|Out of universe information|
- "I know you're not human, you're definitely not Wraith, and if you were an Ancient you wouldn't have needed our help to activate the device so...what are you?"
- —Daniel Jackson
- "Because they do not believe the ends justify the means... And look where it got them."
- —Vanir leader
Members of the Vanir are physiologically similar to the Asgard, as they were descended from the same race. Like their Ida cousins, the Vanir employ cloning as a means of propagating their race. However, the Vanir have two small implants placed on their bodies, one located above the right eye and another on the left chest. It is unknown what purpose these devices serve, although it may be related to their more advanced cloning techniques.
Like the Asgard of the Ida galaxy, the Vanir suffered the negative effects of generations of cloning and re-cloning themselves and sought means by which to stabilize their genetic structure. However, where the Ida Asgard were unwilling to engage in acts that risked other lives in that endeavor, the Vanir, consumed with the desire to survive, believed that the end justified the means. Their primary goal was survival, as they did not wish to end up like their distant cousins, which would result in the loss of a hundred thousand years of history.
With this objective, the Vanir began conducting experiments, similar to those conducted by Loki in the Milky Way galaxy, on humans of the Pegasus galaxy, allowing them a level of success in stabilizing their genome and preventing extreme cellular degradation.
In order to survive on their Toxic planet in the Pegasus galaxy and fight off enemies, the Vanir made use of powered exoskeletons that served as life support as well as battle armor. (ATL: "First Contact", "The Lost Tribe")
- "My people are dying. The fact that, as you tell us, our brothers are already gone only reinforces the need. If we do not do this, our whole civilization, a hundred thousand years of history, would be wiped out forever. I cannot allow that to happen."
- —Vanir leader
The history of the Vanir began over 10,000 years ago when they split from their Asgard kin and made their way to the Pegasus galaxy. This was during the early years of the war between the Lanteans and the Wraith. This distraction allowed the self-exiled Asgard to begin their experimentation on humans in order to solve their Cloning problem without interference from either the Asgard High Council or the Lantean Council. They believed that the war between the Lanteans and Wraith would give them enough time to find a solution to the genetic problems caused by the repeated cloning of their species. However, the war took an unexpected turn when the Lanteans (who the Vanir believed would win due to their advanced technology) were forced back to Atlantis and abandoned the Pegasus Galaxy, leaving the Wraith to become the dominant species of the galaxy.
Unlike the Lanteans, who would have censured only their illicit research, the Wraith did not tolerate any species with advanced technology other than their own. To that end, they began attacking the Vanir. Caught off guard, what intergalactic starships the Vanir possessed were destroyed, and they lacked the means to construct new ones. In order to survive, they abandoned their settlements and retreated to a planet whose atmosphere was toxic so that the Wraith would not be able to find them.
Their new homeworld was somewhat tolerable to live on at first, only requiring the use of breathing apparatuses. Over the eons, the planet became more and more hostile, which required the Vanir to make use of powerful Armored exoskeletons to protect them. This continued for nearly 10,000 years until the planet became too hostile for the race to survive on by the year 2008.
Desperate, they ventured out into the galaxy for the first time in centuries and discovered a secret outpost with a powerful weapon within it. They theorized that the device could cripple the Wraith on an ongoing basis. However, a crucial component was missing.
When Dr. Meredith Rodney McKay and Dr. Daniel Jackson found a hidden lab in Atlantis, they unwittingly transmitted a subspace signal that was picked up by the Vanir who deduced that whoever sent the signal had found the means to make the weapon work. Sending three of their number to the city, they obtained the missing component and took McKay and Jackson with them to get the device up and running, something the Vanir were unable to do due to their lack of the Ancient Technology Activation gene.
While holding the two captive, one of the Vanir revealed his identity to Jackson, as well as the history of his group. He stated that that it was a matter of survival that they use the Attero device, despite the fact that it caused Stargates to overload and explode while it was in operation. The Vanir traveled only by ship and were not concerned about the loss either of the gates or of anyone who might be nearby, only caring that it would help destroy the Wraith.
When Lt. Colonel John Sheppard arrived in a Traveler ship to rescue McKay and Jackson and stop the device, three Vanir spaceships engaged the Traveler ship in battle over the planet. The Traveler ship destroyed two, but the third one fled into hyperspace with the Attero device control key.
