I’ve had a few people tell me they see me as an expert on everything Norse. A few others remarked they’d probably get more out of Why Odin Drinks if they knew more about the “real” mythology. Eeep! Don’t try this at home! Do you know how much stuff I totally destroyed to make up my own stuff?! You don’t, so I’ll tell you. Buckle up.
It took over 200 years from Iceland’s christianisation before Snorri Sturluson got to writing Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Have you ever played the telephone game? Imagine doing that for 200 years, writing down the results, and announcing this is exactly right. Except you might also get executed if you sound too excited about it.
The mythology (I recommend Kevin Crossley-Holland’s book The Penguin Book of Norse Myths) contradicts itself. It already contradicts itself in the first paragraph of the creation myth! Sometimes, myth A must happen before myth B, and vice versa. Some parts of the myths and Sagas have only survived partially. Some are hotly disputed, often depending on people’s agendas. (Crossley-Holland has his own, but he’s clear about it and lists other possible interpretations.)
I play fast and loose with what I know, which often isn’t all that much. I’m writing satire based on Norse mythology. I make up complete stories because there’s one sentence in the Eddas that inspires me. I create my own canon. If I say Baldr is Frigg’s favourite horse, he can’t turn out to be her son five books from now. That’s what limits me. Snorri’s versions are only a starting point.
Here’s the “original” myth of creation.
In the beginning there was Surtr
Here is how life began: the flames of Müspelheim and the ice of Niflheim met in a void called the Ginnungagap, creating steam, from which came a giant called Ymir.
Except Surtr, the God of fire, was already in Müspelheim before this happened, very much alive and ready to destroy the Universe that doesn’t exist at this point.
So, back to Ymir. He is a giant. Hard to say compared to whom. Possibly Surtr, although I don’t think so. Also, names already exist. When Ymir goes to sleep – it is not clear where; in the void, I assume – his armpits begin to sweat. This ooze creates the first man and first woman. (Gross.) His leg fathers a son on the other leg. (This is neither how legs or fathering work, but ‘k.) As the ice continues to melt, the fluids take the form of a cow, named Audhumla.