Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: Ymir

Every mythology and religion, even those whose believers exist only in fantasy novels, have their own story about the origins of their world. These stories all a little weird when you think about them. Norse mythology is no different, and Ymir is at the heart of that weirdness.

Out of the primordial chaos was formed a primordial giant, Ymir. When he wasn’t feeding from the primeval cow, Auðumbla, he spawned children from his armpits and a six-headed jötunn from his feet. After Odin and his brothers killed Ymir, they fashioned entire worlds and oceans from the dead giant’s bones and blood. Odin even built a fence from those bones to keep the more monstrous denizens of the Nine Worlds from attacking the Earth (Midgard).

One of the common features of Urban Fantasy novels is a “Secret History” to explain why humanity doesn’t know recognize the existence of magic. The Thunder Road trilogy does have its own secret history, I know what the dvergar, the Norns, and Loki (and others) have been up to in between the days following Ragnarök and the events of Thunder Road, and I might even write some of those stories, if readers are interested. 

In Thunder Road, it is the fence built from Ymir’s bones that keeps magic from being seen by the majority of humanity. Fences do make for good neighbours, as the old saying goes, but as every homeowner also knows, no fence is perfect (or as Ted Callan would put it, “Shit happens.”). Things can slip through, once they do, and you are exposed to a world of magic, you’re in, and you’re in for life.

It’s a life sentence that doesn’t take very long to commute.

Another important feature in Urban Fantasy is the setting. The city is often as much a character as the protagonist. Winnipeg’s downtown has a bit of a tough reputation. While I’d rather my home city be known for something other than violent crime, missing persons, and murder, reading about these events definitely influenced me into choosing to make joining the magical world a death sentence.

Tombstone Blues releases October 15th, how much longer can the bones of Ymir hold?

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Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: Valhalla

 

I think my first exposure to Valhalla was hearing Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song on the radio (yes, radio, I’m old). You know the one, it starts with Robert Plant doing this: “Ahhhhahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhahhhhhhhhh!”

Of course, growing up near the U.S. border, I thought they were saying “Walhalla“, and wondered why they were screaming about North Dakota.

What they actually meant, was the enormous hall where Odin housed the souls of those who died in combat. These souls, gathered by the All-Father’s Valkyrie–his Choosers of the Slain–awaited Ragnarök and another battle. The last battle. They would fight jötnar and the forces of Hel herself.

It’s a weird coincidence that Valhalla is today’s post. Originally, it wasn’t meant to be. But I like that things turned out this way. Serendipity. Tonight is the launch of Thunder Road. Tonight I take my book out in search of glory. Immortality. Or, at the very least, one hell of a good time.

Valhalla, I am coming.

Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: Midgard

The action in Thunder Road takes place on Midgard, the realm of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology that is the home of humanity. You know, Earth.

But what is it about Earth that makes it so attractive to the gods? Why are they constantly coming down and mucking around with us mere mortals? Maybe they feel that because they made the world, they are entitled to play with it and everyone and everything upon it. Maybe they just want to appreciate a job they felt was well done.

Every mythology has its own creation story for Earth. In Norse Myth, Midgard was formed from the blood and bones of the primordial giant, Ymir, by Odin and his brothers. The gods built a fence from Ymir’s eyebrows at the edge of Midgard to keep the giants from invading the home of men (fences do make for good neighbours, after all). Surrounding Midgard was a great, impassable ocean that became the home to Loki’s son, Jormungandur, AKA the Midgard Serpent, a being so vast he could circle the world to bite his own tail.

Beyond Midgard are the other eight worlds in Norse myth; Jötunheim, realm of the giants; Alfheim, realm of the elves; Asgard, home to the Aesir gods; the underworld of Hel, named for Loki’s daughter, among them. With these realms and more to choose from, why have Thunder Road start out on boring old Earth, let alone in Manitoba?

No fence, no matter who built it, can keep everything out. If you get a couple hours north of Winnipeg you can hide anything–we still have wilderness. Manitoba has lake serpent sightings, sasquatch sightings, numerous reported hauntings. If you look at our folklore, the monsters are already here.

Then there is Manitoba’s large community of people of Icelandic descent. Manitoba has a rural municipality named Bifrost, Bifrost also being the name of the rainbow bridge that connected Midgard to Asgard. In the myths, Gimlé, also known as Gimli, is the place where the survivors of Ragnarök are said to live; “the most beautiful place on Earth”. I’m sure folks who summer at their cottages in Gimli, Manitoba would agree.

So I had lots of reasons to write about “boring old Earth”, but that doesn’t mean the story will always stay there.

Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: Odin

Happy Wednesday, and welcome to the second entry in Loki’s Guide to the Petty Gods and Monsters of Norse Mythology. Wednesday, or Wotan’s Day, is the day of the week named for the Norse God, Odin.

Odin, the All-Father of the Norse Gods carries over two hundred other names, usually kennings referring to his various roles as ruler of the pantheon. Names that when translated are: God of the Hanged, or Dangler; Odin hanged himself from the world tree for mastery of rune magic. Not surprising then that he was also referred to as the God of Runes. Accompanied by the ravens Huginn and Muninn, (Thought and Memory to us) Odin was also the Raven God. As a god who liked to travel among his worshipers, he was Shaggy Cloak Wearer, Broad Hat, Host Blinder (I imagine this one is because he hid his true identity from those who sheltered him, not because he went around stealing eyes–even if Odin was walking around one eye short). Over ten of Odin’s many names refer him as a “yeller”, a “blusterer”; “roarer”, leading me to think that he wasn’t shy about making his opinion heard. He’d have to be when he shared a table with Thor or Loki.

I find Odin–and the rest of the Norse gods–to be complex–and despite all the magical trappings, very, very human. He’s a father, a son; a husband, a lover; a creator of life and a killer. Odin holds long grudges, and at the same time ignored the gods’ hatred of giants to welcome jötunn-born Loki into his hall as a blood brother (not a foster son, if all you know is the comic version).

Right now, most people’s image of Odin is likely to be Anthony Hopkins in the recent Marvel Comics movie, Thor. I liked the movie, and liked Hopkins in it, but I prefer my Odin a little less…shiny.

Odin met his end at Ragnarök, swallowed whole by Loki’s son Fenrir, along with his spear that never missed, and his eight-legged steed (another of Loki’s children). Odin and his death cast a long shadow over the Thunder Road series, but death didn’t stop Loki from showing up in Thunder Road, will it stop a god also known as Hel Blinder too?