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Both sides suffered tremendous losses... and for many of us, quiet frankly, war was simply no fun anymore, but a rather senseless waste of precious life.

Mimir

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The Aesir-Vanir War, also called The First Great War or The Long War, was a war fought between the Aesir and Vanir Gods many years before the events of the God of War Series.

Norse Mythology

Under the name Heiðr (“Bright”), the Vanir Goddess Freya came to Asgard, the home of the Aesir. The Aesir were quite taken by her magical powers and zealously sought her services. But soon they realized that their values of honor, kin loyalty, and obedience to the law were being pushed aside by the selfish desires they sought to fulfill with the witch’s magic. Blaming Freya for their own shortcomings, the Aesir called her “Gullveig” (“Gold-greed”) and attempted to murder her. Three times they tried to burn her, and three times she was reborn from the ashes.

Because of this, the Aesir and Vanir came to hate and fear one another, and these hostilities erupted into war. The Aesir fought by the rules of plain combat, with weapons and brute force, while the Vanir used the subtler means of magic. The war went on for some time, with both sides gaining the upper hand by turns.

Eventually the two tribes of divinities became weary of fighting and decided to call a truce. As was customary among the ancient Norse peoples, the two sides agreed to pay tribute to each other by sending hostages to live among the other tribe. Freya, Freyr, and Njord of the Vanir went to the Aesir, and Hoenir and Mimir went to the Vanir.

Njord and his children seem to have lived more or less in peace in Asgard. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said of Hoenir and Mimir in Vanaheim. The Vanir immediately saw that Hoenir was seemingly able to deliver incomparably wise advice on any problem, but they failed to notice that this was only when he had Mimir in his company. After Hoenir responded to the Vanir’s entreaties with the unhelpful “Let others decide” one too many times, the Vanir thought they had been cheated in the hostage exchange. They beheaded Mimir and sent the severed head back to Asgard, where the distraught Odin chanted magic poems over the head and embalmed it in herbs. Thus preserved, Mimir’s head continued to give indispensable advice to Odin in times of need.

The two tribes were still weary of fighting a war that was so evenly-matched, however. Rather than renewing their hostilities over the misunderstanding, each of the Aesir and Vanir came together and spat into a cauldron. From their saliva they created Kvasir, the wisest of all beings, as a way of pledging sustained harmony.

In the God of War series

Prelude to War

After years of simmering hostilities between the Aesir and Vanir Gods over the murder of Ymir, the Vanir God Freyr attempted to broker diplomacy between the two factions. Traveling to Asgard, Freyr taught the Aesir how to use magic to harvest their crops, producing food for the entire realm. However, once the crops began to die, the Aesir blamed Freyr, citing his magic as unpredictable. As a result, Freyr was tortured and nearly killed at the Aesir's hands before escaping back to Vanaheim. Enraged, the Vanir swore revenge against Asgard.

Assault on Vanaheim

After a series of skirmishes between the two sides, Odin, the head of the Aesir, assembled a large army and marched towards Vanaheim. Though the Aesir initially dominated the battle through brute force and Odin's leadership, they were eventually repelled by the Vanir's magic.

During one battle, the Aesir gods Magni and Modi encountered the Vanir goddess Nerthus. Through teamwork, they were able to defeat and kill her.

Brokered Peace

With both Asgard and Vanaheim ravaged by the war, the factions found themselves locked in a stalemate. With seemingly no end to the conflict in sight, Odin's advisor Mimir was appointed to be the arbiter between the warring Gods. Mimir eventually settled on a peaceful solution in which Odin would marry the Vanir Goddess Freya, uniting the two factions as one.

Though Odin readily agreed to the marriage, Freya still harbored resentment against him due to the torture he inflicted on Freyr. In the end though, Freya agreed to the union, believing it would establish peace between the realms. However, this act was met with disapproval from her fellow Vanir, who saw it as a betrayal. As a result, Freya was banished from Vanaheim, forbidden to return.

Despite this uneasy truce, many felt that it would only be a matter of time before the simmering tensions would eventually break out again and the war would restart.

Aftermath

Although she missed her home, Freya was happy in Asgard. She taught her husband magical Vanir spells, and even found a new sense of purpose with the birth of her son Baldur. At this point, she was also appointed as Queen of the Valkyries. However, Odin eventually grew paranoid of the Jötnar and their prophetic knowledge of Ragnarök. After Odin was banished from Jötunheim for trying to steal their knowledge, Odin ordered Thor to use Mjölnir to slaughter all the Giants across the realms.

