Norse Adams and Eves

In Norse mythology, Ask and Embla were the first humans of this world. After Ragnarök, Líf and Lífþrasir will be the first humans of the next world.

Líf and Lífthrasir
Lorenz Frølich / Public domain

Various mythologies around the world have their own equivalents to Adam and Eve. In Zoroastrianism they are named as Mashya and Mashyana. For the Gunwinggu of Australia, they are Wurugag and Waramurungundi. In Norse mythology, as described in the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, the first two human beings were Ask and Embla.

Depending on the account, three gods of Norse mythology either found them wandering around or made them out of trees – and then bestowed on them three gifts. There’s some dispute over what exactly those three gifts were, but the most common understanding is that they were soul / spirit, sense / reason, and heat / blood. Odin was the one to give them a soul; the other two gifts came from more obscure gods that don’t really feature much outside this creation myth.

The connection with trees extends into the future as well as the past. In Norse myth, the world ends with an endless winter – which may have been inspired by a real winter – and a battle of the gods. However, two humans will supposedly hide out in a tree, or a wood, or perhaps Yggdrasil the world tree. Those two alone will survive the end of the world. Líf (“life”) and Lífþrasir (“life’s lover”) will emerge after everything has been scoured away and repopulate the planet. From the Poetic Edda:

Othin spake:
“Much have I fared, much have I found,
Much have I got of the gods:
What shall live of mankind when at last there comes
The mighty winter to men?”

Vafthruthnir spake:
“In Hoddmimir’s wood shall hide themselves
Lif and Lifthrasir then;
The morning dews for meat shall they have,
Such food shall men then find.”


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