which Jörmungandr is almost dragged out of the sea by Thor is depicted on several picture-stones.
- Gylfaginning, 34, 46-47.
- Hymiskviða, 23.
- Skáldskaparmál, 4.
- Völuspá, 49, 55.