Animals In Norse Mythology

Animals in Norse mythology: A guide to Nordic animals

There are countless animals in Norse mythology, often associated with specific concepts, ideas, or symbols. Cats were considered sacred symbols of love, thanks to their connection with the Goddess Freya. Wolves were symbols of strength and cunning, due to their connection with Loki.

Indeed, the Vikings and old Norse people were perhaps some of the first to explore the concept of “spirit animals”. They believed people could take on the qualities of animals, and even crafted jewelry and totems intended to imbue them with strength and wisdom.

The symbolism connected with animals in Norse mythology may be one of the main reasons why Viking animals were cared for with such respect.

Though there is some evidence that Vikings occasionally sacrificed animals to the Gods, they also saw these creatures as partners in their world, with similar intelligence to their own.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the animals associated with Norse mythology.

Norse mythology animals: An introduction

Animals in Norse mythology all had their own unique tales and characteristics. Archaeologists and scholars have learned a great deal about how Norse animals were perceived thanks to poems, sonnets, and even items crafted by the Viking people over the years.

For the Viking people and Old Norse, animals were often viewed as like-minded, and even divine in some cases. In Norse mythology, countless Gods not only had their own animal companions, but were capable of transforming into animals for various purposes.

During the iron age, when the Vikings roamed freely, countless art pieces were created depicted “power animals”. Wolves, bears, falcons, eagles, and wild boars, among other creatures were all associated with different meanings.

People in the ancient Nordic ages even adopted their own “spirit animals”, known as a fylgje, or guardian spirit. For instance, Beserkers were people in the Viking realm known for embodying the spirit of the bear for strength and ferocity.

What are the animals associated with Norse mythology?

Throughout Norse mythology texts, such as the poetic Edda, there are various references to creatures both real and fantastical. Indeed, many everyday animals in Norse mythology were considered just as powerful as imaginary creatures, like dragons.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the Nordic animals that regularly appeared throughout Viking and Nordic literature.

Animals In Norse Mythology


Bears in Norse mythology were seen as the forefather of man. Gods like Odin and Thor regularly took on the shape of a bear when visiting the human world. Additionally, the Vikings saw the bear as a symbol of inner strength, wisdom, and healing.

The female bear was seen as compassionate and family-driven, while the male bear was associated primarily with strength.

Polar bears also had their own unique meaning in the world of Norse animals. In Norway, they were seen as creatures capable of unlocking supressed emotions, and helping people to overcome challenges.

Animals In Norse Mythology
Credit: Ib Aarmo

Moose, elk, and deer

Moose, elk, and deer had various different connections to Norse mythology. The elk was considered to be the king of the Forest in Norway. Seen as a mysterious creature with a deep connection to the spiritual realm, elks were symbols of both wisdom and discovery.

The roe deer was frequently associated with the concept of “Selje” or victory. The roe deer was one of the Viking animals commonly associated with spiritual growth and personal development.

Alternatively, the red deer had a strong link to Yggdrasil — the tree of life. The red deer was connected with healing, resurrection, and messages between the living and the dead.

Animals In Norse Mythology


Cats in Norse mythology were commonly linked to Freya. Apparently, this goddess drove a chariot pulled by two giant cats. The cat was also the sacred animal of Freya, and was often given by Vikings as gifts to newly married couples.

Larger cats like the Lynx also had their own unique connection to Norse mythology. The lynx was seen as a guardian of hidden knowledge and spirituality. Vikings and other Norse people believed this animal symbolized the ability to see beyond the natural realm.

Animals In Norse Mythology

Hares or rabbits

The hare was one of the totem animals of lunar goddesses like Freyja and Holda. They were associated with the birth of life, as well as the concept of intuition. Indeed, the hare’s connection to new life may be part of the reason why bunnies are so commonly used in Easter celebrations.

