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Thor’s Day Alert #3: Mischief and a Fast Start

Happy Thor’s Day!

Last week I talked about how Thor’s hammer was created. While the story of the treasures of the Norse gods is one of my favorites, it is so for exactly the opposite reason its subject suggests. The best part about this story is more than my delight with incredible weapons like Mjöllnir or Gungnir (Odin’s spear). It’s not just about magical ships (collapsible to fit in the pocket) or gilded flying boars, all forged by dwarves.

No, the best part is mischief and a fast start. These are hallmarks of Norse myth. Readers are not besieged by backstory, they are dumped right in. In the case of this story about the magical forging of the weapons, it’s launched when Loki cuts off the golden tresses of Thor’s beautiful wife, Sif.

We’re never told why Loki does such a thing. Could he have really thought anyone but him would think it a hilarious practical joke? But the reasons don’t matter; by story’s end, we know Loki is a prankster. And we perhaps sense that one of the problems with immortality and being a god is a stalking sort of boredom.

Lucky us! When things get slow in Asgard — where the Norse gods live — we can count on Loki to stir things up.

Further, by the end of this story of the forging of magical treasures, we’ve come to know many of Norse myth’s main players. Even if we were complete strangers to the gods before, and though the story is short, at its conclusion we feel a curious mix of intrigue and familiarity with the likes of Loki, Thor, Sif, Frey, and Odin.

I’ll probably post the story of the treasures of the gods in full next week, on Thor’s Day Alert #4. But I hope you’ll stop by Storm of the North blog before then – I’m thinking about actually writing about my own writing, and how Norse myth influenced it.

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5 responses

  1. Adrian

    Keen. One could talk about just what “Loki” was thinking, or what he “means” all day long.

    I concur that the norse myths jump right in, but on the other hand, the sagas do drown you in backstory! It’s cool if you develop a taste for it, but it is a developed taste, if you know what I mean.

    October 14, 2008 at 9:30 am

  2. davidfarney

    I think Loki could have used some Ritalin.

    Another difference between myths and sagas is ALL the myths are good, whereas some of the sagas seem to be mere ledgers for names.

    A saga that requires no acquired taste (IMO) is THE SAGA OF GRETTIR THE STRONG. I really enjoyed the Penguin Classics addition. If you haven’t read this one, check it out — talk about a misunderstood hero!

    October 14, 2008 at 4:19 pm

  3. Adrian

    I can’t remember if I read Grettir… I read so many of them back in middle school (how typically nerdy is that?!). I think the sagas had all the names because they were based on actual events with actual people and sometimes the fallout from them was still going on.

    October 17, 2008 at 8:57 am

  4. davidfarney

    Not nerdy at all! In fact, I think you were way ahead of the curve — some people spend a lifetime translating and studying the saga manuscripts.

    October 19, 2008 at 11:06 am

  5. Pingback: Tuesday Althing: Traits of Heroic Fantasy « STORM OF THE NORTH

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