Thursday, August 13, 2009

Norse influence for Northrend

For the long time readers of this blog, its been quite a while since I've done one of my geeky historical posts.
/turns back on super geeky historical hat

So I think its pretty clear to y'all that there is a lot of Norse influence for Northrend. Let's look more closely at some of the inspirations shall we?

Valgarde in Howling Fjord:

Wowwiki says Valgarde "is most likely a reference to the Swedish town of Valsgärde, the site of a large number of Viking archaeological sites dating from the 6th - 8th centuries". Valsgärde is located north of Gamla Uppsala, the ancient centre of the Swedish kings and of the pagan faith in Sweden.

Check out a pic of the Old Uppsala Church in Gamla Uppsala:

Check out the inn in Valsgarde:

Now Valsgärde is one of the oldest known excavation sites in Sweden and they have found ship burials and graves there. Here is a pic of the Valsgärde 6 helmet, found in a cemetary believed to be from the late 7th century. What is that... T2? T3? :)

Hrothgar's Landing in Icecrown:

This new island north of Icecrown seems to have been inspired by Hroðgar, a legendary Danish king who lived in the early 6th century. Hroðgar appears in the Anglo-Saxon epics Beowulf and Widsith, as well as in Norse sagas and poems.

Gjalerbron in Howling Fjord:

Gjalerbron is the vrykul fortress in the northern area of the Howling Fjord. Wowwiki says a secret tunnel is being dug to here from below Utgarde Keep. In Norse mythology, Gjallarbrú is a bridge spanning the river Gjöll in the underworld, which must be crossed in order to reach Hel.

Tree of Life:

Now I did a post almost a year ago about the history of the tree of life, where I talked about the concept of Yggdrasil, or the World Tree, from Norse mythology and how it must have inspired Teldrassil. Now take a closer look at the Norse mythology view that Yggdrasil's roots and branches connect all the principal divisions of the world:

Hmmm, do you see any familiar names? Any names that remind you of any locations in Northrend?

Jotunheim in Icecrown:

You see Jotunheim in the middle there? Well Jotunheim was the "home of the Jotuns", or giants, in Norse Mythology. Jotunheimen is currently also known as a mountainous area in Southern Norway:

Utgarde Keep and Pinnacle in Howling Fjord:

Hmmm, see right above Jotunheim there is Utgard, Citadel of the Giants? Utgard, or "the Outer Dwelling", was a world, that surrounded the world of the men (Midgard). Utgard was a place, located in Jötunheim.

Dun Niffelem in Storm Peaks:

On the Yggdrasil diagram, see Niflheim on the bottom there? Niflheim, or "house of mists", is a region icy fogs and mists, darkness and cold. It is situated on the lowest level of the universe and lies underneath the third root of Yggdrasil.

I'm sure there is a ton of other inspiration from Norse mythology in WOW. I haven't even discussed any individuals (hello Freya... Sif... Thorim?) What can we learn from all of this? Well if the Yggdrasil diagram taught you anything, its that the tree holds everything together. :p

***Most of historical info gathered from wikipedia (Wikipedia FTW) and


  1. Please have my internet babies. Much <3 for the history geeks.

  2. Well... Sweden is Sweden. And not Norway! (Althogh Norway once upon a time belonged to us, but it's been a while since we gave them their freedom). Anyway: just a fun-to-know-thing: Larísa lives in Uppsala. The coolest thing in Gamla Uppsala is definitely not the church but the old graves, the beautiful hills with viking graves. The surroundings are stunning when we have our pagan rituals with bonfires at april 30 every year. If Blizzard staff ever came around to see it I'm sure they'd get inspiration from that. Valsgärde is a little bit further away from my home, probably about 20 km or so. It's a beautiful spot to watch a rare sort of flower that comes in the spring. "Backsippa". It grows close to the historical leftovers around the place.

  3. @Khol Drake: Haha

    @Larisa: Hmmm... in saying Norse influence I meant it as "Norse is an adjective relating things to ancient Scandinavia", not Norweigian.

    And I'm sure there are a ton of cooler things in Gamla Uppsala, the pic is only there to point out a similarity with the inn in Valgarde.

    Anyways, what a coinkidink that you live in Uppsala!

  4. Great Post. I love knowing historical stuff as well

    @ Larisa - I thought Vikings were burnt on a ship when they died. Are you telling me the movie The Vikings with Kirk Douglas is wrong. I based my whole life around that movie, well that and The Good, Bad, and the Ugly with Clint Eastwood.

    That Scandinavia area is something I want to check out if I get any type of money to travel with.

  5. Did you have your heart set on going out like that, River? :P

  6. That was an awesome read. I especially loved seeing the comparison between the real life building and the game one.

    Keep it up!

  7. Thanks for the awesome read.

  8. Some more influences:

    Val'kyr - clearly a reference to valkyries, female servants of Odin who rode across battlefields choosing which dead warriors to take to Valhalla.

