In Norse mythology, the Norns (pronounced like “norms” with an “n” instead of the “m”; Old NorseNornir) are female beings who create and control fate. This makes them the most terribly powerful entities in the cosmos – more so than even the gods, since the gods are subject to fate just like any and all other beings.
According to one description of the Norns in the Old Norse poem Fáfnismál, there are a great many of them, and no one knows the exact number. Some of them come from the gods, others from the elves, and still others from the dwarves. The poem Völuspá, however, has another, grander account of them that has (perhaps deservedly) become the standard image that people today associate with the Norns.
In Völuspá, the Norns are mysterious beings who don’t seem to come from any of the recognized kinds of beings who populate the Norse otherworld. They seem to be a category unto themselves. There are exactly three of them, and their names suggest their ability to construct the content of time: one is Urd (Old Norse Urðr, “The Past,” and a common word for fate in and of itself), the second Verdandi (Old Norse Verðandi, “What Is Presently Coming into Being”) and the third Skuld (Old Norse Skuld, “What Shall Be”). They live in a hall by a well (Urðarbrunnr, “Well of Fate”) beneath Yggdrasil, the mighty tree at the center of the Norse otherworld, which holds the Nine Worlds in its branches and roots.
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