Tag Archives: Snori Sturluson

Thor: Ragnarok – What I Missed (Part 2)

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Something occurred to me after I started writing last week’s post. The fact that I need a second week shows me that the movie had a lot of substance. The right concepts and plot elements were there, but as I wrote last week, I feel that they were covered up (to an extent) by the humor. I realize this is a matter of personal taste, so I won’t belabor the point. Thor: Ragnarok was obviously well-received by fans and critics alike, and I do intend to watch it again.

From this point on, there might be some spoilers for anyone who has not yet seen this film.

Now for the picky part of my critique, which I readily admit arises from my own unrealistic expectations. This is what I missed. First, as I’ve already alluded, I would have liked to see more emphasis placed on the mythological concepts and imagery. The Valkyrie flashback with the winged horses was brief enough that it teased that desire in me, and I had hoped to see more of that kind of scene.

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Secondly, when I heard that the Hulk would be given more dialogue, I envisioned a more nuanced psychological  and emotional study of this character.

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I have posted before that he represents an outsized version of what resides in all of us, and this could have created all kinds of possibilities for his character development.

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I had also hoped the script would show a gradual evolution of his ability to speak coherently. The dramatic potential of such an approach is huge since it would provide a window into the soul of this creature.

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That said, there were still some great ideas which were well executed. I liked every scene with Fenris the wolf, another character lifted out of The Prose Edda by Snori Sturluson. The only problem with his battle with the Hulk is that it was a little difficult to tell how it was resolved.

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The evolution of Heimdall’s character was well done if not entirely consistent with his vocal style from previous movies. It was interesting to see him playing a different role in the story, and I’m glad they didn’t kill him off.

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The climactic battle was typically spectacular for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ll reserve judgment on turning Thor into the new Odin. That will be depend on how it is approached in future efforts.

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I particularly liked the scene showing the destruction of Asgard by Surtur. It was appropriately epic.

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I liked the redemption themes as well: the relationship of Thor and Loki…

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… the moral awakening of Skurge …

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… the reunion of Odin and his two sons, and the persuasion of Valkyrie as played by Tessa Thompson.  I especially liked the story arc of Valkyrie’s fall, degradation, and ultimate restoration to her former glory. It was a unique treatment of yet another character from Norse mythology.

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And that might be as good a place to end as any.

Modern Pantheon: A Commandment Of Sorts

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Before you go to see Thor: Ragnarok, the next addition to the Disney Marvel Universe…

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… read The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson.

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Ah-ah… no backtalk…

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Just do it.

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Semi-seriously, watching some of the trailer material reminded me of The Prose Edda. If you want to know more of the original Norse mythology (including Asgard and Ragnarok), if you want to become more familiar with Thor, Loki, Hel, and other members of the Norse pantheon, it might be helpful to struggle through the abstractions of this older document. It’s actually fairly easy to read, considering its age.

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Don’t expect the immediate gratification of a Marvel Studios movie or a Marvel comic, but the book could put you in a more receptive mood to appreciate the liberties which are sure to be taken by the movie. Reinvention can be more fun when compared to the original.

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Photo Credits: Disney Marvel.

Mythological Beasts and Spirits: Valkyries

Norse mythology strikes me as being visually literal. What I mean by this is that spirits and creatures look like humans and animals – sometimes exaggerated in size, sometimes not – but they typically are not hybrids or chimeras of different species. Serpents look like serpents, gods like men, goddesses like women, etc. Sleipnir, Odin’s horse, is an exception to this rule due to his eight legs, but I think it largely holds true. Of course, the gods are able to change form, sometimes into those of animals, but they tend to look like ordinary animals, albeit sometimes exaggerated in size.

So what does this have to do with Valkyries? Well, they look like women – fierce, war-like women, but women, nonetheless. I wanted to illustrate a Valkyrie named Anni for my story poem, The Fear of a Farmer, but I didn’t have enough confidence in my artistic ability to make her look sufficiently impressive, so I added wings. In this sense, she looks a bit like the stereotypical imagery from a Wagnerian opera.

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From The Fear of a Farmer (Copyright: Robert Lambert Jones III).

So what are Valkyries? That’s a good question. I can tell you what they do in Norse mythology, but it’s a bit harder to explain what they are with complete clarity. Much of what we know of them comes from The Prose Edda by Snori Sturluson and other works such as The Saga of the Volsungs.

Valkyries are females who fly over battlefields to choose the best of the slain for entrance into Valhalla, the great hall of Odin. Are they otherwise normal women who aspire to or are chosen for this calling, or are they spirits who can take on physical form? One scholarly opinion I read favors the former, but I don’t know the overall consensus since it is outside my field of expertise (molecular biology). Either way, they are a blend of the natural and the supernatural. This is often the case with Norse mythology and Greek mythology. Valkyries could interact with the living and even marry them. In The Saga of the Volsungs, a Valkyrie named Brynhild is betrothed to Sigurd, the main hero.

Valkyries are not normally portrayed with wings, so portraying them impressively is all about presentation. By this, I mean picture composition. I have chosen some examples which for various reasons have impressed me. Valkyries are often shown as wearing armor and/or riding horses, but there are some other tricks that can be used as well.

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Valkyrie Maiden by Howard David Johnson.

Okay, this might be cheating a little. The Valkyrie doesn’t have wings, but her horse does. Of course, I’m no purist in creative matters like this. Based on the kinds of stories I like to write, I think it’s cool when artists and writers borrow different elements from different mythologies. Pegasus quickly comes to mind from Greek mythology.

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Ride of the Valkyries by Jose Luis Munoz.

In this example, the expressions, postures, and poses of the Valkyries and their horses make for an interesting composition which is heightened by the artistic style and choice of color. This really drew my eye.

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Ride of the Valkyries by Hermann Hendrich.

Here is a more abstract approach which blends them with elements of nature – in this case, clouds. Note how the sense of scale, the dark birds, and the windblown trees accentuate the effect.

In the next two examples, we again see interesting and dynamic poses combined with a sense of context as Valkyries are shown riding in the air. Winged helmets serve as further suggestions of their power of flight. For reasons of personal taste, I especially liked the second of these. Look at the eyes of the horse on the left.

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The Ride of the Valkyries by William T. Maud.

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The Ride of the Valkyrs (1909) by John Charles Dollman.

This next one might be my favorite. Has the Valkyrie merely taken off her implements while keeping dutiful watch, or is she awaiting the return of the warrior she loves? I think art is really doing its job when it encourages us to imagine and speculate.

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The Valkyrie’s Vigil by Edward Robert Hughes.

I might as well end with another selection from my copyrighted but currently unpublished story poem, The Fear of a Farmer. I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I’ll just say it shows a farmer  named Einar being born aloft by Anni, the Valkyrie.

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From The Fear of a Farmer (copyright: Robert Lambert Jones III).

Another being next week…