Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: Jormungandur

I’ve always loved the Midgard Serpent. Even when I admired Thor more than I did Loki.

There was something powerful about a creature that was so vast it could encircle the world that spoke to then very tiny me. Even considering I grew up in a small town, and it was a great many years before I could fathom just how vast our world was, I knew Jormungandur was big. And even now, when every I leave my little corner of the world and travel somewhere new, I am amazed by what I see.

Or…maybe I just liked Jormungandur because he was a dragon (or a sea serpent, as Loki insists to Ted in Thunder Road).

Jormungandur was fated to kill Thor, but he was also fated to be killed by Thor. There are three stories of these two enemies that are commonly told, (There’s one of those magic numbers in Norse myth!) and I love them all. In one, the giant Utgard-Loki (no relation to Loki-Loki) tricks Thor by disguising the Midgard Serpent as a cat, and challenges the god of thunder to lift the beast. Thor does manage to get one of the cat’s feet off the ground–and considering Jormungandur’s size beneath that illusion, that is an impressive feet of strength. In another of the tales, Thor goes fishing with the giant Hymir and after catching two whales and Thor remaining unsatisfied, they head deeper out into the ocean. Eventually, Thor hooks Jormungandur with a hook baited with an ox-head (the head of Hymir’s largest ox, nice guy, that Thor). Before Thor can kill Jormungandur with Mjölnir, a terrified Hymir cuts the line and the Serpent sinks back into the sea. Third, and finally, is the meeting of serpent and god at Ragnarök. Thor does manage to kill Jormungandur here, but its kind of a bitter victory. Jormungandur’s breath is poison, and Thor stumbles nine steps to his death (there’s that other magic number in Norse myth).

That should have been the end of the Midgard Serpent (and Thor) but I had other plans. Since I cheated Ragnarök and kept Loki alive, I thought Loki would have told his children how to escape their dooms as well, and in Thunder Road, Jormungandur lives on, making his primary residence in one of Manitoba’s largest lakes.

Dragons exist in pretty much every myth and culture in some form or another that I’ve ever read about. And as the vikings were a seafaring culture, I’m hardly surprised that their biggest and baddest dragon (sea serpent) lived in the ocean. The first images that I ever saw of the Midgard Serpent, like most of my first images of mythology, came from D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths, followed quickly by pictures (and gaming statistics!) from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook, Legends and Lore. But it was Walt Simonson that drew one of the most kick ass World Serpents I’ve ever seen:

Thor380Jormungandur

(In fairness, Simonson did kick ass renditions of all of the creatures of Norse myth)

In addition to my childhood love of Norse myth, I developed an obsession with Scotland in my teen years (I blame Highlander). But in addition to wanting to run around in a kilt swinging a claymore or lochaber axe (and trying to develop a taste for scotch long before my palette was ready) I also wanted to look for the Loch Ness Monster. There were also Champy, Ogopogo and all the other lake monsters rumoured to exist throughout the world. It was a long time before I heard of Manitoba’s own resident monster, Manipogo though.

To some degree, I owe the existence of Thunder Road to Jormungandur. One of the first short stories I ever started after deciding to pursue writing seriously was one imagining that all sightings of lake monsters and sea serpents around the world, were in fact, Jormungandur. That story didn’t go anywhere, mostly because I never finished it. But there are sentences, even a paragraph or two that were lifted wholesale from that abandoned project and dropped into Thunder Road. Those words remain there, essentially unchanged. Deciding to overlap the Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology and my world, that is a debt I owe a debt to the big guy.

Next up on Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: An even bigger guy. The biggest, in fact. Ymir, the primordial frost giant!

Advertisements

The Return of Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology

loki's guide Loki

The most difficult part of writing the Loki’s Guide entries, is not coming up with the trickster’s snark, but putting it in the correct order. When it was determined to put a glossary of Norse myth into Thunder Road, I decided that it wasn’t worth writing if it was only information that the readers could get from Wikipedia. Instead, I wrote the glossary in Loki’s voice, which as most things the trickster puts his hands into, caused a ripple of unforeseen problems.

