My Norse Gods

#poormythology: Creation

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.

 

Origins

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.

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Why Bjørn Writes

My upcoming book, Why Odin Drinks – a collection of four novellas, including Creation – is what would happen if Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Hobbes – of the Calvin and Hobbes fame – decided to tackle Norse mythology. It’s sometimes bittersweet, because Pratchett; absurd, because Adams; and thoughtful, because Calvin and Hobbes. I aimed at writing a book that could be read on various levels – from cackling at peeing dispensers and Odin’s masculine wiles to contemplating various facets of the human condition.

Then reality went and up-ended my proportions somewhat.

Out of the four novellas, Creation is about life; Loki Runes Everything – about control; Fashionteller – about consequences of knowing too much about the future. The last story, The Well of Wise Dom takes a look at greed. What happens when you understand too much, know too much, predict too much, try to control the outcome, change the inevitable? This is what happens, apparently:

“All-Father…”
Odin smirked, the wrinkles around his lips deepening. “I was too stupid to know that I was right. You need to start wars to end them. Sacrifice lives to save them.”
“This isn’t…”
“Frigg will tell me what I need to know,” Odin said coldly. The knuckles of his bony hand, gripping the staff firmly, whitened. “The only way to stop a great army is to have an even greater army. I will know what and when to expect. I will be there.”
[…] “That can’t happen!” Mímir erupted. “When you stir wars, they’ll lead to bigger wars. The more deadly weapons one side uses, the worse the other will invent.”
“Exactly,” Odin nodded. “I’ll lead the leaders. I’ll outwit the wittiest. And I’ll always have the best, the strongest, the hardest.”

Three days after I sent the final version of the book for proofreading, Russia invaded Ukraine.

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Guest post: Chaos, Fidelity, and Salt

Today I am delighted to host Lyra Wolf, the author of Truth and Other Lies, The Order of Chaos, and That Good Mischief – books, in which Loki… you tell’em, Lyra!

Chaos, Fidelity, and Salt

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of ‘opposites attract,’ and I think you would be hard pressed to find a more opposite couple than Loki and Sigyn. When I started writing my The Nine Worlds Rising series, I knew from the beginning that their relationship was one I wanted to explore, and I cracked open as many books and articles on Norse lore as I could get my hands on.

What I found was that no one really knows who they are as a couple, what their function is, or why they got paired together at all. To make matters even more tricky, we know even less about Sigyn, other than she is very good at holding bowls over people’s heads for long periods of time.

Fantastic for me. Super awesome.

How was I supposed to write a series about a relationship that seemed to hold a lot of weight and power behind it, when all that remains of the lore is essentially a slice of Swiss cheese?

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Thor: NOT God of war (and not a Hemsworth)

This post is inspired by the following Twitter thread:

I respectfully disagree with parts of the thread (not just the original tweet above).

  1. I have never seen Thor being referred to as a war God. Not even by the “white suprëmacists” (or inbreds for short, a side effect of insisting that they’re Racially Pure in a world where hardly anybody is). The only exception seems to be the National Museum of Denmark, which I’ll get to later, settling for a facepalm for the time being.
  2. Calling Thor a God of fertility, while not incorrect, feels misleading to me. (Some argue that laying of the hammer in the bride’s lap makes the hammer a phallic object, but I think it’s…reaching a bit. In the same way you could say a fork is a phallic object.) I feel that “God of farming” or “God of plenty” would be a better choice of words, as Thor connects the sky and the Earth, bringing rain to the crops. If you’re looking for the God of fertility, I’d send you towards Freyr and his giant erection, or Frigg, the Mother.
  3. Thor is the God of the common folk, especially farmers; he brings thunder, lightning, and rain; he’s the God of blacksmiths (insider info); he’s straightforward, violent only when pissed off, and the only war he participates in throughout the entire lore is Ragnarök – if you can call the Norse version of the apocalypse a war. He doesn’t bring death – he brings food to the table. Yes, his own table tends to be the first 😉 but he’s not above killing his own goats (spoiler alert: they get resurrected) to feed others.

 

War Gods

There are at least three heathen Gods and Goddesses associated with war.

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Creation is out there!

Creation has now been created and distributed all over the worlds.

The inspiration, again, was Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, because I expected it to be like this. Since he failed to deliver the absurd and slapstick, I had to do it all on my own – there is a saying, “write the book you want to read,” and that’s what I’ve done.

Odin and his brothers, Vili and Vé, are not so great at their jobs – you wouldn’t either, if you suddenly discovered you’re in charge of everything now, but got no training, or at least a leaflet. (Not that it would help, since you also can’t read or write.) They stumble around, creating random cows and forest fires and celery, until… the ultimate weapon comes around. Can you even begin to imagine what it is? Why, yes, of course it’s people. Duh. Even celery is less threatening than THOSE.

Find the book here: www.books2read.com/creation – it’s the first in a series and there will be more. Quite a few more. I am carefully saying “2022,” but unlike Land there might be a second instalment coming before the end of the year… because after 2020 and 2021 we all deserve a laugh, right?

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Why Odin Drinks

A new book, sort of, is coming this summer.

Originally called How to Be a God, Why Odin Drinks explains that when the Gods first found themselves in the Nine Worlds, they didn’t know how to God properly. Similarly to Maya in The Ten Worlds, they have to discover what it is they apparently do, and that can only be done by trial and error. Maya’s task is easier.