Animals In Norse Mythology

Eagles, hawks and owls

Various Norse animals from the sky also had a strong connection to Norse mythology. The eagle is associated with Vidofnir, an eagle who sits within Yggdrasil and watches over the world.

The eagle is also associated regularly with Odin, and wisdom. Eagles were considered to help Vikings discover spiritual truths and magic.

The hawk is another creature connected to Yggdrasil. A hawk named Verfolne was said to sit between the eyes of the Eagle Vidofnir. He acted as a messenger between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Owls are animals in Norse mythology connected heavily to wisdom, foresight, and the underworld. They were seen as creatures capable of seeing the truth in any situation, and were considered to have phenomenal wisdom.

Animals In Norse Mythology

The mountain goat

The Norse God Thor was known for having two male mountain Gods responsible for pulling his wagon across the sky. These goats were known as Tanngrisner and Tanngnjost. The male goat in Norse mythology is commonly connected with the concepts of nature and truth.

Alternatively, female goats are typically connected with the earth and fertility.

Animals In Norse Mythology


Squirrels might seem like one of the strangest animals associated with Norse mythology, but there’s actually a very famous squirrel in this landscape. Ratatoskr was a squirrel known for running between the great serpent Níðhöggr and Yggdrasil.

He apparently carried slanderous messages between the serpent and the eagle.

Animals In Norse Mythology
Credit: Bysmon


As mentioned above, great serpents and snakes are commonly mentioned throughout Norse mythology. However, they’re sometimes connected to dragons. Perhaps the most famous serpent in Norse mythology is Jörmungandr, the creature known for encircling the earth.

Jörmungandr was apparently the child of Loki, and was tossed into the ocean by Odin before he became large enough to encircle Midgard.

Animals popular in Norse mythology: Odin’s animals

Several gods throughout Norse mythology were known for having strong connections to specific animals. Loki was often associated with dogs and wolves, as well as Norse animals like serpents. Thor was connected to mountain goats.

Odin had three specific animals he was most commonly associated with, outside of the bear.

These included:

Animals In Norse Mythology

Odin’s ravens

Ravens hold an important place in Norse mythology, and are mentioned throughout a number of sagas. Vikings even had insults like Hrafnasueltir, which meant “raven starver”. Odin had two ravens which accompanied him at all times, known as Huginn and Muninn.

They were representative of thought and the bind. Odin even gave his ravens the power of speech.

Ravens were commonly depicted on various pieces of Viking art and jewelry throughout the years. They were known for being mysterious and wise creatures.

Animals In Norse Mythology

Odin’s horses

Horses were another common symbol throughout Norse mythology. Perhaps the most well-known horse was Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse, owned by Odin. The horse was the offspring of Loki, and Svaðilfari.

The horse was seen as a highly noble animal, capable of incredible strength and speed.

Various other horses are also mentioned throughout Norse mythology, such as Arvakr, a horse of great perception, and Alsviðr, the horse who pulls the sun chariot of Sol.

Iceland even has a horseshoe-shaped canyon named Asbyrgi, which was said to be formed by Sleipnir’s hoof.

Odin’s wolves

Odin not only had two ravens who accompanied him at all times, but also two wolves named Geri and Freki, who Odin fed from his own table. Wolves are seen as a symbol of power and loyalty in the Viking and old Norse worlds.

However, they can also be linked to cunning and danger.

Fenrir, one of the most famous wolves in Norse mythology, was one of the other sons of Loki. Fenrir was even prophesized to kill Odin at Ragnarök.

Exploring Nordic animals in Norse mythology

Looking through the history of the Nordic people, we can see animals in Norse mythology had a significant part to play in the lives and religions of these communities.

The symbolism associated with Viking animals and Norse creatures has even inspired countless depictions of animals in the modern world.

Animals popular in Norse mythology helped to shape the belief system of the Vikings, which later went on to inspire many other religions throughout the centuries.

Many Nordic animals like the raven and the wolf are still highly prized by Nordic people today.

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