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Qwiz5 Quizbowl Essentials – Ragnarok

All good things come to an end, even the world. The Norsemen, a famously happy-go-lucky bunch, had a name for the end-times: Ragnarok. Translated from Old Norse as “the fate of the Gods,” Ragnarok is also referred to as “The Twilight of the Gods.” Ragnarok is an apocalyptic struggle, pitting the forces of chaos led by the trickster god Loki against the noble Gods of Asgard, led by Odin. Some sources claim that this titanic battle will undo all creation, and that nothing will follow afterward. Other sources, however, suggest that after the carnage of Ragnarok new life will be born. Strap on your armor and grab your axe: The End is near!

The clash of Ragnarok.  Part of the Qwiz5 series by Qwiz Quizbowl Camp, written to help quiz bowl teams power more tossups!

By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge, patterns that will help you answer questions. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at its five most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on Ragnarok.


Fimbulwinter is the Anglicized form of Fimbulvetr, or “Great Winter.” The Great Winter immediately precedes Ragnarok and refers to a period of three consecutive winters without an intervening summer. The devastation wrought by these winters leads to the death of all but a few humans.


Much of the action of Ragnarok takes place on the vast plain of Vigrith. Measuring 100 leagues in every direction, Vigrith is the place of death for many deities during Ragnarok. Heimdall, who summons the Norse gods to battle with his horn Gjallarhorn, kills Loki. Thor dies while battling his archenemy, the Jörmungandr serpent. Even Odin, the All-Father, is killed by the giant wolf Fenrir.


Naglfar is a ship made of the toenails and fingernails of the dead. (Seriously. We can’t make this stuff up.) The ship will bring Loki and a host of jötnar (giants) to the main action at Vigrith. The Prose Edda, a primary source for Norse mythology, emphasizes the importance of cutting the nails of the dead so as to limit their use in the construction of Naglfar.

SURTR Surtr, also known as “Surt,” is a fire giant. During Ragnarok, Surtr will lead his army of fire giants from the flaming realm of Muspelheim to do battle with the gods. During the clash on Vigrith, Surtr will face off against the god Freyr. Freyr and Surtr will kill each other. Even though Freyr kills Surtr, Freyr’s decision to give away his sword before the battle will result in his own death.

LIF AND LIFTHRASIR Earlier versions of the Ragnarok myth state that there will be no survivors of the cataclysm. However, later versions, perhaps influenced by Christian missionaries, identified two human survivors: Lif and Lifthrasir. The two will wait out the battle in a forest called Hoddmímis Holt and then go on to repopulate the world. The souls of the worthy will live on after the battle in the halls of Gimli, Sindri, and Brimir.


Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:

  • The chaos of Ragnarok, and the long winter that will precede it, may have some basis in history.

  • German composer Richard Wagner created some music truly appropriate for the end of the world. Check out this performance of Gotterdammerung and see what all the noise is about.

  • Thor and the Jörmundgandr Serpent’s battle is more than just accidental--it’s personal. Want to know why? We’ve got the scoop for you here.

  • Watch this video to learn more about some of the key players at Ragnarok:


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