One of the Nine Realms in Norse mythology, Vanaheim was the home of the Vanir deities. Though seldom mentioned in Norse texts, Vanaheim was thought to be a counterpart to Asgard, the world of the Aesir gods. It was best known as the birthplace of Njord, the patriarch of the Vanir.
The term “Vanaheim” was formed from the Old Norse heimr, meaning “home,” and Vana, referring to the Vanir, one of the two tribes of Norse deities. Vanaheim, then, was the “home of the Vanir gods.”
Vanaheim appeared only once in the Poetic Edda, in a poem known as the Vafþrúðnismál, which was formed around a dialogue between a disguised Odin and the jötunn Vafthruthnir. The two were engaged in a contest of wits when the traveler (Odin) asked Vafthruthnir where Njord was born and raised. According to the translation offered by Henry Adams Bellows, Vafthruthnir replied that he was raised in “the land of the Wanes”—that is to say, Vanaheimr:
In the home of the Wanes did the wise ones create him, And gave him as pledge to the gods; At the fall of the world shall he fare once more Home to the Wanes so wise.
In another dialogue from Snorri Sturluson’s Gylfaginning, of the Prose Edda, the enthroned High discussed Njord’s origins with Odin, noting, as before, that he hailed from Vanaheim. High went on to explain that Njord came to the Aesir as a hostage in the aftermath of the Aesir-Vanir War:
Njördr is not of the race of the Æsir: he was reared in the land of the Vanir [Vanaheimr], but the Vanir delivered him as hostage to the gods, and took for hostage in exchange him that men call Hœnir; he became an atonement between the gods and the Vanir.
In the video game God of War (2018), Vanaheim appeared as one of the worlds explored by the hero Kratos. Vanaheim was also featured as a minor location in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In Thor: Dark World (2013), where Norse mythology was featured prominently, the realm served as a battlefield between Thor’s Asgardians and a mob known as the Marauders.