In 2010, after Doctor Elizabeth Weir was Ascended and then returned to human form by the Ascended Asgard Ran, the Vanir sought Weir in hopes of finding Ran and forcing her to descend. Their hope was that as an Asgard that had Ascended before the Asgard began cloning themselves and created the degradation problem, her DNA and eggs might hold the key to reversing the degradation and saving their race. This brought them back into conflict with the Tau'ri who captured Vanir leader Dis who offered to stop chasing Weir if he was let go. However, Weir suggested another option: instead of forcing Ran to help them, they contact her and ask her to help them. Dis admitted that the Vanir had never considered that solution as they believed that it was impossible to reach the Ascended and did not believe that Ran would willingly return to mortal form to help them. However, Weir and Daniel suggest that the Ascended rules are flexible enough that Ran may be able to help them without having to descend. Daniel also knows of a shrine on Earth where it may be possible to contact Ran. Dis agrees to this and they use an old Asgard scoutship the Vanir had in mothballs to travel to Earth. At the shrine, Dis makes contact with the Ascended and makes his plea to Ran. Ran responds by returning to mortal form, believing the extinction of a race trumps the Ascended rules. She warns Dis that even with her help the Vanir may have done too much genetic damage to be saved and if they can reverse the degradation, what they become may not be what the Vanir want. Dis accepts this, saying that this is more hope than they've had in a thousand years. Ran tells the team not to contact them as they will be busy for awhile and promises that the Vanir will cause no more trouble. Ran and Dis then depart for Pegasus in the Asgard scoutship, leaving the team to return to the SGC with a Puddle Jumper they had brought aboard the scoutship. (ATL: "Stargate Atlantis: The Third Path")
The Vanir had advanced technology, vastly superior to anything the Tau'ri have developed themselves, ranging from hyperspace capable starships that could pass through Atlantis' shield with ease (although it was subsequently reconfigured to prevent this), to personal energy shields and transportation devices. They also possessed energy weapons similar to Wraith stunners and appeared to have at least a rudimentary understanding of Ancient technology, as witnessed by their discovery of the location and purpose of the Attero device.
It is unknown how much if any of their present technology was based on Asgard technology developed by their Ida galaxy counterparts, as much of their original technology, such as their intergalactic starships, were destroyed during their first war with the Wraith, which forced them to remain in the Pegasus galaxy. It's quite safe to assume they possess a heightened intellect like their cousins, so it's not surprising they have developed such advanced technology, even under the harsh conditions they live in.
One impressive piece of Vanir technology was their impregnable Armored exoskeletons. The armor had a wide range of technological abilities imparted on its user giving them superiority in personal combat.
The weapons and shields used on Vanir ships appeared to be inferior to those of the Asgard in the Ida galaxy and the Lanteans, but they were a match for those of the Travelers. They originally had ships capable of intergalactic travel, suggesting that mainstream Asgard technology was more advanced in every aspect to the interstellar ships they now use. Indeed, they stated that they have no resources to build more intergalactic ships so their current ships inferior state is likely due to the lack of resources available for them to build better ships.
Additionally, the Vanir possess a superior cloning technique due to experiments on the humans of the Pegasus Galaxy and although far from solving the problem, it leaves them slightly healthier than their Ida cousins. However, they have still taken great genetic damage and their bodies aren't going to last much longer either. (ATL: "First Contact", "The Lost Tribe", "Stargate Atlantis: The Third Path")
While they lost their major intergalactic ships in the first battle with the Wraith, the Vanir have an old Asgard scoutship hidden away in mothballs in an old facility. The ship is still operational despite not having been used in a very long time and can make a trip from Pegasus to Earth in around fifty hours as compared to the Daedalus eighteen days. The hyperspace transition is also so smooth as to be unnoticeable as opposed to the Tau'ri ships and even Atlantis. (ATL: "Stargate Atlantis: The Third Path")
Behind the scenes
Though not given a name in the two episodes they appeared in, the Vanir were originally named after the episode "The Lost Tribe" and received the name Lost Tribe. Later, in an interview with Martin Gero, GateWorld suggested the name Vanir which Martin Gero accepted as their official name. Vanir were the second group of gods in Norse mythology, less well known than the Aesir who lived in Asgard, due to the Vanir being more elemental forces and spirits than divinities.