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Thor’s Day

Thor’s Day Alert #33: Jim Cantore Thundersnow

Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!

If you haven’t seen the footage of The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore reporting from Chicago during the 2011 blizzard, do not miss the following links . . . [alleged] audio conspiracies abound!

You’re surely asking why the heck I’m talking about Jim Cantore and Chicago on this blog about things Norse — especially on Thor’s Day, the subject posts of which typically relate only to Thor himself.

Well, it’s because of the flash of blue and ear-splitting thunder amidst a blizzard in the following videos; think Thor’s hammer striking in a snowstorm — you’ll never see it coming! This scene perfectly captures the pants-crapping aspects of the Mjollnir-borne thundersnow scene in my novel . . . minus, of course, Cantore and Chicago.

Yes, yes, there’s lots of fun to be poked at me here — feel free to comment and point out the other obvious differences between myth and reality, Thor and Cantore, etc. This could be fun — just keep your comments clean and I’ll post them!

On, then, with the snow — I mean show:

First up we have the [allegedly] original and unedited version of Cantore’s reaction to the 2011 Chicago thundersnow:

And here’s the [allegedly] sanitized/dubbed version:

http://www.weather.com/outlook/videos/cantore-surprised-by-thunder-snow-19541

What do you think? I like the [allegedly] unsanitized version — it shows true emotional reaction. I’m giving it up to Cantore for not reacting by dropping MF-bombs and GD’s.

He also apparently did not crap his pants . . .

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Thor’s Day Alert #32: Robert Howard

Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!

I haven’t posted on Thor’s Day since August, and while I normally reserve Thor’s Day posts for things strictly Norse today I’m making an exception. Why? Because yesterday the world lost another Robert Howard.

This is an important name. If you’ve followed this blog and/or my involvement with the ezine Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, then you doubtless know of my great respect for (and influence by) a writer named Robert E. Howard. You know, the guy who gave us Conan the Barbarian. (Among other things.)

Until yesterday, I thought this Robert Howard (REH) was the greatest of all Robert Howards who ever lived.

But then a US Soldier named Robert L. Howard died.

And if you’ve read any portion of my novel excerpt, you probably understand the tremendous respect I have for honorable warriors. Which is why Robert L. Howard trumps Robert E. Howard for the title of Top Bob at Storm of the North blog.

If you’re not familiar with the soldier and great American named Robert L. Howard, do yourself a favor and check out his page at Wikipedia. If you don’t feel like reading further, then just hit RLH’s Wiki and scroll down to see the images of his many, many medals and bars — word has it he’s the most decorated US soldier of the 20th century.  (Eight Purple Hearts. Eight?  Seriously — did this guy ever get tired of being wounded? Had he no fear at all — not even of military hospitals? Did I mention his winning of The Congressional Medal of Honor — America’s highest military award — alongside two other recommendations for the same award within barely more than a year. I’m guessing 99% of soldiers never receive a single recommendation in an entire career.)

Truly, truth is stranger than fiction; no mere writer could’ve dreamed up this man’s exploits and made them believable. Thus in the case of Robert L. Howard the warrior vs. Robert E. Howard the writer, actions speak way louder than words.

So Robert L. Howard you deserve the best of all toasts, offered here for a true warrior as written in the Havamal and translated by the incomparable H. R. Ellis Davidson:

Cattle die, kinsfolk die,
oneself dies the same.
I know one thing only which never dies —
the renown of the noble dead.

Hey! (For the uninitiated — drink!)

RIP, RLH.

For more information on Robert L. Howard, visit the RLH Tribute website.


Thor’s Day Alert #31: Ragnarok, part three

Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!

As promised here’s the final part of the Ragnarok tale, as told in the Prose Edda and translated by Jean I. Young. Unlike the first and second installments, this section contains both prose and verse. Witness:

Then Gangleri asked: ‘What will happen afterwards, when heaven and earth and the whole world has been burned and all the gods are dead and all the Einherjar and the whole race of man? Didn’t you say before that everyone will go on living for ever in some world or other?

