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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August Goals

Checking in on my August goals, I see a number of them are left over from June, let alone July. Sigh. It’s been that kind of summer. I have made some progress on many of them, but between Tombstone Blues editorial and dealing with some bureaucracy and financial planning issues, July was not as productive as I’d hoped it would be.

So, how’d I do:

  • 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.
  • 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 AnnandaleAndrew Davidson, and Sierra Dean.

While that’s not a lot crossed off, progress was made on all fronts. I did keep working on Tombstone Blues, though I doubt I made it to 60K, I won’t know until I finish transcribing my notebooks, and I’m about 80 handwritten pages behind on that (and not all of it is Tombstone Blues, either). I managed one edit pass on my first short story on the list, but it’s not done yet. I drafted a story for “Wings”, unfortunately, I didn’t get it in shape for the deadline, but I still like the story, and I think I can do something with it. I posted one of the two Loki’s Guide blogs (Jormungandur), and the second (Ymir) should be showing up soon.

So here’s my goals for August (what’s left of it anyway):

  • Keep writing Thunder Road Book 3. No word count goal, this time afraid. I need a win.
  • Catch up transcribing my handwritten notes.
  • 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?
  • Polish the short story formerly meant for the Innsmouth Free Press “Wings” special issue.
  • Write my Loki’s Guide to Ymir blog post.
  • Write up a blog post or two about my time at the Icelandic Festival in Gimli.

Write on!

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?

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: Jötnar

 

Jötnar, plural of jötunn–giants.

It may surprise folks who have only come to know me as an adult, but I was a very small child. Not only the shortest boy in my class, but the third shortest child in my grade (this was hammered home every year when we were arranged by height for school photos). If you consider a short, bookish boy in a small town, one who read about mythology instead of playing hockey, it also won’t surprise you that in a world where it felt like everyone was bigger than me, I identified giants as my boogieman monster of choice over vampires or werewolves (I wanted a dragon, and zombies weren’t a thing then).

The giants of Norse mythology are often brutish, and yes, violent, but they are far more than that. In Norse myth, our entire world was made from the bones and blood of the first jötunn, Ymir. Many jötunn, Loki included, have a gift for changing their shapes. Two such giants, chased after the sun and moon in the guise of wolves, fated to gobble them up at Ragnarök. Jötnar also found their way into the pantheon of gods (or at least into the beds of the gods).

They were seers and secret keepers. The Norns, who tended mortals’ threads of fate, were said to have jötunn blood. Odin traded an eye to drink from the well of Mimir to gain great wisdom (to which it must be remarked: wouldn’t it have been wiser to not rip out your own eye?). Even after Odin traded an eye for knowledge and hanged himself from the World Tree to gain mastery of rune magic, he still consulted jötunn seers from time to time.

Jötnar were also masters of illusion and trickery. One of my favourite stories of jötunn mischief is the story of Útgarða-Loki (or Loki of the Outyards, not to be confused with Loki-Loki) who managed to trick Thor into trying to drink the ocean, and even pulled the wool over his namesake’s eyes, matching the trickster god against fire personified in an eating contest.

Speaking of fire–and fire giants–there is Surtur who is destined to engulf the world in flames–and to pop up in Thunder Road*–but you’ll have to wait a few days to read about him.

*No spoilers, this is revealed on the back cover copy.