Iceland Mag

12 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Culture

Danish research on Vikings and volcanoes: eruptions connected to a tale about the end of the world

By Matt Eliason

  • New research suggests Vikings might have been afraid of Volcanoes. Photo/Vilhelm

There are conflicting viewpoints concerning the native Icelandic Vikings and their relationship with the volcanoes that frequent Iceland’s rocky terrain. A new Danish research challenges the conventional notion that Vikings were not scared by the volcanoes, by stating that the Vikings could have found the explosive eruptions much more unsettling.

Mathias Nordvig, PhD at the Department of Scandinavian Languages and Literature at Aarhus University, believes that the Vikings might have been more frightened by the volcanoes than traditional theories would have you believe. Nordvig states, “All other prehistoric cultures that lived side by side with volcanoes made up myths about volcanoes and believed them to have a sort of supernatural power,” says Nordvig. “It would be very odd if the Vikings were an exception to this.”

Nordvig sites one of the most famous passages in Norse mythology as a prime example to support his theory. The story is a tale about the end of the world and Nordvig believes that several passages in the description of Ragnarök are actually symbolic of the different phases of volcanic eruption.

“The description of Ragnarok is one of the passages in Norse mythology where the volcano symbols are most apparent,” he says.

Related content

Editor's Picks