Odin is commonly known as the god of war, wisdom, and king of the gods in Norse mythology. More than that, many ancient runestones also refer to Odin as the “Father of All” implying that he was the creator god who brought forth humankind and the world.

According to one myth, in the beginning there was only a vast emptiness called Ginnungagap. From this void of nothingness emerged Niflheim and Muspelheim. Niflheim lay to the north of Ginnungagap and was an extremely cold place containing only icy temperatures, frosts and mists. In contrast, Muspelheim was formed in the south of Ginnungagap and was a hot region containing fire, lava and smoke.

Despite these harsh conditions, life began to emerge. In Niflheim was a spring called Hvergelmir, which the Norse believed was the source of all icy rivers in the world. There were 11 cold rivers that existed in myth, collectively called Elivagar. The water from these rivers flowed from the mountains down into the plain of Ginnungagap, where it froze solid and created a hard layer of ice. Over time, this icy layer expanded and grew thicker.

At the same time, lava flowed from Muspelheim down into the plain of Ginnungagap. Eventually, the ice and lava met in the middle of Ginnungagap, causing the ice to slowly melt. A large creature took shape within the ice. This was Ymir, the first giant or jötunn as they are known in Norse mythology.

As Ymir slept, perhaps due to the heat of the lava, he began to sweat and from this sweat two more giants were born, one male and one female. The third giant born was Thrudgelmir, born when Ymir’s feet came together.

Ymir’s children were the first beings among the races of frost giants. They were fed the milk of a giant cow named Audhumbla. Like Ymir, Audhumbla was created from the melting ice in Ginnungagap.

Audhumbla sustained herself by licking a salty ice block. This also led to the emergence of the first Norse god. On the first day the cow licked the block, a head of human hair appeared. On the second day, a whole head emerged and on the third, the entire body of a god appeared from the ice. This was Buri, the first god.

Through some process that remains unclear, Buri gave birth to a son, Borr – who later married Bestla (considered a jötunn). Borr and Bestla were the parents of Odin, Vili and Ve, the first Aesir gods – one of the two main groups of gods in Norse mythology.

The three brothers Odin, Vili and Ve realized that the Aesir tribe was being overcome in numbers by the jötnar. The jötnar were able to produce new giants extremely quickly, so the three brothers ultimately concluded that Ymir must be killed.

Odin and his brothers made plans to overpower the first giant. They waited for Ymir to fall into a deep sleep before attacking. However, Ymir woke up midway and an inevitable terrible battle ensued. In the end, Ymir was killed. So much blood flowed from the dead jötunn’s body that most of his children drowned in it. Only two giants escaped. Using what was left of Ymir’s body, Odin and his brothers created a new world.

The Norse also believed that Odin and his brothers created humankind, although these myth fragments do not seem to have been considered creation myths. According to another story, Odin and his brothers came across two pieces of driftwood along the seashore, one piece from an ash tree and the other from an elm.

The gods decided to create a being called human from these pieces of wood. Odin gave the wood life, soul, Vili granted them movement, use of mind and intellect, and Vili shaped them anew, helping them to speak, have emotions and senses. The first man was called Ask and the first woman was called Embla, and both were brought to Midgard along with the gods.

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