In the action-packed scene above, the German artist Emil Doepler (c. 1855–1922) recreated an apocalyptic showdown between figures from Norse mythology. On the Right, with his hammer held high, stands the mighty god, Thor. He faces off against a fearsome giant snake called Jörmungandr—also known as the Midgard Serpent—a creature so long that its body wraps around the earth. According to Norse mythology, these two indomitable entities would have their final clash at Ragnarok, where they would fight to their mutual destruction. The Icelandic political leader and historian, Snorri Sturluson (c. 1179-1241), commented on their fateful duel to the death, writing, “Thor will kill the Midgard Serpent, and then he will step back nine feet. Because of the poison the serpent spits on him, he will fall to the earth, dead” (The Prose Edda, Gylfaginning, chapter 51).
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, translated by Jesse Byock. New York: Penguin Books, 2005.