"Groaner." A primeval giant in Norse mythology, the first living being who existed before the heaven and earth were created, according to the eddic poem Völuspá:

There was in times of old,
where Ymir dwelt,
nor sand nor sea,
nor gelid waves;
earth existed not,
nor heaven above,
'twas a chaotic chasm,
and grass nowhere.

In Vafþrúðnismál Odin asks Vafþrúðnir whence first came the earth and the high heaven, and the giant replies:

From Ymir's flesh
the earth was formed,
and from his bones the hills,
the heaven from the skull
of that ice-cold giant,
and from his blood the sea.

This is more or less repeated in Grímnismál. The thirteenth-century Icelander Snorri Sturluson tells of the origin of Ymir in Gylfaginning:

"Just as cold arose out of Niflheim, and all terrible things, so also all that looked toward Múspellheim became hot and glowing; but Ginnungagap was as mild as windless air, and when the breath of heat met the rime, so that it melted and dripped, life was quickened from the yeast-drops, by the power of that which sent the heat, and became a man's form. And that man is named Ymir, but the Rime-Giants call him Aurgelimir."

Ymir was the progenitor of the race of giants, the jötnar. While he slept, he sweated, and there grew under his left hand a man and a woman, and one of his feet begat a six-headed son with the other; from these the race of frost-giants sprang forth. Ymir was sustained by the four streams of milk that flowed from the udders of the cow Auðumbla.

Ymir was killed by the three sons of Borr (i.e., Odin, , and Vili):

"They took Ymir and bore him into the middle of the Yawning Void, and made of him the earth: of his blood the sea and the waters; the land was made of his flesh, and the crags of his bones; gravel and stones they fashioned from his teeth and his grinders and from those bones that were broken." [...] "Of the blood, which ran and welled forth freely out of his wounds, they made the sea, when they had formed and made firm the earth together, and laid the sea in a ring round about her; and it may well seem a hard thing to most men to cross over it." [...] "They took his skull also, and made of it the heaven, and set it up over the earth with four corners; and under each corner they set a dwarf: the names of these are East, West, North, and South. Then they took the glowing embers and sparks that burst forth and had been cast out of Múspellheim, and set them in the midst of the Yawning Void, in the heaven, both above and below, to illumine heaven and earth. They assigned places to all fires: to some in heaven, some wandered free under the heavens; nevertheless, to these also they gave a place, and shaped them courses."

Some kennings for heaven are Skull of Ymir, and hence, Giant's Skull. Similarly, earth can be periphrased as Flesh of Ymir and the sea as Blood of Ymir.



  • Grímnismál, 40-41.
  • Gylfaginning, 5, 6, 8, 14.
  • Skáldskaparmál, 23, 24, 25.
  • Vafþrúðnismál, 21, 33.
  • Völuspá, 3.
  • Völuspá hin skamma, 5.