Rainbow bridges, giant hammers and frost giants / Norse mythology in fiction

I’m a bit of a sucker for superhero movies.

The other day I went to watch Thor in 3D. This movie probably doesn’t need much introduction as it has been pretty heavily publicised. Thor is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart from the Harry Potter movies) and stars Aussie Chris Hemsworth as Thor, the lovely Natalie Portman as the damsel in distress, the Hannibal-istic Anthony Hopkins as Odin, and Englishman Tom Hiddleston as Loki.

Thor is the fourth in a series of Marvel superhero films. It is preceded by Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2 and to be followed by Captain America, The Avengers and Iron Man 3.

Thor has been getting decent reviews (79% on Rotten Tomatoes) and I went in with zero expectations. I was a little apprehensive in the first fifteen minutes: the opening scenes in Asgard were majestic and all, but they felt synthetic and over-elaborate. A mile-long bridge stretching over a tumultuous ocean, that sparkles in different colours when you step on it? I could almost see the CGI oozing off the screen. Fortunately, the movie rolled along in true blockbuster fashion and before long I was totally caught up in the adventure. One mark of a successful movie, in my book, is when you don’t want it to end (even if the costumes sport enough faux gold geometric shapes to make their chests look like remote controls).

Beep.

Good points: humour thrown in at key moments (Nordic gods walking around on Earth make for excellent one-liners), the ditsy Darcy, the frost giants, and Hiddleston’s Loki. I was most interested to see how the villain would be portrayed and I wasn’t disappointed. Loki was ambiguous and subtle from the start, and didn’t make you hate him or trust him too much either way. He had a hungry, serpentine mien about him that worked brilliantly. His character was definitely the most interesting, and could have been expanded.

My brother is blonde, so of course he’s the hero. Grr.

Thor is far from a complex movie, but seeing as I have very little knowledge of Norse mythology, I kept leaning over to Victor with intelligent questions like, “So what exactly is the Bifröst?” and “So how exactly are you supposed to pronounce Mjöllnir?” Evidently, the Bifröst is a giant rainbow bridge that allows you to travel between the god-world, Asgard, and the human world, Midgard (what were these Vikings on?!). And Mjöllnir…I still don’t know how to pronounce. Victor’s extensive knowledge is gleaned from very academic sources such as Ragnarök Online. (Side note: Ragnarök actually comes from the two Old Norse words ragna, which is the genitive plural of regin, ita est ‘of the gods’…and rök which means ‘fate, end, cause, etc.’ So together: the final destiny of the gods. Thanks Wiki!)

An extraneous image, just cos it’s cool.

It was the mythology behind the movie more than anything that fascinated me—giant muscly gods with powers, the trickiest trickster of all tricksters, and the fact that the days of our week are named Odin’s Day, Thor’s Day, Frigg’s day (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday). You can find Norse mythology in plenty of books, both fiction and non-fiction. Fiction sources I’ve encountered include…

1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman – Gods survive on the prayers, thoughts, beliefs of their people…so in modern-day America, the old gods are dying out to the new supergods of Media, Technology and News. Odin’s a main character. A good gallivanting read, lots of twisted bits in true Gaiman style.

2. The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman – The Nordic gods don’t play a huge role in this but Loki does make an appearance during his bondage beneath the Earth: tied up by the entrails of his son, with a venomous snake fastened over him, dripping poison into his face. His wife holds a bowl to catch the poison, but when she goes to empty the bowl, poison hits his face and he writhes in pain, causing earthquakes. (I just reread those last few lines, and realised I sound a bit mad. I’m really not.)

3. The Wodan’s Children series by Diana L. Paxton – I’ve never read this, only heard of it.

4. And of course, the Thor comics by Marvel.

Reading this will make you cool.

Of course, there are plenty of other books out there, including translations of the Prose and Poetic Edda, and Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún. Anyway, I’m throwing names out there like I know what I’m talking about, but I really don’t. Nevertheless, 3D Thor has inspired me to take a browse through The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland…if I have time. Damn you, important exams!!!

Ta-ta,

Grace

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