Horrified by Odin's cruelty, Freya attempted to flee Asgard. However, upon being caught by Odin, she was stripped of her Valkyrie wings and her fighting spirit, leaving her unable to raise a hand against anyone, even in self-defense. Odin then proceeded to expel Freya from Asgard, leaving her permanently trapped in Midgard. The realm gates to both Vanaheim and Asgard remain locked for anyone that isn't a Vanir or an Aesir, respectively.

Aesir-Vanir War
Beginning
End
Place
Outcome
  • The Vanir goddess Nerthus is slain in battle by the sons of Thor Magni and Modi.
Belligerents Aesir Vanir
Commanders
Strength
Casualties

Aesir-Vanir War Stories

Norse Myth: The First Great War

Chapter 1: Prelude

Mimir: “Now, heed a tale long ago... how it all started, that first Great War. For centuries, tensions have been simmering between two factions of Gods: the hedonistic Aesir and the Vanir, known for their connection to nature and magic. So Freyr, the Vanir’s most revered leaders, attempted an act of diplomacy, traveling across the realms to teach the Aesir Gods the way of the harvest with accompanying spell-craft fit to feed all of Asgard. The Aesir were taken by Freyr’s charm, and ecstatic with the new powers he bestowed upon them. But such astonishing spells always have a downside, and the Aesir weren’t about to blame themselves when things went wrong. Instead, the hot-headed Aesir cast their blame on Freyr. Furious at the unpredictable magic, they tortured and even attempted to kill him. But the Vanir God wouldn’t be undone so easily. He escaped, and fled back home to Vanaheim. His family was incredulous with anger at what had happened. They swore revenge against Asgard, and thus began the first and most barbarous war between the Gods.”

Chapter 2: War of the Gods

Mimir: “Skirmishes between the Aesir and Vanir continued for centuries. Odin, the proudest of the Aesir, sought an end to the back and forth. So he assembled the largest army ever seen and marched it toward Vanaheim. Fear and deference cloaked the landscape as the Aesir soldiers stomped across it, for the King of Gods had never lost a battle, and he surely never would. But as the throngs of troops descended upon the lush pastures of the Vanir kingdom, the fearsome army was falling back two steps for every advance it made. None could match the pure brute force of the Aesir attacks, but the merciless soldiers had never encountered so many Vanir Gods casting Seiðr magic at once. With colossal damage done on both sides, the Aesir eventually retreated. Odin’s conquest had failed, and the warring factions of Gods found themselves stuck in a stalemate once again.”

Chapter 3: Uniting the Realms

Mimir: “With Asgard and Vanaheim both ravaged, the two sides could only now consider what was once unthinkable: compromise. With Mimir, a particularly brilliant negotiator, was selected as the sole arbiter between the two sides. And he brokered an interesting solution: Freya, Freyr’s sister and the other leader of the Vanir, would marry Odin, King of the Aesir. Struck by Freya’s beauty, Odin readily agreed. But Freya spat at the thought. Odin had tried to destroy her home, her family, and everything she loved – and oh yes, attempted to murder her beloved brother. Still, she couldn’t let the chance for peace among the realms pass by. Though she barely managed a smile through the entire ceremony, the Aesir-Vanir wedding was cause for enormous celebration. As Odin took in his beautiful new wife, draped in the finest fabric and Vanir jewels, his kingdom felt nearly complete. As for Freya: well, with the promise of peace resting behind his curled smile, Odin didn’t seem too terrible. The raucous party continued well into the night, with the sounds of celebration carrying throughout the kingdom. Yet the peace this union provided carried much further, rippling from Asgard, to Jötunheim, Muspelheim, and every place in-between.”

Chapter 4: Odin’s Obsession

Mimir: “Married life for Freya was tolerable, at first. She taught her husband Seiðr spells, and though the High Goddess of Vanir missed her home, she was bestowed with new purpose here. But as Freya became more content, her husband only grew less. Odin was consumed with the idea that Ragnarök, the battle said to end all things, was imminent. He claimed the Giants were behind Ragnarök, insisting that if he could destroy the Jötnar, he could stop the apocalypse. But he wouldn’t make the mistake of simply gathering his armies this time. Instead, Odin employed the greatest smiths in all the realms, the Dwarven brothers Brok and Sindri, to create a weapon of unimaginable destruction. Once it was finished, Odin bestowed the mighty hammer Mjölnir to his son Thor, and sent him to slay every Giant he could find. Thor accepted the task with glee, but Freya could no longer hold her tongue in the face of this genocide. She fought back, vowing to leave her husband and return to Vanaheim – even if it meant the chaos of war would overtake the realms again.”

