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Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Ambiguity of Norse Mythology

Writing into the Gap:


I am working up a fantasy novel based on the Norse Mythology, and as such, I have been reading a lot on the subject lately. What started as the means to an end, having the material in hand to craft the story, has grown to a bit of an academic delight. The thing about Norse Mythology, as you are likely aware since you are reading this, is the lack of one precise cannon on the subject. The original stories of the oral tradition were written down much later in Ice Land after the folk had become Christians. So, the academic arguments often involve questioning what is true and what has been added to make the stories conform to the new religious beliefs.

What makes Norse Mythology interesting as a backbone to hang a fantasy world upon is the uncertainty and ambiguity in the sources. There are a lot of gaps to write into, and as Marvel has shown us, certain creative liberties can be taken; though for my story, I hope to be truer to the spirit of the original, as much of that as can be gleaned from the “original” source material - the Edda and the Sagas and some other Germanic writings such as those from Saxo Grammaticus - and by reading the various academic interpretations of these sources.

There is always ambiguity because what we know is gleaned from a passage here and a passage there, and the different poems and stories may contradict each other, so I grapple with deciding what is the version I wish to present. Ultimately, I am looking to craft an adventure, but I do wish to present this fantasy world in a reasonable way. 

Early on, I wrote of Mimir and the Well of Wisdom, an important part of the story as my heroine seeks self-knowledge. In the myth, Mimir loses his head and is brought back to life by Odin. Odin sacrifices an eye to gain wisdom from the well, but what’s the timeline exactly? And where is Mimir's head exactly?

Here I link to a picture at vrilology.org.


And here I link to another image, this one at germanicmythology.com


Other questions I have resolved to my own liking involve Freya and Frigg, separate entities or not, and the “true” story of Balder. Both of these I hope to recount here shortly as I would find an author’s notebook on my studies a good thing to have, and perhaps a few others may think so as well. 

But, if I don't get back here for a while, yes, Freya and Frigg are the same, and as for Balder, I choose Snorri.

Until next time ~~

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