If I were in charge of casting a movie based on Children, Odin would be played by Sir Ian McKellen just because Sir McKellen did an incredible job playing Gandalf and Tolkien barely bothered to change anything when he decided to simply rename Odin to something else for his little Lord of the Rings books.
Who is Odin?
Odin is the most complex of all the Gods and Goddesses in the Norse pantheon. Not for nothing does he have more than a hundred kennings (by-names), among which you will find ‘The Mad One’, ‘The Furious One’, ‘The Inspired One’, ‘The Desired One’, ‘The Terrible One’, and ‘The Old Bastard’. He is a poet, a healer, a magician, a warrior. When calling upon Odin it is advised to use the name referring to the Odin you would prefer to experience. Prefer, because if he feels otherwise you might be in for a surprise of your life. Possibly your last.
The Marvel movies put the All-Father in the position of the “chief God” to make it easier for people without experience in polytheistic religions – the Father, the Son, and the holy… uh, Loki. The truth is more complicated. In the Norse times, the God considered to be the “leader” differed depending on the region. In Iceland, for example, the favoured Gods were Thor and Freyr, with Odin rarely present in the Sagas (although by no means unknown). Since each of the Gods was associated with certain personality traits, Iceland focussed on the Gods unrelated to wars. In other parts of the world Odin or Týr were the “chieftains”.
In the last days of December I sent the current revision of Children, my upcoming second book, to beta readers and my editor. I’ve spent nine months doing little else but working on the book, got myself on the verge of burnout, and I’m honestly grateful for the break. Still, I think it’s time to start talking about it a bit more.
When I was trying to figure out what genre I was writing – I went from “literary Nordic mythic fantasy” through “this is really quite grim and dark” to “oh… there is a genre called ‘grimdark’, I wonder what that is?” – it occurred to me that there was something unusual about Children. There are many books that, on the surface, seem not quite unlike this one, there are the Marvel comics and movies, but I don’t know how many actual religious people would purposefully alter their God(s) to write more compelling fiction. All I could think of was Good Omens, which would be a good fit if Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman actually were/are Christians. From what 0.854 minutes of Googling told me, Gaiman is a lapsed Scientologist and Sir Terry was a devout atheist.
I didn’t need a search engine to realise I was writing fanfic about my own Gods. I believe that in most religions this would be seen as…awkward.
Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology became a bestseller last year and continues to sell well today. Vikings spawned a range of movies and TV series, some of them absolutely cringe-worthy, some just about watchable. One could argue whether the true beginning of Norse reign (hoho) over TV and cinema screens was caused by Chris Hemsworth’s chest or Clive Standen’s chest, but one thing seems certain. Soon the Vikings will go the way of sparkling vampires and billionaires owning Red Rooms of Pain. But, luckily for me, not yet.
In the first season of Vikings, before History Channel gave up pretending it’s actually showing Norse history, Aslaug tells her children fairytales. Those fairytales are Norse myths, ones more suitable for kids. If you’ve found them interesting, you might try and read a bit more, including bits that are very much 18+. What did the Norse Gods actually do when they weren’t busy just, you know, being Gods and ruling the Nine Worlds? I could spend the next ten years writing about it, but I don’t have to, because other authors did it already… Here’s a very short primer to what’s easily available and, in my opinion, worth checking out.