February 10, 2022

10 Min Read

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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök’s Mythic Inspiration

On March 10, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla ushers in a tale of destruction with Dawn of Ragnarök, the largest expansion in series history. With the help of Valka, Eivor once again dives into Odin’s memories as the god embarks on a perilous journey to save their son, Baldr, and survive the dreaded prophecy of Ragnarök.

At its heart, Dawn of Ragnarök is a story about a parent searching for their kidnapped son. Surtr, lord of fiery Muspelheim, has invaded the dwarven realm, Svartalfheim, and is holding Baldr captive. Odin (aka Havi) will have to explore the area as they use the powers of the Hugr-Rip to steal and use the powers of the Jotnar and Muspel alike, as well as seek out dwarven allies in their hidden shelters. Amidst this adventure is the looming threat of Ragnarök, as Svartalfheim is overrun with rivers of ice and magma against a backdrop of Yggdrasil’s roots.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has proven itself to be a rich source of lore for fans of the Order of Assassins and Viking culture alike, seamlessly weaving the two together to create a unique mythology endemic to the franchise, but it’s only just touched the surface of the stories Norse legend has to offer. Before the twilight of the gods begins, here’s a breakdown of the major events and key figures in traditional tales of Ragnarök that provided the base foundations for the myths that players will explore in Dawn of Ragnarök.

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Start of Ragnarök, According to Myth

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök will begin not with a fiery bang, but with the cold Fimbulwinter. According to myth, this will be a harsh season of endless snows and biting winds that lasts three years, with no respite of summer. As resources quickly dwindle, the Nine Realms will devolve into a chaotic fight for survival.

At Fimbulwinter’s end, the wolves Skoll and Hati who chase the moon and sun across the sky will at last catch their prey, plummeting all Nine Realms into darkness; even the stars will extinguish. This will cause the roots of Yggdrasil to shake, causing mountains to uproot and trees to fall. The ship Naglfar, made entirely of the fingernails of dead Vikings, will be shaken free from its moorings in Niflheim, and will sail to Asgard carrying a host of giants to fight the Aesir. Additionally, Yggdrasil’s convulsions will rip a hole in the sky, allowing Surtr and his host of Muspels to invade Asgard and wreak fiery havoc as the final battle between the Aesir and giants begins. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla gave us a brief glimpse of Ragnarök, but in Dawn of Ragnarök, we’ll find out exactly how Assassin’s Creed utilizes well-established mythology to tell a brand-new tale.

Odin

Odin is one of the best-known gods in the Norse pantheon, and Eivor’s Isu predecessor in Assassin’s Creed lore; several of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla quests see Odin working to protect Asgard and eliminate threats of Ragnarök. According to Norse tradition, Odin is the one-eyed god of war and poetry. He is credited with the creation of the world from the body of the slain giant Ymir, and naturally does all he can to prevent the prophecy of Ragnarök, as well as his death by the wolf Fenrir, from coming true. In preparation for Ragnarök, Odin has his Valkyries ferry the souls of dead warriors to Valhalla, intending them to become his army, called Einherjar, in the coming battle. He also personally banished or imprisoned three of Loki’s children, each prophesied to have a role in Ragnarök, in attempt to prevent the twilight of the gods from coming to pass.

When Heimdall, guardian of the gods and keeper of the Bifrost, blows his horn to signify the start of Ragnarök’s battle, Norse mythology says Odin will go to Mimir, a severed head containing great wisdom. Though there are no accounts for what Mimir advises, Odin and the Aesir ultimately decide to go to battle, despite knowing they are fated to die. Odin will summon his Einherjar and fight the invading giants and Muspels, but in the end, he succumbs to destiny and is swallowed whole by Fenrir.

Baldr

Odin’s son Baldr isn’t in the base game of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, but as Surtr’s prisoner plays a significant role in Dawn of Ragnarök. In Norse mythology, Baldr is the beloved son of Odin and the goddess Frigg, and is the god of light, purity, beauty, and joy, but his sleep is plagued by dreams of his own demise. In an attempt to prevent this, Frigg makes everything in existence, both living and inanimate, pledge not to harm her son – except mistletoe, which she deems an unlikely threat. Loki tricks the blind god Hodr, god of darkness and Baldr’s brother, into shooting a mistletoe dart into Baldr, killing him and fulfilling the prophecy. However, because he is in the realm of the dead when Ragnarök occurs, Norse mythology tells us Baldr survives the event. While Baldr’s death isn’t part of Ragnarök itself, it is considered a fated precursor to the event.

It’s worth noting that after Baldr’s death in Norse mythology, the Aesir take revenge on Loki by binding him with the entrails of his slain son Narfi, under dripping snake venom, to remain until the start of Ragnarök. Most scholars agree that Vikings believed they lived in the period that took place between Loki’s binding and the start of Ragnarök.

