Norse Realm

Nidavellir

Nidavellir was one of the Nine Realms and home to the greatest craftsmen in Norse mythology. Consisting of underground mines and workshops, the dwarves living there forged magnificent creations for the gods.

By Thomas ApelLast updated on Nov. 20th, 2021
  • What was the other name for Nidavellir?

    Nidavellir was sometimes referred to as Svartalfheim, or the “home of the black elves,” although the only inhabitants were dwarves.

  • What famous items did the dwarves of Nidavellir make?

    The masterful craftsmen of Nidavellir made numerous fantastic creations for the gods, most notably forging Thor’s hammer Mjölnir.

One of the Nine Realms in Norse mythology, Nidavellir was the home of the dwarves, or “black elves.” A cavernous, subterranean realm, Nidavellir was said to be located in the north, presumably a reference to its position on Yggdrasil, the world tree. Nidavellir was largely composed of mines and workshops, where the crafty dwarves fashioned wares regarded as the best in the Nine Realms. In the works of Snorri Sturluson, the region was sometimes referred to as Svartalfheim.

Etymology

The name “Nidavellir” was derived from the Old Norse nid, meaning “new moon” (when the moon was just starting to wax), and vellir, meaning “fields.” Thus translated, the name meant “the fields of the new moon.” Other translations included “dark fields,” “fields of darkness,” or even “downward fields.”

Nidavellir was also known as Svartalheim, a name derived from the Old Norse svart, meaning “black;” alf, meaning “elf”; and heimr, meaning “home.” Translated literally, Svartalfheim was the “home of the black elves.”

Mythology

Rarely mentioned in Norse sources, Nidavellir is a realm that remains shrouded in mystery. The Völuspá of the Poetic Edda alluded to the realm, tying it to the mythical dwarf Sindri and mineral wealth:

Northward a hall in Nidavellir
Of gold there rose for Sindri’s race.1

On several occasions, Nidavellir served as a setting for the mythic exploits of Norse heroes. In one popular myth, it was the site of the forging of Thor’s hammer Mjölnir. The story of its creation, told in Snorri Sturluson’s Skáldskaparmál of the Prose Edda, was a classic of the Norse tradition.

One day, in an act of mischief, Loki cut off the golden hair of Thor’s wife Sif. Understandably angry, Thor “seized Loki, and would have broken every bone in him,” but Loki promised to make amends by traveling to the “land of the Black Elves” (this tale is the source of the term Svartalfheim).2

In the cavernous world of Nidavellir, Loki sought out the dwarves, who were masters of their craft. Before long, they had not only fashioned new hair for Sif, but created two other masterworks as well: Skidbladnir, an unsinkable ship, and Gungnir, a deadly spear.

But Loki did not stop there. Sensing an opportunity, he sought out the brothers Brokkr and Sindri— the finest metalsmiths in the realm—and began to taunt them, claiming that they could never craft anything as perfect as the items he possessed. Taking the bait, the brothers set to work crafting three masterworks of their own. There was Gullinbursti, a golden-haired boar that could glow in the dark, run through air and water, and travel faster than horses; Draupnir, a golden ring that would sprout eight identical rings every ninth night; and Mjölnir, the crusher. When Loki returned to Asgard, he presented Thor with Sif’s new hair. Brokkr, meanwhile, presented him with Mjölnir:

Then he [Brokkr] gave the hammer to Thor, and said that Thor might smite as hard as he desired, whatsoever might be before him, and the hammer would not fail; and if he threw it at anything, it would never miss, and never fly so far as not to return to his hand; and if be desired, he might keep it in his sark, it was so small; but indeed it was a flaw in the hammer that the fore-haft was somewhat short.3

Pop Culture

The subterranean world of Nidavellir has shaped many popular representations of the typical dwarvish realm. In JRR Tolkien’s Middle-Earth*,* dwarves inhabited caverns such as the Mines of Moria and the Kingdom Under the Mountain. The Norse realm also influenced the subterranean Dwemer ruins found throughout the Elder Scrolls series.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Nidavellir was reimagined as a neutron star surrounded by a ringed mechanism that focused its energy into a forge. In Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Thor traveled to Nidavellir to construct a new weapon following the destruction of Mjölnir by Hela, his long-lost sister.