Known as the father of humankind, Heimdall is a powerful and unique god who is involved with both Asgard, the realm of the gods and Midgard, the realm of humankind. Heimdall is also known as Rig, Hallinskiði, Gullintanni, and Vindlér or Vindhlér.
He is mostly a protector kind of god who stands guard at all times. He has perfect vision and hearing that allows him to see far and wide and also hear anything for miles. It is believed that he could hear the sounds of growing grass and sheep‘s wool.
Heimdall carries the resounding horn Gjallarhorn and has a golden manned horse called Gulltoppr. The horn is used whenever anyone tries to get into the realm of the gods. It was also meant to be used at the onset of Ragnarok when the giants invaded Asgard.
Heimdall is also considered as the shinning god or the whitest of them all. He was highly regarded in Norse Mythology because he could tell what the future held. He resided in Himinbjörg and was always depicted as drinking his fine mead. Himinbjörg was located where the burning rainbow called the Bifrost met the sky. To humans, he is said to have been the idea behind social classes. He taught them many things such as runes.
The god's history
Heimdall, being a holy figure in Norse Mythology, has a mysterious origin story. Like with many Norse gods and legends, Heimdall’s origin is not necessarily easily accessible to historians. His vague origin story is likely as a result of their stories being borrowed from oral traditions and local tales that were created and told way before Christian ancient Germania and early medieval Scandinavia.
Nevertheless, there are many theories considering his life that need to be covered. Currently, whatever archaeological records remaining of this god are too few to paint a complete picture of where Heimdall originated from.
One of the most common records and stories pertaining to his origin comes from the Gosforth cross. This is a 10th-century Anglo-Saxon cross that originated from Northrumbian. The cross curiously exhibits both Christian and pagan Norse motifs. The cross contains a panel on the surface that probably depicts the god holding a horn and a sword while standing defiantly before two open-mouthed beasts.
Another hypothesis of Heimdall’s origin comes from the horn and the sword. Heimdall carries the moniker of Hallinskídi or ‘Ram’. His sword is likened to a ‘Head’, or the offence-oriented part of the ram’s physiology. While it does not explain much about his origin, it creates the theory that Heimdall is associated with the ram.
One of the most believable and, perhaps, open theories about Heimdall links him to be the father of humankind according to ancient Nordic stories. Specifically, he is mentioned in an Old Norse poem called Völuspá. Historians believe that the Norse tribes believed that Heimdall was responsible for creating social classes within human beings. This is detailed in the poem Rígsþula where people belonged in one of the three groups namely. Thrall (serf), Karl (free peasant), and Jarl (noble).
Heimdall's Role in "The Doom of the Gods"
The doom of the gods is believed to have happened way before the current line of human beings begun. From the beginning, the gods were aware of Ragnarok which means the doom of the gods This was when they would die. Ragnarok was also a time when the cosmos would get destroyed and later re-created.
There were many prophecies surrounding Ragnarok that told how the reign of the gods and goddesses would end. Human beings dwelling in Midgard (human realm) would grow more indifferent while the gods and goddesses would break the oaths they made during Asgard’s fortification.
The first-ever god to go through Ragnarok was Balder, he was killed by Loki in a twisted trick that had him bound in the underworld. Loki was, in turn, imprisoned together with his giant wolf son and chained to stop them from causing more damage.
Odin, on the other hand, knew that there was always the danger of giants trying to destroy both Midgard and Asgard, so he picked the strongest human warriors and started to prepare them for the battle ahead. Even though the gods were preparing for a battle, they knew that the end would still come.
As predicted, the chain of events that would lead to the end of the world started. First, there was a brutal winter called Fimbulwinter that saw snow falling from every direction for three years without any breaks. This was followed by the escape of Loki and his wolf son Fenrir. The great tree called Yggdrasil begun to shake violently and was unable to hold the nine world together as it did before.
Heimdall was the first to see the army of giants coming towards Asgard. He was also able to see Loki and Fenrir escaping bondage. His keen vision and hearing abilities allowed him to blow his horn in time so that everyone including gods, elves, giants, dwarves and demons met for the final battle on the plain of Virgrid.
The evil giants started with Asgard before proceeding to the remaining worlds. Fenrir, the giant wolf, ran across the worlds with his mouth wide open such that his lower jaw dragged across the ground while his upper jaw touched the sky. He ate everything in his path, including the sun. His bother Hati also ate the moon leaving the worlds in total darkness.
The gods fought hard and long to save the worlds, but the inevitable was meant to happen. Heimdall fought his long time enemy, Loki. They both died. A giant called Surt burned all the nine worlds with his flaming sword killing almost everyone. The earth sank into the sea and left a void where life once flourished.
Afterwards, a new and ideal word emerged from the sea. Balder was released from the underworld, and some gods were reborn or had survived the final battle. It was the beginning of a new world where everything was good for gods and humans.