Chapter 5: The Banishment of Freya

Mimir: “Freya had nearly escaped out of Asgard’s high gates when Odin saw her. She attempted to plead with him, to just her her leave, and to leave her people alone. But any sympathy Odin might have once had, like his sanity, lost long ago. Instead, the King of the Aesir blindsided her with a Seiðr magic, it always seemed he was only humoring her. But he must have studied further. For Odin had come up with a particularly creative, and cruel, spell. It not only banished her from Asgard, but also forbade her from raising her hand in combat, even in self-defence. Freya stammered, trying to counter with a spell of her own. But now, instead of casting magic, she was suffering it’s twisted effects. She felt warm, and tired as her vision blurred. She stumbled, and then it all went black. When she awoke, Freya found herself far from Odin, but more distraught than ever. Now war would surely return. And with the Aesir in possession of the masterwork hammer, the end of her marriage might indeed mean the end of her people. Now her only hope was that, in time, some brave soul would finish what she could not: restoring balance, and peace to the realms.”

Mimir’s Tale: Aesir-Vanir War/Freya’s Marriage to Odin

Part 1

Atreus: “Mimir, you never did tell me why Freya spit in your face.”

Mimir: “Well, she blames me in large measure for her present circumstances... and not totally without reason. It all goes back to the Long War between the Aesir and Vanir. Prior to that, wars to the Aesir were easily won – but the Vanir had proved their equal, and exacted devastating damage. Both sides suffered tremendous losses... and for many of us, quite frankly, war was simply no fun anymore, but a rather senseless waste of precious life. Wouldn’t you agree, brother?”

Kratos: “Hmm.”

Mimir: “Precisely. Enough was enough – and at last, Odin’s most brilliant advisor became determined to find a more enlightened path. He set about to broker a peace between the Gods. It took some convincing, but ultimately Odin was persuaded to marry his deadliest enemy – a certain Vanir Goddess, legendary not only for her fertile beauty but her genius at the very Vanir magic that Odin had long aspired to master.”

Atreus: “Freya married Odin? What was in it for her?”

Mimir: “It was a sacrifice to protect her people – a selfless act of love. Truly, she deserves better than she got. But of course there’s more to that story.”

Part 2

Atreus: “I can’t believe Odin and Freya were ever married.“

Mimir: “Love and hate are closely intertwined than you might imagine. For instance, Odin hates the Giants, and they him, but Thor’s own mother was the Giantess Fjörgyn – one of Odin’s great loves.”

Atreus: “So Thor is half-God and half-Giant? Weird...!”

Mimir: “Once Fjörgyn was gone, lonely ages passed for Odin... and as war with the Vanir raged, I can see what he really wanted beneath his bluster. And after no small amount of convincing, Freya agreed. For a while there, he really turned on the charm. He seemed happy. He seemed interested in making her happy. He granted her so many wishes I could scarcely recalled them all. The peace held, and I truly believed all had worked out better that I could have planned. But Odin’s true face showed itself again in the end. Oh he won Freya’s trust, and she taught him some of her Vanir magic – another choice she would live to bitterly regret. Sadly, despite his best counselor’s best efforts to persuade him that peace was the only path to stave off Ragnarök, Odin never let of his obsession with Jötunheim. The taste of Vanir magic led him to new forms of experimentation, and new levels of depravity.”

Part 3

Atreus: “Okay, obviously the marriage to Odin didn’t last. But how did Freya end up a hermit in the woods?”

Mimir: “Oh, that was a singular piece of cruelty, even for Odin. As if the marriage wasn’t punishment enough! Freya was better to him that he deserved. She stuck it out through all manner of indignity, all in the name of maintaining peace, and safety for her people. But Odin’s madness, his tyranny, his corruption of her magics – it became more than she could stomach, and at long last she broke it off. Odin’s wrath was fierce, and his curses upon her were more than she‘d dared to fear.”

Atreus: “But her magic was so much stronger than his...”

Mimir: “After so much time together, he knew her vulnerabilities, and exploited them to craft curses she could never break.”

Atreus: “Oh... like not being able to leave Midgard.”

Mimir: “Worst still, he robbed her of her warrior spirit. Freya cannot fight – even to defend herself. No living thing May she harm, by blade nor spell. In a world this belligerent, what choice does she have but isolation?”

Atreus: “Poor Freya... I guess if I was her, I’d spit in your face too.”

Mimir: “Aye, lad. So would I.”

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