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The final stanza of the Völuspá - which immediately follows the stanzas describing the beauty of the reborn world - seems a bit out of place, if not outright bizarre:

66. Then comes the gloomy
dragon flying,
serpent from below,
from Nidafjollum;.
bears in feather corpse
- flying over plain -
Nidhoggr now pale.
Now may she sink..

Source: Poetic Edda/Völuspá, Wikisource.

Ragnarök and all its ills ended when the earth was submerged in the ocean. Why then does Nidhoggr emerge, bearing corpses in his feathers?

5

This is a really good question; it is one which even experts on Norse mythology has trouble finding a good answer for. Gro Steinsland, in Fornnordisk religion, lists three different suggested explanations:

  1. A suggestion by Else Munkdal that Níðhöggr is there as a kind of monstrous transport: the corpses he bears are being moved into the new world to be reborn.
  2. That he is there as proof that even the reborn world is not perfect: the cosmology is cyclical, and conflict will soon begin again, after a short respite.
  3. Steinsland's own suggestion, that Níðhöggr is there as a framing device. Steinsland argues that as the new world is in many ways show to be better, the cosmology has to be linear, and Níðhöggr has no place in the new world order. Instead, he is there to move listeners back to their own world, and the Völva can sink back from trance.

From what I can tell, 2. is the most widespread explanation.

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