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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

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 to Mjölnir to slaughter all the Giants across the realms.

Horrified by the 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

Related

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