The Netflix series Ragnarok strikes a near-perfect balance between the themes of Norse mythology and the threats facing the modern world. [Caution: contains spoilers]
Thor is one of Norse mythology’s most prominent gods and perhaps the ultimate representative of the Old Norse conception of masculinity. He’s not exactly the sharpest sword in the armoury, but his sheer strength and courage combined with a general lack of guile makes him more honest and forthright than the average man. He doesn’t mince words, only enemies.
In Link Roundup #3.1, we took a look at the everyday roles of Viking women. This time, we’re going to consider some of the less ordinary roles that women may—or may not—have played in Viking societies.
The first duty of a Viking household was to show hospitality to any and all who came to their door. That white nationalists try to use the Old Norse religion to justify hatred against Muslims, immigrants, and refugees is an affront to the pagan heritage they claim to be protecting.
It has been a long time coming, but Black Wolf: The Binding of Loki is now on the verge of publication. After several production snags resulting from the sheer length of the book and structural changes at the printing company, I am expecting the e-book to be released shortly, with the paperback novel to be available by early March. This week, I have been working with Renaissance Press to finalize the back cover copy, and we are ALL looking forward to finally setting this little bird free.
Though he was not quite of age, Thor had grown snugly into the mantle of manhood. He was broad and brawny, already quite adept at the skills of warcraft, and he frequently bested more seasoned athletes at games of strength and agility. His coarse hair had grown into a great mane of brassy blond, and his beard was full and streaked with copper. He could be quick to anger but just as quick to forgive, and his jovial demeanour made him many friends amongst the Aesir.
But as he strode across the fields in search of his younger brothers, his mind was clouded by thoughts of his parents’ strange behaviour in recent days and the increasing weight it placed on his shoulders as Odin’s eldest son. Frigg’s rational and compassionate leadership had lapsed suddenly when Baldr grew frail, and Odin’s disappearance had only exacerbated her fragility. Odin himself had remained distant and secretive since his return.
Trying to understand the Vikings takes some patience and careful research. They built homes of wood and turf, and their clothes were mostly wool and linen, so much of the physical evidence of their travels and lifestyle has been ravaged by natural processes. Viking societies depended heavily on oral communication, and many of the texts we have today were written down a century or more after the Viking Age. Determining how the information may have changed over that time is tricky business, and we can only guess how many stories were completely lost over the years. One story that has survived is the Christianization of Iceland. But did the Icelanders turn to Christianity out of fear of volcanic eruptions, as some researchers have suggested?
Four years ago, if you had asked me what I knew about Norse mythology, I would have shrugged and mumbled something about Thor dressing up as a woman to get his hammer back. I couldn’t even remember the name of Odin’s wife, and Loki was little more than a dark figure in my mind. Nonetheless, it was Loki who sparked my imagination.
Loki and Odin have sometimes been described as mirror images to each other. Odin certainly pulls his share of dirty tricks, although for different reasons. The parallels and contrasts between these two characters will also shed some light on the myths and the people who believed them.
Sif is Thor’s wife and the mother of Thrúd and Ullr.
Little is known of Sif, but some speculate that her golden hair and her relationship to the god of the sky suggest she is an earth goddess and that her golden hair signifies wheat, flax, or other crops.
Ragnarök: the doom of the Gods and the end of the worlds as Odin created them. But this is no ordinary war. Ragnarök and Fimbulvetr, the three-year winter that precedes the final battle, symbolize the destruction of the natural order of society as the Vikings conceived of it, and the creation of a new society from the remnants of the old.