Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It Kind of Defeats Itself

When I saw this, my initial thought was, “Oh, is this a challenge, bitch?”

 But really, whoever bothered to make this image didn’t put very much thought into it. (Nor did they take the time to proofread the very small amount of words it contains.) First, Loki wasn’t a god per se; he was a giant. Odin befriended Loki and allowed him to join him and the other gods in Asgard. This group of deities is called the Aesir.

 Second, being able to name three Norse deities really isn’t that hard when you consider that most of the days of the week are named after one Norse god or another, and some of them have very similar names. Take the fertility deities (and also siblings) Frey and Freya. Their names are almost identical; an easy two-for-one.

 Also, read any book on Norse mythology and you will find that just about everything revolves around Loki and Odin, with splashes of Thor when shit gets real. The other deities have rather minor, if not completely insignificant roles, or they are very forgettable. Vidar for example. He’s known as “The Silent God” because he doesn’t fucking talk or really do anything except for when he avenges Odin’s death in the battle of Ragnarok. Then there is Heimdall. You know what he does? He hangs out around the gate and keeps an eye out for giants, and if he sees one he blows his horn. That’s all he does. Upon hearing the horn Thor will show up and kill the giant and then everyone will go back to doing whatever they were doing.
Hodr, the blind god, sits around all day moping because nobody cares about him because he’s blind. Odin’s son, Baldr, whom you would imagine to be a more central, almost Jesus-like character in the myths, DOESN’T DO ANYTHING. He literally does nothing but lounge around Asgard while all of the other gods admire him. His only contribution to the continuity of Norse mythology is his death. He’s supposed to be immortal, but then he goes and dies and that sets other things in motion. His entire function in the Norse myths is to die. You could argue that he’s more important than that, and I’m sure he is, and I’m certain he was more important to ancient Norse people, but his presence in what little there is of written knowledge is relatively minuscule.

 What is that, like, five names so far? I can do more, too. Tuesday comes from “Tyrsday,” or maybe “Tyrsdag,” I can’t remember, which is named after Tyr, the bravest of the Norse gods. Friday is named after Odin’s wife, Frigga. Thor and Loki had wives, named Sif and Sigyn, respectively, and then there is Idun, who doesn’t do anything at all other than tend to an apple tree, the fruit of which provides the gods with their prolonged life. She is featured in one tale that I know of, but Loki also appears in this tale. In fact, that entire story is instigated and resolved by Loki.

 I would also like to note that many of the Norse gods are featured less than some of the villains of Norse mythology. Certain giants (Jotuns) are given bigger roles than many of the gods, and in fact some of the “gods” are giants, like Loki, who were welcomed - or it’s possible rather that they were simply allowed – to join the Aesir in Asgard. The reason I stress that Loki isn’t a god is because the ancient Norse people who believed in these myths would not have worshipped Loki and they probably didn’t even recognize him as a god; in many ways Loki is to Norse mythology as Satan is to Christianity. He would have been feared or hated.

 I don’t consider myself an expert on Norse mythology by far. There are several historical and anthropological doctorates between me and the title of “Expert on Norse Mythology,” but I have read very many books on the subject and devoted a lot of thought to the understanding of these myths and I really do not appreciate the smugness conveyed in the silly image above. Anyone who saw the film “Thor,” which was loosely based on Norse mythology, will know more than three Norse gods. One can appreciate Norse mythology without being acquainted with very many of the peripheral characters just as much as any expert on the topic can. There really isn’t very much to it when you compare it to Greek or Asian mythologies. 

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