Vikings Of The World, Unite In Battle: The Apocalypse Is Upon Us

Feb 16, 2014
Originally published on February 23, 2014 11:49 am

Steel your nerves, dear reader. Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse, draws near.

According to Norse mythology, the end of times has been brewing for about 100 days. It all started when the wolf son of Loki broke out of prison and the giant Midgard Serpent rose from the sea.

Saturday, Ragnarok will culminate in an epic battle. The pantheon of Norse gods — Thor, Loki, Odin, Freyr, Hermóðr, every last god — will fight, the Earth will fall into the sea, and life as we know it will cease to be.

The cultural influence of Ragnarok is far-reaching: The legend has inspired everything from 13th-century Eddic poetry to the last installment of Wagner's Ring Cycle and death metal. But none of that matters, since the world is ending in one week.

In York, England, Viking enthusiasts are already gathering at the JORVIK Viking Festival to spend their final days on Earth. They will ring in Ragnarok with a parade, a staged battle, a light show and pyrotechnics.

Festival director Danielle Daglan says there's a silver lining in Ragnarok: Although gods and monsters will wreak havoc across the globe, humans might remain unscathed. (That's probably a bit too optimistic. Let's just say we won't be completely annihilated.)

"The end of the world is really an end of the world for the gods, and the world will be reborn for the human population," says Daglan.

Don't you just love happy endings?

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And just a note now as we look toward the week ahead, according to some scholars, the world will come to an end this Saturday. Ragnarok is upon us.


RATH: Ragnarok, the coming Viking apocalypse. It's been prophesied in Norse mythology. The gods will do battle - Thor, Loki, Odin, all of them. The Earth will fall into the sea and everything we know will cease to be. The legend of Ragnarok has inspired everything from the Eddic poetry of the 13th century to Richard Wagner's "Gotterdammerung" and, of course, death metal.


RATH: Danielle Daglan says the 100 days of Ragnarok started back in November, and it's coming to its logical conclusion this coming Saturday, which happens to be the end of the JORVIK Viking Festival she runs in York, England. According to Daglan, the first Earthly signs of Ragnarok are three consecutive punishing winters.

DANIELLE DAGLAN: The winter of winters is to grip and (unintelligible) the Earth.

RATH: That sounds about right.

DAGLAN: There are three cocks that crow in different realms and alert the gods and the demons and the warriors to the oncoming battle to end all battles.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) (Unintelligible) is madness.

RATH: The cast of characters is too detailed to mention here. Suffice it to say, it doesn't end well for us.

DAGLAN: And so we'll see giants roaming the land, Fenrir the wolf will break free from his chains. Fenrir kills Oden, who is of course the leader of the fighting gods.

RATH: Is that the same wolf who's going to eat the sun?

DAGLAN: No. Actually, that's his brother that eats the sun.

RATH: Different wolf, sorry.

DAGLAN: Yeah. Yeah, there are a number of characters.


RATH: Ragnarok leaves the Earth shattered and consumed by fire and floods. In the end, Danielle Daglan says, nothing will remain for us.


RATH: But we can't go with just one source about the annihilation of the human race on Saturday. That's kind of a big story. We also checked in with Gisli Sigurosson. He heads the folklore department at the University of Iceland.

GISLI SEGUROSSON: There is nothing in our sources to indicate that any of this is upon us now. This seems to be the result of marketing policy in the Viking center in York.

RATH: So this February 22 date is kind of pulled out of the air?

SEGUROSSON: No. It's the last day of the festival, so they're just going to have a big party at the end of it.

RATH: It does seem like a great excuse to have a feast and listen to some Wagner.


RATH: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.