I’m not sure why I decided to make it stream of consciousness, as if the trickster was telling you things as he thought of them, but I did. And while it’s fun, every time I tweak the order of the telling, I have to tweak the text, which would not be necessary if I’d gone linear.

But then, Loki is not really a linear sort of fellow, is he?

I’ve got a couple of entries to post this month, Ymir and Jormungandur, and then I’ll be gearing up for a bunch of new Loki’s Guide blogs in the fall, when Tombstone Blues releases.

So tell me readers, are there any gods, monsters, or artifacts that I haven’t covered yet and that are crying out to be on the receiving end of some of Loki’s snark?

Pacific Rim: A (Mostly) Spoiler-Free Gushfest

This was the movie I was born to see.

Giant Robots versus Giant Monsters.

This was the movie I never thought I’d get to see.

To give a little background, I used to haunt the matinee showings of Godzilla movies my hometown theatre put on sometimes on Saturday afternoons. If I’m pressed to name a favourite science fiction movie, I say Gojira. One of the first comics I ever picked up was Shogun Warriors #15. (Still have it)

I don’t know where to even begin to dissect this movie. All I’ve been left thinking is: awesome.

Normally, I don’t bother with 3D if I have the option, but the 3D conversion didn’t feel tacked on in Pacific Rim, and didn’t play it for cheap gags or tricks. I didn’t have a headache by the time the movie was over either, which I often do after a 3D summer blockbuster.

The music was perfect. Each of the Jaegers had their own theme music, appropriate to their nationalities. And the Jaegers! Those three hundred feet tall robots always seemed to have weight. Such a hard trick to pull off with CGI. Gipsy Danger is a brilliant looking lead robot. But you could also believe that the Jaegers were developed by different countries, and at different times in war against the Kaiju. And while I am dubious of the physics that would allow a tanker ship to be used as a baseball bat (more than once!), quite simply, I didn’t care.

Two of the major rules of Jaeger piloting seem to be: 1. Don’t touch Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and 2. Don’t touch Stacker Pentecost. Idris Elba absolutely killed it in Pacific Rim (he always does). But all of the cast were great. Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, and of course, Ron Perlman.

The story (and yes, there was one) was smarter than you’d expect, while never forgetting what it was supposed to be: a huge spectacle. Tonally, despite the end of the world being at stake, the movie seemed overly grim or dour.

My only complaint (and it’s barely that) would be that I wanted more. More Jaegers. More Kaiju. More Jaeger versus Kaiju fights. More Ron Perlman. I understand why I couldn’t get these things. Budgets. Pacing. Blah, blah, blah. I get it. I’m sure Guillermo Del Toro has notebooks full of more monsters and robots. Maybe we’ll get to see them some day. So, I guess my only complaint is not really a complaint, just me being greedy.

Now if only the box office for Pacific Rim will justify more movies like it. Should Marvel’s space opera weirdo fest Guardians of the Galaxy work, I might, dare I dream, get a Red Ronin versus Fin Fang Foom movie?

Dare to dream. Dare to dream.

In the meantime, I’m off to go buy another ticket so I can see Pacific Rim again. You should to. Right. Now.

July Goals And A Half-Year Check In On The Big Picture

Here’s my latest monthly goals post:

So, how did I do in June?

  • Keep writing Thunder Road book 3. I’m not going to set a specific word count goal, I just want to keep up the forward progress and keep momentum rumbling. Okay, who am I kidding, I want to hit at least 50000 words in the manuscript by month end (which is not looking promising), which brings me to the next item:
  • Revamp my writing routine. There’s a good reason for this (besides getting my ass off Facebook and Twitter a bit more).
  • Polish the first short story I wrote in May. It’s set in the Thunder Road ‘verse and takes place just after the first book. No Ted in this story. I’m playing around with some minor characters. Who doesn’t like dwarf women kicking ass?
  • Finish drafting the second short story I started. Another one set in the Thunder Road ‘verse. I’ve written a story with this character before, and love the voice (Hopefully you’ll all be able to read that one soon! I’m waiting on the contract to make the announcement). These first 2000 words feel more like the beginning of a new novel, but I think I can make it work as a short story.

