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The Norns are a group of divine beings of the Norse cosmology. Their role is to mark out the fate of each mortal at birth, a concept known to the people of Midgard as wyrd. They also maintain the World Tree Yggdrasil.

The Norns are considered the wisest of beings in all the nine worlds, with the exception of Odin and perhaps the giant Vafthrunder.[1]

Organization

The great three Norns are Urd, whose name means "fate"; Verdandi", whose name means "being"; and Skuld, whose name means "necessity".[2] The three Norns are known as the Fates,[3] or Destiny's Daughters. Urd has the power to see the past; Verdandi to observe the present; and Skuld to predict the future.[4]

There are also numerous lesser Norns, some of whom are elves and dwarves. They are of various alignment, with some kind, and others malevolent. The total number of Norns is unknown, and some people of Midgard believe that each person has their own Norn.[2] These lesser Norns are believed to operate more or less independently of Destiny's Daughters, who have no direct servants or divine proxies of their own.[4] They often attach themselves to individuals as guardian spirits and gift magic or things of wealth to those they have chosen. They are adept at the art of invisibility and shapechanging.[1]

Destiny's Daughters are goddesses of fate, though their rank is unknown and difficult to measure. A theory among planar sages holds that the Norns are proxies of the embodiment of Fate herself.[4]

Headquarters

The Norns meet each day at the Well of Urd in Asgard.[5] It is located beneath the root of the World Tree Yggdrasil in Asgard.[5]

From the Great Wheel cosmology, the Well of Urd can be reached from the Realm of the Norns a tiny, dark grove in the Outlands.[4][6] A portal is believed to lead here from Rowan's Hall, headquarters of the Fated planar faction.[7]

When they travel, the Norns often assume the form of swans.[1]

Activities and goals

Weavers of fate

The Norns decide the fate of each mortal at their birth. This fact is widely accepted by the people of Midgard, who commonly believe that one must face one's fate rather than flee in the vain hope of changing the inevitable.[2]

Learned planar travelers debate whether the Norns actively decide each being's fate, or merely divine it by gazing into the waters of the Well of Urd. It is impossible to tell which.[4] They know the fate of the gods of Asgard, and are frequently questioned on this matter by Odin and the other gods regarding their fate, but they never share this information. However, they happily share other knowledge,[1] often for a high price.[8]

A legend tells that in very rare cases, the Norns have revealed a child's fate to its parents when presented with great gifts of gold and silver.[3] The Norns appear disguised as three animals. If each of the three Norns is recognized and given a gift worthy of the child's fate, they reveal a great destiny for the child. If the parents fail to give a worthy gift to one of the Norns, perhaps giving it to a normal animal by mistake, the offended Norn places a curse on the child.[8]

The Norns may grant an individual good or bad luck in their life.[9]

Keepers of secrets

The Norns are famed for refusing to reveal any secrets to gods or mortals. Those who know their ultimate fate are rarely happier for it.[2] They will freely discuss themselves and may give out relatively minor pieces of useful information, but do not care to reveal the future when questioned.[3]

The Norns will sometimes travel to Midgard to impart a prophecy.[3]

The Norns also serve as advisers to the Norse pantheon in special cases.[3]

Caretakers of Yggdrasil

The Norns tend to the World Tree Yggdrasil from the Well of Urd in Asgard. The serpent Nidhoggr chews at the tree beneath another of its roots beneath Niflheim at the river Hvergelmir, which is why the Norns must work to counter its harm.[5]

Relationships

Followers

The Norns do not have a place in the normal hierarchy of gods, and do not follow the orders of Odin. Nor do they have worshipers in the normal sense;[3] there are no priests or priestesses of the Norns.[8]

However, they are revered nonetheless. Some who seek hidden knowledge will pray to the Norns for guidance, while some monastic orders seek to emulate the Norns' devotion to the maintainence of order.

The weavers of Svartalfheim claim that their clothmaking techniques were taught by the Norns, who weave fate, but this is generally accepted to be false.[10]

A small temple devoted to Odin and the Norns is located in the planar town of Glorium.[11] They are revered at Rowan's Hall in Asgard.[12]

The Norns are represented by the holy symbol of a lightning bolt,[3] or a staff with three branches at the top.[8]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (1976), p.32.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.167.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Legends & Lore (1e) (1985), p.105-106.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.147.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.165.
  6. A Player's Primer to the Outlands (1995), p.30.
  7. Planes of Chaos, Travelogue (1994), p.40.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Legends & Lore (2e) (1990), p.184.
  9. HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (1991), p.15.
  10. Planes of Chaos, Book of Chaos (1994), p.128.
  11. Planescape Campaign Setting, Sigil and Beyond (1994), p.40.
  12. Planes of Chaos, Book of Chaos (1994), p.112.
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