Then Third answered: ‘There will be many good dwelling-places then and many bad. The best place to be in at that time will be Gimle in heaven, and for those that like it there is plenty of good drink in the hall called Brimir that is on Okilnir [Never Cold]. There is also an excellent hall on Nidafjoll [Dark Mountain] called Sindri; it is made of red gold. Good and righteous men will live in these halls. On Nastrandir [Corpse-strands] there is a large and horrible hall whose doors face north; it is made of the backs of serpents woven together like wattle-work, with all their heads turning in to the house and spewing poison so that rivers of it run through the hall. Perjurers and murderers wade these rivers as it says here:

I know a hall
whose doors face north
on Nastrand
far from the sun,
poison drips
from lights in the roof;
that building is woven
of backs of snakes.
There heavy streams
must be waded through
by breakers of pledges
and murderers.

But it is worst [of all] in Hvergelmir.

There Nidhogg bedevils
the bodies of the dead.’

Then Gangleri asked: ‘Will any of the gods be living then? Will there be any earth or heaven then?’

High One said: ‘At that time earth will rise out of the sea and be green and fair, and fields of corn will grow that were never sown. Vidar and Vali will be living, so neither the sea nor Surt’s Fire will have done them injury, and they will inhabit Idavoll where Asgard used to be. And the sons of Thor, Modi and Magni will come there and possess Mjllnir. After that Baldr and Hod will come from Hel. They will all sit down togather and convers, calling to mind their hidden lore and talking about things that happened in the past, about the Midgard Serpent and the wolf Fenrir. Then they will find there in the grass the golden chessmen the Aesir used to own. As it is said:

Vidar and Vali
when Surt’s fire has died
will dwell in the temples,
Modi and Magni
Thor’s Mjollnir will own
at the end of the battle.

While the world is being burned by Surt, in a place called Hoddmimir’s Wood, will be concealed two human beings called Lif and Lifthrasir. Their food will be the morning dews, and from these men wil come so great a stock that the whole world will be peopled, as it says here:

Lif and Lifthrasir
in Hodmimir’s wood
will be hidden;
the morninig dews
their food and drink
from thence will come men after men.

And you will think this strange, but the sun will have borne a daughter no less lovely than herself, and she will follow the paths of her  mother, as it says here:

Glory-of-elves’ to a girl
will give birth
before Fenrir overtakes her,
when the god are dead
she will pursue
the paths of her mother.

And now, if you have anything more to ask, I can’t think how you can manage it, for I’ve never heard anyone tell more of the story of the world. Make what use of it you can.

A sad but somehow happy ending to the Norse gods and the realms they ruled, no? Sounds like a great place to start a novel!

Having effectively reached the end of Norse myth with the conclusion of the Ragnarok story, this seems like a great place to take a break from my Thor’s Day posts for awhile. (Other writing projects/interests beckon.) I’ll keep up with the Tuesday Althing posts.

Thanks for stopping by! See ya Tuesday the 18th — more Lumsk!


Thor’s Day Alert #30: Ragnarok, part two

Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!

In my prior Thor’s Day entry I posted the first part of the Ragnarok story, as told in the Prose Edda and translated by Jean I. Young. If you didn’t know, an Icelander named Snorri Sturluson wrote Prose Edda in about 1220. His goal was not only to preserve stories of Norse gods — which with the Christianization of northern Europe were threatened to be lost — but to craft a primer for other writers such that the classic ways of Nordic storytellers and poets — skalds — might also be preserved.

Snorri wrote the first part of the Ragnarok myth in prose. But he wrote the next part in verse, which was the truest form of skaldic narration. Here, then, is the second part of the Ragnarok story, in verse:

Heimdall blows loud
his horn raised aloft;
Odin speaks
with Mimir’s head;
Yggdrasil trembles,
old outspreading ash,
and groans
as the giant gets free.

How fare the Aesir?
How fare the elves?
All Giantland resounds —
the Aesir in assembly;
inhabitants of hillsides groan
dwarfs
by their doorways of stone.
Do you know any more or not?

Hrym drives from the east
holds high his shield before him,
Jormungand writhes
in giant rage;
the serpent churns up waves;
screaming for joy
ghastly eagle will tear
dead bodies with his beak.