Not as good as I’d hoped, unfortunately. There are reasons for this. (*cough* EXCUSES! *cough* Ahem) I didn’t write for most of the first week on my new job. I had two book reviews (one for The Winnipeg Review, one for Quill and Quire) and an article for Prairie books NOW all show up close together, and with similar deadlines. My response to paying work is generally to say “yes” and then figure out how I’ll make the time later. For year’s it’s been these reviews and articles that have helped to pay for my out of town conference trips. I made an admirable run at my word count goal for the final book in the trilogy, hitting almost 47000 words, but that’s not 50000, is it? Sadly I didn’t even look at those two short stories. The big goal of revamping my writing has been working however, and while 500-700 words a day on my lunch break and another 300-400 on the bus ride home may not seem like much, that roughly 1000 words a day is considerably more than I was averaging before May.

So what’s on the deck for July?

How about everything left over from June, to start.

  • Keep writing Thunder Road Book 3: This time I’m aiming for at least 60000 words in the manuscript by month end.
  • Polish the first short story I wrote in May. It’s set in the Thunder Road ‘verse and takes place just after the first book. No Ted in this story. I’m playing around with some minor characters. Who doesn’t like dwarf women kicking ass?
  • Finish drafting the second short story I started. Another one set in the Thunder Road ‘verse. Another one without Ted. I’ve written a story with this character before, and love the voice (Hopefully you’ll all be able to read that one soon!). These first 2000 words feel more like the beginning of a new novel, but I think I can make it work as a short story.

And on the new side:

  • Write a short story for the Innsmouth Free Press “Wings” special issue.
  • I haven’t written any “Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology” blog posts in a while. I have two on deck that I’ve been meaning to get to.
  • Attend the kick ass launch of ChiSeries Winnipeg Wednesday July 17th, at McNally Robinson. I am the co-organizer of this along with the Tiny Godzilla of Winnipeg’s YA scene (AKA the awesome and talented Samantha Beiko) and it’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally there! We’ll have readings from David Annandale, Andrew Davidson, and Sierra Dean.

I think I’m already veering into “unrealistic goal territory” as there is editorial work on Tombstone Blues to take into account, so I’m going to leave it there and see what happens in August. But since we’re half way through the year, I thought I’d also check in on those goals for 2013 that I posted back in January:

  • Finish Tombstone Blues
  • Start writing the as-yet nebulously titled book 3 in the Thunder Road Trilogy (I’m thinking this will be a good year to return to NaNoWriMo).
  • Attend at least one SF&F convention in a city that I’ve never been to.
  • Revise at least one of the three drafted novel manuscripts I’ve been letting lie fallow until it is in submission shape and then send it out.
  • Start a new writing project, just for the fun of it.

Still some work to do there, I see. I’m not terribly worried.

Tombstone Blues will be finished, I’m not worried about that, but I don’t feel I’m done writing a book until I’ve approved the final page proofs. So until then, I’m leaving it on the list. I’ve probably hit the two-thirds point of my discovery draft of Book 3. There will be lots more work once that’s done, but things are going well, and I’m way ahead of schedule on that project, as I’d only anticipated starting to draft in November.

I’d thought the convention would be an easy one, when I first made that goal, it was my intention to hit World Horror Con in New Orleans. That plan got a bit waylaid when I switched jobs, so I couldn’t make it. I will get to World Horror some day. And I will get to New Orleans too (maybe for the Romantic Times convention next year). I will be going to Can-Con in Ottawa in October. I’ve been to Ottawa, but not  to that convention… I’ll leave it up to readers to decide if I can count that one and strike it off my list.

I’ve revised one of my old manuscripts, it’s still nowhere near submission shape, but it’s probably next on the list once the draft of book three is done. It’ll be good to take a little break and let the draft breathe before I get back to it.

So that leaves starting a project just for the fun of it. Looks like that will be my project for NaNoWrimo this year.

Write on!