Why Odin Drinks is going to be a series of novellas, released as e-books as I finish each one. Initially it looked like Thor and Two Ladies would be ready first. But… before Thor could start admiring the female beauty, he had to be created. But not before the cow Audhumla. And many other things, such as celery…

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No, really…

When Storytellers came out in March 2019, I kept obsessing about sales and reviews, refreshing my Amazon dashboard, checking Goodreads four times a day (HAHAHAHA more like forty). My first one-star review didn’t upset me – I knew I was bound to get one eventually and almost felt validated. I was a real, rejected author now! But, also, Storytellers was no longer my only baby and the love of my life. It quietly disconnected itself from me – I was working on my second book, Age of Fire, urban fantasy with Norse Gods in it.

I got a bit drunk on the five- and four-star reviews coming from complete strangers. They weren’t my friends or family members trying to humour me. Now all I had to do was write the next book, then the next one, and each would be better just because I was clearly really good at this.

Big mistake. Huge.

I wrote about video games, which I don’t actually play, then dumped all my knowledge of Reykjavík into it, including which supermarkets were the cheapest (Bonus) and how Icelanders socialised (in the public pools), and I felt so proud of this incredible… 

…turd.

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The True Meaning of Christmas

Guest post by Elísabet R. Viðarsdóttir

 

The Norse, with their gods and myths, sailed ashore in Iceland, the land of magical creatures both living and dead. In order to settle the island, the Norse knew they needed permission from these creatures.

The living conditions on the island were harsh, especially during the long, cold and dark winters. The only thing alive in nature was the evergreen tree. It truly was Yggdrasil, the eternal tree that holds everything together.

Crops were scarce, leaving little food for the animals. This forced the farmers to slaughter some of them and preserve the meat for winter. Thank goodness for the gods and the otherworldly beings who blessed them and helped them survive through their hardships.

December came and the farmers could finally look forward to longer days and shorter nights.

 

It was time for Winter Solstice, a time to celebrate and honor the gods for all they had done.

The farmers prepared a big feast with the leftover grains, meats, mead and wine. It was the perfect time to celebrate. It was a new season where all the good things in life begin anew with a turn towards brighter days on the Wheel of the Year.

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My Norse Gods: Freya


With Children out for a month now, it really is time for something I’ve been postponing for months… apologies to Freya and Freyr.

“My” Freya is the reason why I originally – two years ago? – pitched the book as “Drag Race meets Terry Pratchett in Ásgard.” She  wouldn’t just win Drag Race, because Freya doesn’t compete. She’d send RuPaul to a nursing home and take over the hosting duties – until she got bored (halfway through episode two). She’d then announce that Keeping Up With THE Freya is where it’s at and everyone would switch the channel. In the inevitable Netflix series I cast Scarlett Johansson as Freya because I can’t stand Scarlett Johansson.

This is an unusual interpretation of the Goddess.

 

The Freya

Our Troth:

As mistress of magic and goddess of sexual love, she kindles the imagination and sparks the heart. Whereas that other great goddess, Frija [Frigg – BL], is wholesome and safe, the Frowe [Freya – BL] is sweet, wild, and dangerous.

[…] Frowe is not motherly in any way. […] To the Norse, Freyja was a goddess of riches, whose tears fell to the earth as gold and whose most common appearance in skaldic poetry is in kennings for “gold”. […]

Here’s Freya getting burnt at the stake – three times:

[Freya] is first thought to have come among the Ases as the witch Gullveigr (“Gold-Intoxication”), whose fate started the war between the Ases and the Wans: “when Gullveigr was studded with spears and burned in Hár’s hall; thrice burned, thrice born, often, not seldom, but yet she lives”

I changed the order of events. The war between the Æsir (the Gods who inhabit Ásgard) and Vanir (those coming from Vanaheim) can’t be won by either of the sides, so they declare a truce and exchange hostages. Freya is one of them, forced to move into an unfamiliar place filled with those who only just stopped trying to kill her and her kin. She is young and afraid, and wants to prove that she is more valuable alive than dead. What she has to offer is love, so when one of the Gods wants to be loved by another, Freya briskly fulfils the wishes. It turns out, though, that some have multiple suitors, others are already taken, and some change their mind five minutes later. In her attempts to avoid the Æsir’s wrath, she enrages them, causing them to fight between each other. Burning her on a stake only once is not enough of a punishment. The myths don’t seem to consider this to be a particularly memorable event in Freya’s life. She seems to just get over it.

Not in my book, though.

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My Norse Gods: Frigg

The Ten Worlds will be less of a series and more of a universe I am building based on the Norse lore and surviving resources, which I then alter to fit my needs. Today I’d like to introduce you to Frigg, the wife of Odin – if I were in charge of casting the inevitable TV adaptation, I’d choose Tilda Swinton.

 

Frigg is – to quote Our Troth:

the most motherly […] she is the closest thing to an All-Mother the Northern folk know.

Frigg does not get a lot of space in the Norse lore, sometimes even being seen as an aspect of Freya (I disagree with this). Baldr is the only child of hers that is actually named. The long-haired, peace-loving, gleaming Shining One, dies in rather awkward circumstances. After Ragnarök, when the worlds of the Gods come to an end, some of them survive – and so do a man and a woman – led by Baldr, the long-haired, bearded, peace-loving embodiment of goodness, one who returns from the dead, the son of God (and Goddess). Those stories have been written down by Christians after the Viking era was long over. Some scholars believe that Baldr is a kenning for Jesus, added to the Sagas/myths by Christians to symbolise the fall of the Norse Gods and the rise of… well, Jesus. I agree.

I removed Baldr completely from my version of the pantheon. Frigg’s description of ‘the most motherly’ coming with lack of clarity as to whose mother she is exactly made me wonder: what if the answer was ‘nobody’s’? What if the one who craves motherhood the most, becoming its embodiment, the Goddess mothers and pregnant women call upon, were unable to have children of her own?

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