From the east sails a ship,
from the sea will come
the people of Muspell
with Loki as pilot;
all sons of fiends
are rowing with Fenrir,
with them on this voyage
is Byleist’s brother. [Loki]

Surt from the south
comes with spoiler-of-twigs [fire]
blazing his sword
[like] sun of the Mighty Ones;
mountains will crash down,
troll-women stumble,
men tread the road to Hel,
heaven’s rent asunder.

Then occurs
Hlin’s second grief,
when Odin goes
to fight the wolf
and Beli’s bane [Frey]
turns, fair, on Surt,
then will Frigg’s
beloved die.

To fight the wolf
goes Odin’s son,
Vidar
is on his way;
sword in hand
he will pierce the heart
of Hvedrung’s son.
Thus is his sire avenged.

The famous son
of Earth falls back,
fainting from the serpent
fearing not attack.
All mankind
must abandon home
when Midgard’s buckler [Thor]
strikes in wrath.

The sun will go black
earth sink in the sea,
heaven be stripped
of its bright stars;
smoke rage
and fire,
leaping the flame
lick heaven itself.

Further it says here:

Vigrid’s the plain
where the conflict takes place
between Surt and the kindly gods.
One hundred and twenty
leagues each way
is the plain for them appointed.

So there you have it — Ragnarok in verse. There’s one more part to this, and it includes both prose and poetry. Be sure to come back for my next Thor’s Day post on August 14th to read the rest of the Ragnarok story according to Snorri Sturluson. (It has a happy ending. Sort of.)

Thanks for stopping by!


Thor’s Day Alert #29: Ragnarok, part one

Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!

If it’s true that all good things come to an end, it’s especially true in Norse mythology. The good news? While some things end with a whimper, Norse myth ends with a bang. A bang called Ragnarok.

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a prophecied time in which the Norse gods meet their doom in a cataclysmic battle against their age-old foes, the giants. If you’ve ever heard the term “Twilight of the Gods”, it refers to the age of Ragnarok. In popular culture, Ragnarok is often casually (some might say mistakenly) used as a name for the final battle itself. But Ragnarok is an age or era — a myth cycle marking the end of the world.

In Thor’s Day Alert #14 I wrote about the Fimbulvetr age, literally the terrible winter which presages Ragnarok. For your enjoyment, here’s what follows that passage and brings us to the meat of the Ragnarok story as told in the Prose Edda and translated by Jean I. Young:

‘Then will occur what will seem a great piece of news, the wolf will swallow the sun and that will seem a great disaster to men. Then another wolf will seize the moon and that one too will do great harm. The stars will disappear from heaven. Then this will come to pass, the whole surface of the earth will tremble so [violently] that trees will be uprooted from the ground, mountains will crash down, and all fetters and bonds will be snapped and severed. The wolf Fenrir will get loose then. The sea will lash against the land because the Midgard Serpent is writhing in giant fury trying to come ashore.

‘At that time, too, the ship known as Naglfar will become free. It is made of dead men’s nails, so it is worth warning you that, if anyone dies with his nails uncut, he will greatly increase the material for that ship which both gods and men devoutly hope will take a long time building. In this tidal wave, however, Naglfar will be launched. The name of the giant steering Naglfar is Hrym. The wolf Fenrir will advance with wide open mouth, his upper jaw against the sky, his lower on the earth (he would gape more widely still if there were room) and his eyes and nostrils will blaze with fire. The Midgard Serpent will blow so much poison that the whole sky and sea will be spattered with it; he is most terrible and will be on the other side of the wolf.

‘In this din the sky will be rent asunder and the sons of Muspell ride forth from it. Surt will ride first and with him fire blazing both before and behind. He has a very good sword and it shines more brightly than the sun. When they ride over Bifrost, however — as has been said before — that bridge will break. The sons of Muspell will push forward to the plain called Vigrid and the wolf Fenrir and the Midgard Serpent will go there too. Loki and Hrym with all the frost giants will also be there by then, and all the family of Hel will accompany Loki. The sons of Muspell, however, will form a host in themselves and that a very bright one. The plain Vigrid is a hundred and twenty leagues in every direction.