    Brunhildar, the frost vrykul village in Storm Peaks that have not signed up with the Lich King, and that's a big part of the Storm Peaks mega quest chain. Brynhildr was a named valkyrie, and plays a pretty big part in a number of poems and sagas, including the stuff that inspired Wagner's "Ring" cycle.

    Voldrassil, the failed world tree in Grizzly Hills. Well, actually all three world trees so far (Nordrassil, Teldrassil, and Voldrassil). The name clearly comes from Yggdrasil, which is the humongous world tree in Norse mythology. Humongous as in "the Earth is nestled in one of its branches."

    Ymirheim: Ymir was the first being in the universe, created where the flames of Muspelheim and the frost of Niflheim met. He was eventually slain by Odin and his two brothers Vili and Ve, who then proceeded to create the world from his corpse.

    Valhalas: Valhalla, the norse concept of heaven where the brave warriors could fight all day, and then get healed up/ressed and go eat/drink/wench all night.

  9. And since we are on the subject of vikings, then dont forget THE most important place for any viking, Heorot.

    I have yet to find a Beowulf or an association to Heorot in wow but I am sure there must be some loose connection?

    Also, if you fancy joining our guild visit us at (vikings only)

  10. I also hail from Sweden, just a bit south of Larisas diggs.

    My family own a summer cottage even further south that my aunt (that build it 30 years ago) named Nifelhem. Pretty apt since it really is always cool inside :)

  11. Fantastic post. I love history and literature spotting in WoW, it's such fun. Storbubben is right, there's not much Beowulf-related to be found in Northrend (which is a shame because I would love to take on a WoW-inspired Grendel) but I love the the fact you basically get to work through a rip-off of The Ring Cycle. Rip-off is a bit harsh. Homage :)

  12. River said:

    "Great Post. I love knowing historical stuff as well

    @ Larisa - I thought Vikings were burnt on a ship when they died. Are you telling me the movie The Vikings with Kirk Douglas is wrong. I based my whole life around that movie, well that and The Good, Bad, and the Ugly with Clint Eastwood.

    That Scandinavia area is something I want to check out if I get any type of money to travel with."

    well actually, river, we have alot of these graves in denmark aswell.

    i just think that it was only very special people that got to get burned on a boat.

    like i remember from my time in school that when the kindest and most beautiful god got killed, the other gods burned him on a boat aswell.

  13. Thanks everyone!

    @River: Yes, as Aleksander said I think boat burials were only for special or royal folks.

    @Staffan: Thanks! I was sure Brunhildar and Valhallas had to be inspired from Norse mythology as well.

    @Storbubben: Hmmm perhaps in a future patch?

    Much love to all the Scandanavian folks. I've been lucky to have been able to visit Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in my travels. Just absolutely beautiful countries!

  14. Hodir of course is one of the many spellings of Hodr, Höðr, or Hod, god of darkness & winter who was tragically tricked by Loki into killing his brother Baldur.

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  16. There's the new spirit beast, a wolf named "Skoll", whose namesake is Sköll of Norse mythology. Sköll was a wolf who chased the sun across the sky as his brother, Hati, chased the moon.

    It's foretold that during the events of Ragnarok, Sköll and Hati will catch up with the sun and moon and devour them.

  17. My family is Danish and there's a lot of Viking culture in my extended family.

    I can confirm from my own historical studies in college that it was royalty and nobility that were cremated throughout history. The reason for this was that it was a sort of honorable burial, much like the Pyramids. Not only were Pharoahs buried within the tombs, but also many noblemen found their tombs inside pyramids if the Pharoah favored them enough.

    Hodir was also mind controlled. When you defeat him he says "I am free of his control." or something like that, which is similar to the mythology, when Hodr was freed himself.

    All in all, excellent post, and thanks for pointing out the inn, I never noticed that one! :)

  18. nice post, pointed out a few things I had missed myself. I enjoy the historical/mythological references of northrend. I am amazed we haven't seen some spoof of Grendel in a boss fight yet, I mean we do get to fight Loken in Halls of Lightning, which I am guessing is meant to be a reference to Loki

  19. It would be nice to see Grendel in it but honestly he is over used. A cool boss for one of the 25mans might actually be Surtr the Devourer, one of the world dragons.

    And also there is another theme that people seem to be missing in reference to the Norse influence, the common enemy in dragonblight and a couple other places, the jormongar worms, these are obviously a reference to the worm Jörmungandr, son of Loki, which is also known as the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent and is commonly seen in other mythologies also as Ouroborus, "the tail devouring snake." I think the reason that most of them spit acid in the game is because there are references (this i don't know if is true or not) that when Loki was imprisoned the serpent was an aspect of his son Jörmungandr who was displeased at having been hurled into the ocean around the Midgard.

    Also, the thing about the ship burial, yeah, that was for kings, thanes, honored warriors, and the like.

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  21. Actually in the movie the Vikings. Ragnar was captured by the British, and was about to be thrown to the wolves. Ragnar asked for his sword to die like a Viking, upon being given his sword, he screamed, "ODIN!" and jumped into a pit of ravenous wolves.

    That's how I want to go out...

  22. I am Gargen, which in old norse means fury