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​​​​​​​Norse mythology is not short on descriptions of harsh winters ... as in this excerpt from the ancient poem Vafþrúðnismál, which describes the Fimbulvinter - the long winter before Ragnarök:

"Much have I fared, | much have I found,
Much have I got of the gods:
What shall live of mankind | when at last there comes
The mighty winter to men?"

And Snorri's Gylfaginning on the same subject:

"The first is this, that there shall come that winter which is called the Awful Winter: in that time snow shall drive from all quarters; frosts shall be great then, and winds sharp; there shall be no virtue in the sun. Those winters shall proceed three in succession, and no summer between; but first shall come three other winters, such that over all the world there shall be mighty battles. In that time brothers shall slay each other for greed's sake, and none shall spare father or son in manslaughter and in incest; so it says in Völuspá:
Brothers shall strive | and slaughter each other;
Own sisters' children | shall sin together;
Ill days among men, | many a whoredom:
An axe-age, a sword-age, | shields shall be cloven;
A wind-age, a wolf-age, | ere the world totters."

In Norse myth, the End of the World is preceded by a long winter, when the sun will cease to shine for three long years. One question which has been asked is whether this "Awful Winter" has a historical equivalent? Are the descriptions of the Fimbulwinter narratives concerning actual events?
It has long been known that the Iron Age was a period of relative cold, but recent findings, including analysis of glacial ice cores and tree-ring dating seem to indicate that a winter of Westerosian magnitude was inflicted upon the world during the Age of Migration. The samples and sources indicate that two volcanic eruptions during the years 536 CE and 540 CE led to a 100 year global period of cold. The impact was the most severe in the far north (and south, I presume), where the sun ceased to shine for a number of years. During these same years it has been estimated that 50% of the proto-Swedish population died ... it must indeed have seemed as if the End of the World was nigh.



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