‘When these things are happening, Heimdall will stand up and blow a great blast on the horn Gjoll and awaken all the gods and they will hold an assembly. Then Odin will ride to Mimir’s spring and ask Mimir’s advice for himself and his company. The ash Yggdrasil will tremble and nothing in heaven or earth will be free from fear. The Aesir and all the Einherjar will arm themselves and press forward on to the plain. Odin will ride first in a helmet of gold and a beautiful coat of mail and with his spear Gungnir, and he will make for the wolf Fenrir. Thor will advance at his side but will be unable to help him, because he will have his hands full fighting the Midgard Serpent. Frey will fight against Surt and it will be a hard conflict before Frey falls; the loss of the good sword that he gave to Skirnir will bring about his death. Then the hound Garm, which was bound in front of Gnipahellir, will also get free; he is the worst sort of monster. He will batlle with Tyr and each will kill the other.

Thor will slay the Midgard Serpent but stagger back only nine paces before he falls down dead, on account of the poison blown on him by the serpent. The wolf will swallow Odin and that will be his death. Immediately afterwards, however, Vidar will stride forward and place one foot on the lower jaw of the wolf. On this foot he will be wearing the shoe which has been in the making since the beginning of time; it consists of the strips of leather men pare off at the toes and heels of their shoes, and for this reason people who want to help the Aesir must throw away these strips. Vidar will take the wolf’s upper jaw in one hand and tear his throat asunder and that will be the wolf’s death. Loki will battle with Heimdall and each will kill the other. Thereupon Surt will fling fire over the earth and burn up the whole world.

That’s all for today. I’ll continue the Ragnarok tale in my next Thor’s Day post on July 30. (Don’t forget to stop by for the next Tuesday Althing on July 28.) The next section contains actual skaldic verse, so you won’t want to miss it!


Thor’s Day Alert #28: Havamal & Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

Happy Thor’s day, everybody!

As co-proprietor and editor of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, I’ve been mighty busy the last couple weeks with duties related to HFQ’s July 1 launch. Because I’m equally busy this week, I thought it would be fun to dig into a little book called FEROCIOUS COMMON SENSE and share a few sayings that capture the spirit of heroic fantasy.

These verses are John Louis Anderson’s interpretations of a section of The Elder Edda known as Havamal, which is also known as ‘Sayings of the High One’.

Rise early to battle for your life
or win another’s land;
Prey never falls to sleeping wolves,
nor victories to sleepers.

Never praise a day till the sun has set,
nor a torch till it’s burned out;
Ice till it’s crossed,
nor ale till the cup is empty.

The generous and bold live the best lives,
and seldom harbor sorrow.
But the timid shrink back from life,
and the greedy cling to spare change.

The foolhardy think they will stay unhurt,
if they keep aloof from the fray;
But old age will wound them all the same,
even though no spear cut through their flesh.

Your gifts need not be large,
sharing what you have will oft bring thanks;
Half a loaf and a half-empty cup
have won me many friends.

Words to live by, yo. Wait — I mean words to live by, ja.

Thanks for stopping by. See ya Tuesday!


Thor’s Day Alert #27: Norse Myth and the Number Nine

Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!

The number nine in Norse mythology is a recurring symbol. Symbolic of what, I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps transitional events — like birth or death. Or transitional things — like Yggdrasil, the tree which touches both heaven and (Nifl) hel. The transitional meaning supposedly comes from the fact that the number nine is the last single-digit number before we reach double-digits with the number 10.

But for dummkopfs like me, the number nine in Norse myth is most useful for giving me a head’s up, like: Yo. Pay attention. This part is really important.

Here follow some famous nines in Norse myth:

  • The Nine Worlds
  • Heimdall had nine mothers
  • Nine thralls Odin incites to killing each other so he could take their place in the fields and learn from their master where to find the mead of poetry.
  • Hermod rode for nine nights before reaching Niflheim and there attempting to bring Balder back from the dead.
  • Nine — the number of days and nights Odin hung on the World Tree, Yggdrasil, in order to learn the secret of runes.

