What is it about Norse mythology?

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
Fenris
Posts: 293
Joined: October 27th, 2010, 10:02 am
Contact:

What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by Fenris » November 30th, 2010, 2:06 pm

I'm not sure what forum this belongs in, so I figured I'd stick it here.

Think about it. Tolkien. Paolini. Probably countless more that don't immediately spring to mind. The Norse mythos can be used to great effect in fiction. I know I use it. I've seen one or two others on this forum mention it in passing in various threads. Why? What is it that makes it so darn appealing?

Is it the appalling absence of vowels? The sheer unpronounceability of the nonetheless fantastic-sounding names?

Yggdrasil. 3 vowels, if you consider 'y' a vowel.
Folkvangr. 2 vowels.
Jotunnheim. 4 vowels (shocking!).
Naglfar. 2 vowels.

Any of these names could fit rather seamlessly into many kinds of fiction. Perhaps it is this versatility that creates their allure?

I'm interested to hear others' thoughts on this. Have you noticed similar trends in fiction?
Hi, my name's Fenris. I'm a thousand-year-old monster who's broken free to destroy the world. Your kids will love me!

Sommer Leigh
Moderator
Posts: 1624
Joined: April 2nd, 2010, 11:07 pm
Location: Omaha, NE
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by Sommer Leigh » November 30th, 2010, 2:30 pm

Don't forget American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I mean, granted, there are a lot of Gods in that book, but the Norse are particularly prominent.

That being said, I do not think the Norse are drawn on any more frequently than other pantheons. The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and various Asian pantheons have all seen a recent revival particularly in YA fiction.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by polymath » November 30th, 2010, 2:50 pm

Norse mythology is one of many packets of ancient religious and cultural zeitgeists that survive as part of modern Western culture. Greek mythology, Roman mythology, Egyptian mythology, Irish, Welsh, British mythologies to name several of the more prominent ones. European, African, North, Meso, and South American, Oriental, Russian, and Australian mythologies influence U.S. cultural zeitgeists as well.

I feel Tolkein's sagas promoted Norse mythology in pecking order because readers were entertained by the novels. Which mythology is prominent in contemporary literature is open to interpretation. Anglo mythologies incorporating Norse, Greek, and Roman mythologies in my opinion prevail.

In many cases, Western cultures take Anglo mythologies for granted as factual. Contemporary interpretations of the past several hundreds of years of wars have reached epic, legendary, mythical status. Many relatively recent events have become myths, legends reinvented, sanitized, and slanted histories with significant departures from their true realities. To the victors go the spoils and the versions of events.

One timely and focused example; Ben Franklin is often cited as promoting the Wild Turkey as the U.S. bird instead of the Bald Eagle. He did suggest it in a letter to a relative that was intercepted and printed in newspapers soon after. However, he was making a verbal irony surrounding events during the contentious Constitutional Congress. He meant that hidden, self-serving agendas underly noble goals.

Franklin was stinging from opposition party attempts to demean his actions while he was U.S. ambassador to France. Franklin's record and secret keeping left a lot to be desired. Top secret messages he received were treated carelessly, copied by spies he allowed into his quarters, and soon read by British intelligence. He was unable to account for several million dollars he received for purchasing war material from across Europe. Little, if any, of his human frailities, failings, and self-serving ways are recounted in contemporary, general history books.
Spread the love of written word.

Margo
Posts: 1712
Joined: April 5th, 2010, 11:21 am
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by Margo » November 30th, 2010, 3:04 pm

It's a topic where the mythology has been used but much of the cultural context hasn't -- Gaiman excepted. It's one thing to toss a mythological diety into a story. It's another to do so in context to the culture that involved that diety. It's a whole 'nother thing to bring that into a modern setting.

Kristin Nelson mentioned in a recent webinar that the whole Percy Jackson/Olympians success has resulted in her office being hit by a glut of rip-offs featuring Roman or Norse gods for the MG and YA markets.

Why are people using it? To cash in on a trend (mythology) while trying to be original (Norse). Because they might actually have an understanding of/affinity for the Norse sagas. Because it's rich, underutilized soil.
Last edited by Margo on November 30th, 2010, 3:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

User avatar
sierramcconnell
Posts: 670
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 10:28 pm
Location: BG, KY
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by sierramcconnell » November 30th, 2010, 3:06 pm

When I hear it, I'm reminded of four things:

Mighty Max
Riviera: The Promised Land
Final Fantasy (One of the GB ones, I believe it was Legend II)
"I am Thor, Dog of Thunder!" (Dogbert)

I apologize. XD

I think it's just like everything else in that people like things that are strange and mysterious and want to learn about it, but some are afraid of it for fear of their own religion. Will I get in trouble? No, it's good to learn of other things. Just don't do it. Reverse Nike. And then there are other people who just like to learn and teach. Look at this shiny thing I found, ooh~! And then, of course, everyone wants to have the next new bright awesome thing.
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

Margo
Posts: 1712
Joined: April 5th, 2010, 11:21 am
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by Margo » November 30th, 2010, 3:09 pm

sierramcconnell wrote:...but some are afraid of it for fear of their own religion.
Perhaps this explains the stunningly poor execution of so much mythology-based fiction.
Sommer Leigh wrote:Don't forget American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I mean, granted, there are a lot of Gods in that book, but the Norse are particularly prominent.
He did such an awesome job with the Egyptians, though. A mortuary? Too perfect.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

User avatar
sierramcconnell
Posts: 670
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 10:28 pm
Location: BG, KY
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by sierramcconnell » November 30th, 2010, 3:13 pm

Margo wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:...but some are afraid of it for fear of their own religion.
Perhaps this explains the stunningly poor execution of so much mythology-based fiction.
Kind of like sex written by a virgin.