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Surtr

A new character to the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla pantheon, Surtr is the lord of Muspelheim, known in Norse mythology as a fire giant who wielded a flaming sword brighter than the sun itself. Dawn of Ragnarök players will not only have to contend with Surtr himself, but his hulking son Glod and his wife Sinmara. It is said that when the sky is ripped open at Ragnarök, he will lead the Sons of Muspel into battle with the Jotnar against the Aesir. It is said that as Surtr and his army ride across the Bifrost, the bridge will shatter in their wake. In Ragnarök, Surtr is prophesied to kill the god Freyr and set the world ablaze.

There is marked significance with the Muspel fire giants joining forces with the frost giants in Ragnarök. According to Norse creation myths, in the beginning only Niflheim, the realm of ice, and Muspelheim, the realm of fire, existed. Where the cold rivers and streams of lava met, a giant called Ymir was formed, and from him all life was created. Now, in the gods’ final battle, the two realms will be the undoing of the universe.

Loki

The trickster god is a major player in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and traditionally is one of the key factors in causing Ragnarök. Boasting the ability to shapeshift, Loki is well-known for his antics throughout Norse mythology, including giving birth to the eight-legged horse Sleipnir, insulting his fellow gods so much the dwarves sewed his mouth shut, and shifting loyalties between Asgard’s Aesir and their rival gods, the Vanir, depending on what suited his needs best at the time.

When Yggdrasil quakes, the bonds of Loki are broken, allowing him to escape. He heads to Niflheim, Hel’s realm, where he fills the ship Naglfar with the dead and sails off to Ragnarök’s field of battle. There, Loki and his army fought alongside the Jotnar and Muspels against the Aesir. Heimdall, who held a longtime distrust and dislike of the trickster god, fought Loki in open combat, and the two rivals killed one another.

Loki’s Children

According to mythology, Loki is married to Sigyd, and together they have a son called Narfi. However, Loki frequently sneaks off to Jotunheim to be with Angrboda, a witch whose house players can explore in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s base game. Together, they have three children: the wolf Fenrir, the serpent Jormungandr, and Hel, the goddess of death. Each are rejected by the Aesir – Fenrir is bound, Jormungandr cast to the bottom of the ocean, and Hel made ruler of Niflheim, the realm of death – but will stand with the Jotnar in the final battle.

Though it is foretold he will be the end of Odin, the Aesir value godhood too much to spill Fenrir’s blood. Therefore, Fenrir is bound by the unbreakable cord Gleipnir – which players help Ivaldi craft in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – but the unbreakable cord is snapped by the earthquakes at the end of Fimbulwinter. Free at last, Fenrir will open his jowls wide enough to swallow the entire world – in fact, some historians believe the wolves Skoll and Hati are actually just Fenrir, who devours the moon and sun in his rampage. Fenrir snaps up everything in his path, until he is faced at last with Odin and his band of warriors. Though the wolf triumphs over the Allfather, he is slain in turn by Odin’s son Vidar. Because the moment of Odin’s death had long been prophesied, Vidar had prepared for his moment of revenge by crafting a shoe made from discarded scraps of leather, and he will use this to prop open Fenrir’s mouth, allowing the Aesir to plunge a sword through the beast’s throat.

Jormungandr, though small when thrown into the ocean, has, like his lupine brother, grown to an immense size – long enough to wrap around the world. While there, he has two encounters with Thor: one in which Thor tries to lift Jormungandr in a test of strength, and a second when Thor goes fishing for the world serpent. These events create a deep animosity between the two. When Fimbulwinter ends and Yggdrasil shakes, Jormungandr will thrash wildly as he rushes to join the fight, causing the entire world to flood. He and Thor will have a final battle, dueling until Thor smashes Jormungandr’s head in with his hammer. However, Thor will be so covered in Jormungandr’s venom he will only be able to take nine steps before he too drops dead.

Hel is the only one of Loki’s children who doesn’t directly participate in the battle of Ragnarök, but is a key player nonetheless. According to Norse mythology, when Loki sails to Asgard on Naglfar, he brings a host of the dead, released by Hel from Niflheim, to fight against the Aesir.

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The End of Ragnarök

Scholars are torn on Ragnarök’s end and what happens after. Most believe that Norse mythology says that some humans, as well as a handful of gods, will survive the event and repopulate the earth. Others suggest that in the original oral Norse history of Ragnarök, there was no rebirth – Ragnarök was the end of all things. These scholars suggest that as early Christians were the ones to write down the Viking myths, they introduced the concept of resurrection to the Norse people, who were taken with the hopeful idea of having a purpose beyond the gods’ destruction.

Players familiar with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla can already see how the game takes creative liberties from its mythological inspiration, changing traditional stories and infusing them with rich lore from the franchise. To learn more about Eivor and Odin’s story, players will need to dive into the land of Svartalfheim in Dawn of Ragnarök, launching on March 10 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Stadia, and Amazon Luna (and will also be included with a Ubisoft+ subscription). For more information on the expansion, or more on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, be sure to check out our previous coverage.

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