There are more instances of nine in Norse myth, but its use in the story of Odin and the runes is probably the most important. Want to know what he learned those long nights on the tree? Some powerful magick, that’s what. Check out the following passage from Havamal, a section of The Elder Edda by Benjamin Thorpe:

ODIN’S RUNE-SONG.1

140. I know that I hung, on a wind-rocked tree, nine whole nights, with a spear wounded, and to Odin offered, myself to myself; on that tree, of which no one knows from what root it springs.

141. Bread no one gave me, nor a horn of drink, downward I peered, to runes applied myself, wailing learnt them, then fell down thence.

142. Potent songs nine from the famed son I learned of Bolthorn, Bestla’s sire, and a draught obtained of the precious mead, drawn from Odhraerir.

Did you catch that? Another instance of the number nine, this in stanza 142 and telling how many magical songs Odin learned from drinking the mead of poetry. (But I’ve also read that Odin learned these nine songs from the giant Suttung himself rather than through the mead Odin stole from him.) Could it be that in stanza 141 Odin’s “wailing” indicates he might have sung these songs in order to call forth more powerful runic magick whilst hanging on Yggdrasil? Without further ado, here are the spells he learned those nine nights on The World Tree:

148. Those songs I know which the king’s wife knows not nor son of man. Help the first is called, for that will help thee against strifes and cares.

149. For the second I know, what the sons of men require, who will as leeches live.

150. For the third I know, if I have great need to restrain my foes, the weapons’ edge I deaden: of my adversaries no arms nor wiles harm aught.

151. For the fourth I know, if men place bonds on my limbs, I so sing that I can walk; the fetter starts from my feet, and the manacle from my hands.

152. For the fifth I know, if I see a shot from a hostile hand, a shaft flying amid the host, so swift it cannot fly that I cannot arrest it, if only I get sight of it.

153. For the sixth I know, if one wounds me with a green tree’s roots; also if a man declares hatred to me, harm shall consume them sooner than me.

154. For the seventh I know, if a lofty house I see blaze o’er its inmates, so furiously it shall not burn that I cannot save it. That song I can sing.

155. For the eighth I know, what to all is useful to learn: where hatred grows among the sons of men—that I can quickly assuage.

156. For the ninth I know, if I stand in need my bark on the water to save, I can the wind on the waves allay, and the sea lull.

157. For the tenth I know, if I see troll-wives sporting in air, I can so operate that they will forsake their own forms, and their own minds.

158. For the eleventh I know, if I have to lead my ancient friends to battle, under their shields I sing, and with power they go safe to the fight, safe from the fight; safe on every side they go.

159. For the twelfth I know, if on a tree I see a corpse swinging from a halter, I can so grave and in runes depict, that the man shall walk, and with me converse.

160. For the thirteenth I know, if on a young man I sprinkle water, he shall not fall, though he into battle come: that man shall not sink before swords.

161. For the fourteenth I know, if in the society of men I have to enumerate the gods, JEsir and Alfar, I know the distinctions of all. This few unskilled can do.

162. For the fifteenth I know what the dwarf Thio- dreyrir sang before Delling’s doors. Strength he sang to the ^Esir, and to the Alfar prosperity, wisdom to Hroptatyr.

163. For the sixteenth I know, if a modest maiden’s favour and affection I desire to possess, the soul I change of the white-armed damsel, and wholly turn her mind.

164. For the seventeenth I know, that that young maiden will reluctantly avoid me. These songs, Lodd- fafnir! thou wilt long have lacked; yet it may be good if thou understandest them, profitable if thou learnest them.

165. For the eighteenth I know that which I never teach to maid or wife of man, (all is better what one only knows. This is the closing of the songs) save her alone who clasps me in her arms, or is my sister.

166. Now are sung the High-one’s songs, in the High-one’s hall, to the sons of men all-useful, but useless to the Jotuns’ sons. Hail to him who has sung them! Hail to him who knows them! May he profit who has learnt them! Hail to those who have listened to them!

So there you have the 18 rune-songs Odin learned upon The World Tree. (I probably don’t need to point out that 9 x 2 = 18.)

Thanks for stopping by! See ya Tuesday.