Oh. Wait.

XD

But yeah. They want to do it but they fear it so much it's like reaching for a hot biscuit. Ow, ow, ow, WAH! And it falls to the floor and goes SPLAT.

Just get a freaking oven mitt, grab that damn biscuit and BITE INTO IT. It's good, it's tasty, and guess what? You're fine. It didn't hurt you. Wow.

People don't understand that just because you immerse yourself in a culture, doesn't mean you have to convert to it. And if you do, it means you really weren't that strong in your faith to begin with, now were you? :3
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

Margo
Posts: 1712
Joined: April 5th, 2010, 11:21 am
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by Margo » November 30th, 2010, 3:22 pm

I'd be happy if writers just stopped dressing Zeus, Aphrodite, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary up as other gods (perhaps because it's too much trouble to read into the mythology in question). If someone's going to write about Thor or Anubis or the Morrigan, well dangit, write about them, not a comfortable (but erroneous) stereotype wearing someone else's clothes. There's creative license, and there's intellectual laziness.

Grrrrr....

Pet peeve of mine. Can you tell?
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

User avatar
sierramcconnell
Posts: 670
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 10:28 pm
Location: BG, KY
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by sierramcconnell » November 30th, 2010, 3:28 pm

Margo wrote:I'd be happy if writers just stopped dressing Zeus, Aphrodite, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary up as other gods (perhaps because it's too much trouble to read into the mythology in question). If someone's going to write about Thor or Anubis or the Morrigan, well dangit, write about them, not a comfortable (but erroneous) stereotype wearing someone else's clothes. There's creative license, and there's intellectual laziness.

Grrrrr....

Pet peeve of mine. Can you tell?
I write Jesus as a slightly exhausted, salt-and-pepper haired man of thirty-three who dresses in what many like to call banker-esque clothing (it's in the Victorian times, he likes to be comfortable). He frequently loses the tie or loosens it, and rolls up the sleeves. He has scars, obviously, because he doesn't believe in hiding anything, and yet when he smiles it's the most peaceful, beautiful thing you'll ever see. He does a lot of paperwork though, because his father is too busy meddling in other affairs. But Jesus also still likes to do woodworking and carpentry in his free time. He whittles and makes furniture.

I just see him as a lovable guy who might be just a little bit tired. A brotherly\fatherly type with a slight bit of human frailty and a big heart, but he's all about the rules and he loves his father. :)

I hope that's alright.
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

Margo
Posts: 1712
Joined: April 5th, 2010, 11:21 am
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by Margo » November 30th, 2010, 3:35 pm

sierramcconnell wrote:I hope that's alright.
Are you asking if you have hit my pet peeve? No, you haven't. There's nothing in your description that specifically goes against the depiction of Jesus. You've expounded a little. You've modernized. I'd like to see more of that in contemporary/modern fantasy.

I'm talking about the guck that gets churned out when the only research the writer did was read the wikipedia page...maybe. I doubt some of them have done that, because most of what I've seen on wikipedia has been satisfactorily accurate.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

User avatar
sierramcconnell
Posts: 670
Joined: August 23rd, 2010, 10:28 pm
Location: BG, KY
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by sierramcconnell » November 30th, 2010, 3:49 pm

Margo wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:I hope that's alright.
Are you asking if you have hit my pet peeve? No, you haven't. There's nothing in your description that specifically goes against the depiction of Jesus. You've expounded a little. You've modernized. I'd like to see more of that in contemporary/modern fantasy.

I'm talking about the guck that gets churned out when the only research the writer did was read the wikipedia page...maybe. I doubt some of them have done that, because most of what I've seen on wikipedia has been satisfactorily accurate.
Yeah. "Cookie Cutter" Gods, Angels, and Celestial Beings are so dry and disinteresting it makes me want to drink. It's like having all the angels be tall and well built and full of light\full of bitter hate with large wings. How do we know they have wings? The people traveling to visit didn't all have wings. In fact, some of the depictions of their true forms were nigh frightening. Six faces with some having the faces of oxen and being well over the size of the shrines and glowing so brightly that they could set you afire with a look.

Doesn't sound so sparkly Christmas angel to me! XD

But people will do what they will do. It's why we have to be our best. :3
I'm on Tumblr!

The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

User avatar
Watcher55
Posts: 741
Joined: November 27th, 2010, 8:25 am
Location: Plantser-ville
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by Watcher55 » November 30th, 2010, 4:21 pm

Great question, I'ma take ma whittlin' stick to this one.

I think at the core of the appeal of Norse gods is first of all, they're downright sexy, second, their mythology is untouched by other societies and cultures. It avoided being absorbed, contaminated or destroyed by the Graeco Roman mythology and I think there's a subtle elegance in this sort of unaltered metaphysical response to the forces of the universe. Ironically enough, and I think this go back to being sexy, that elegance paints a picture of a Pantheon with a bold, often rude lust for life because even gods serch for answers and even gods die. Fight hard party hard and defend you home against all comers.

Fenris
Posts: 293
Joined: October 27th, 2010, 10:02 am
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by Fenris » November 30th, 2010, 4:26 pm

I think I'll go double-check my research now to avoid ticking off Margo. :)

I believe I fall into a space somewhere between "their own culture" and "modern world" in my WIP...it's kind of hard to explain in brief, but I have tried to keep each respective god's personality (as best as I can gather through old myths and legends) as true to form as possible while putting them in a slightly altered setting.

I find that it my writing it's easier to introduce new races and such (such as angels) via the cookie-cutter. The stereotypical beautiful human-with-wings is the first to make an entry. Then once readers are comfortable with that, then the cookie-cutter guy grins and points over his shoulder to the Nightmare Fuel with twenty legs, seven eyes (not all on his face), four mouths, and two arms that sprout from his back. I haven't yet decided if I want the new guy to be named something unpronounceable or something to catch the reader off guard, like Bob. So I ease the readers into the story with stuff they might be more familiar with, and then I start breaking rules.

Watcher55: Your comment is awesome, more so because it's true. If anything, rather than be destroyed or altered it was the Norse who did the altering, spreading out similarly to the Greeks (though not as far, nor as profoundly). I point to "Woden" from the Germanic pagans of the Roman era, among others. I think one of the few places the Greco-Roman religion meshed with the Norse was in those same Germanic states, once the Roman empire was fully underway: The name "Jofur" turns up a few times, and may be a Norse corollary (or maybe just an ancient shout-out) to Jupiter of the Roman pantheon.
Hi, my name's Fenris. I'm a thousand-year-old monster who's broken free to destroy the world. Your kids will love me!

User avatar
Watcher55
Posts: 741
Joined: November 27th, 2010, 8:25 am
Location: Plantser-ville
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by Watcher55 » November 30th, 2010, 4:46 pm

Fenris wrote:I think I'll go double-check my research now to avoid ticking off Margo. :)
Psst, do you think I should invite her to the Xena/Hercules revival fest next week?

Watcher55: Your comment is awesome, more so because it's true. If anything, rather than be destroyed or altered it was the Norse who did the altering, spreading out similarly to the Greeks (though not as far, nor as profoundly). I point to "Woden" from the Germanic pagans of the Roman era, among others. I think one of the few places the Greco-Roman religion meshed with the Norse was in those same Germanic states, once the Roman empire was fully underway: The name "Jofur" turns up a few times, and may be a Norse corollary (or maybe just an ancient shout-out) to Jupiter of the Roman pantheon.
Thanks, I'm not a serious student of Norse Mythology but I have a passing familiarity, so I wasn't aware of the Germanic connection to Norse and Roman myth, can you suggest scholarly lit?

Fenris
Posts: 293
Joined: October 27th, 2010, 10:02 am
Contact:

Re: What is it about Norse mythology?

Post by Fenris » November 30th, 2010, 6:04 pm

Watcher55: I'm only a "serious student" because I've had to do a little bit of research for my WIP. I found the info online, so I think "scholarly lit" might be out of the question. Actually, I double-checked and I was mistaken; Jofur may have been a later invention:
Jofur (from Old Norse Jǫfurr: "wild boar") is a name used in Nordic literature for the thunder god, mainly as a synonym for Jupiter. Jofur probably originated in the writings of the 17th century Swedish scientist and writer Olaus Rudbeckius, and has since been used in Nordic poetry, mainly during the Baroque and Rococo eras. Jofur (as a god) does not appear in Norse mythology, even though the word was also used as an honorary title for kings and heroes.
This is just from a Wikipedia article, as I didn't go too in-depth in my research for this (read: it's not important to my WIP).

As for Woden, it's a disambiguation of Odin (one of several: Wodan, Wotan, Wodanaz...you get the picture). I'm still looking for hard copies to augment my research--most of what I've found has been online, and therefore more likely to be fictitious than the data in, say, a published research study on Germanic and Scandinavian paganism in the Middle Ages. It's a bit harder to get my hands on them since I'm too young to drive, but I'm doing my best. There are a few books that may have e-book or online versions that might be helpful, though, like this site is a translated version of the Poetic Edda (one of the more prominent works of Norse origin that has aided greatly in research):

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/

However, it's a little hard to stomach at first, especially if you aren't that into poetry. Helpfully, it has a kind of 'running commentary' every few stanzas that helps fill you in if you don't know much about the terminology/names.

And what is this revival you speak of? It sounds interesting, but unless it's true to the mythos you may have a job convincing Margo to go.
Hi, my name's Fenris. I'm a thousand-year-old monster who's broken free to destroy the world. Your kids will love me!

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests