Norse mythology in popular culture

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The Norse mythology, preserved in such ancient Icelandic texts as the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, and other lays and sagas, was little known outside Scandinavia until the 19th century. With the widespread publication of Norse myths and legends at this time, references to the Norse gods and heroes spread into European literary culture, especially in Scandinavia, Germany, and Britain. In the later 20th century, references to Norse mythology became common in science fiction and fantasy literature, role-playing games, and eventually other cultural products such as Japanese animation.

Reintroduction to popular culture[edit]

Antiquaries of the 19th century such as George Webbe Dasent brought the mythology of Scandinavia back to the popular notice of many people in Germany and England; in both cases, Norse mythology was recognized as the latest surviving form of Germanic paganism. Germany and England were Christianized far earlier than the Scandinavian countries and much of their own traditions were lost.

In Britain, William Morris composed poetry such as Sigurd the Volsung on Norse legendary subjects as well as translating Icelandic sagas into English. In Germany, Richard Wagner borrowed characters and themes from Norse mythology to compose the four operas that make up Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), though he also utilized medieval German sources and Germanized the names of the Norse gods.

Depictions in modern popular culture[edit]

Comics[edit]

  • In the Marvel Universe, the Norse Pantheon and related elements play a prominent part, especially Thor who has been one of the longest running superheroes for the company and has recently had a starring role in the The Avengers movie based on the comic books.
  • The Norse Pantheon heroes are the main characters of the Japanese anime Matantei Loki Ragnarok (loosely translated, Great Detective Loki).
  • Odin, Thor and Loki, and several other beings and places in Norse mythology have recurring roles in Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novel series, most notably in the Season of Mists and The Kindly Ones storylines.
  • Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki is a webcomic featuring Yuuki, a boy turned into a Valkyrie by Hermod to stand against Surt and the Giants. It features many representations of Norse mythological figures in a modern-day setting.
  • The Danish comic book series Valhalla is based on the Norse myths.
  • The manga series Ragnarok, by Myung-Jin Lee, is based on Norse mythology and the events of Ragnarok, the prophesied fall of the gods.
  • The manga series Vinland Saga takes place in Iceland, and 11th-century Europe, which makes many references to Norse mythology
  • In the manga series History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi, the protagonists fight against a gang organization known as Ragnarok. Each of the Eight Fists were nicknamed after a figure in Norse mythology including; Berserker, Freya, Loki, Thor, Siegfried, Hermit, Valkyrie, and their leader Odin.
  • Brat-halla is a mythology webcomic about the Norse gods during their elementary school days. All-Father Odin and his wife Frigg constantly have their hands full with youngsters Thor (the super strong runt of the litter), Loki (the god of mischief who likes to play with dolls), Balder (the invulnerable pretty boy), Hod (the blind god of darkness and winter), Hermod (the hyper super speedster) and the rest of the Norse pantheon.
  • The Order of the Stick features the Norse pantheon deities, including Thor, Sif, Loki, and Odin, as the gods of the Northern lands and participants in the creation of the universe. Durkon Thundershield, one of the main characters, is a cleric of Thor.
  • The manga/anime series Oh! My Goddess! has aspects of Norse mythology. Heaven's main computer is called Yggdrasil, the goddesses and demons' names are based on Norse gods and goddesses, and the Underworld's computer is called Nidhogg.
  • The manga/anime series, Attack on Titan, also has prominent themes of Norse Mythology, including (but not limited to): Ymir, Castle Utgard, the walls, the titans, parallels between Norse Gods/Goddesses and characters, as well as plot lines that seem to mimic events in Norse Mythology. The conflict between the titan shifters and normal humans may be compared to the wars between the Aesir and Vanir. There are other references that are minor as well, such as the can of herring found by Ymir (which contains Norse runes on the label) and the giant boar killed in the second OVA of the anime.

Literature[edit]

  • Stephanie Edgley of the Skulduggery Pleasant novel series took up the name Valkyrie Cain, based on the creature the Valkeryie.
  • The Day of the Giants (1959) by Lester del Rey tells the tale of Ragnarok happening in a near future science fiction setting, with an erstwhile engineer arming the Norse Gods with modern weaponry.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings (1955), and The Silmarillion (1977) were admitted by its author to be heavily influenced by the myths of the Northern Europeans.[citation needed] As that work became popular, elements of its fantasy world moved steadily into popular perceptions of the fantasy genre. In nearly any modern fantasy novel today can be found such Germanic creatures as elves, dwarves and trolls.
  • David Drake's Northworld (1990) trilogy retells stories from Norse mythology in a science fiction setting.
  • Nick Perumov involves Norse gods, creatures and events in his fantasy novel Godsdoom (1995), as well as in its sequels and prequels.
  • Norse mythology plays heavily into the Everworld series of fantasy by K.A. Applegate, Loki and Hel being perhaps the two most notable Norse characters.
  • Michael Jan Friedman's Vidar trilogy (The Hammer and the Horn, 1985, The Seekers and the Sword,1985, and The Fortress and the Fire,1988) presents Norse gods both in Asgard and the contemporary world.
  • "The Thrall's Tale" (2006) by Judith Lindbergh is heavily influenced by Norse mythology and is partially told by Thorbjorg the Seeress, an Old Norse priestess of the Vinland Sagas.
  • Runemarks by Joanne Harris (2007) is based on the Norse legends, and creates a post Ragnarok world in which the gods have been scattered and their powers diminished.
  • Greg van Eekhout's debut novel Norse Code, released May 2009, retells the story of Ragnarok set in a quickly-deteriorating Los Angeles.
  • The Halo series novel Contact Harvest takes place on the planet Harvest, which contains many references to Norse mythology. These references include locations named after the BiFrost, Utgard with two of the central A.I. characters being named after Loki and Sif. Many other characters and locations contain references to Norse Mythology due to the majority of the colony having Scandinavian ancestry.
  • The Tales from the Wyrd Museum trilogy by Robin Jarvis heavily utilises Norse mythology as the basis for the stories, with the third, The Fatal Strand, most heavily referencing this source, Odin and Yggdrasil (or in-world versions of) featuring significantly in the plot.
  • Children's Author Rick Riordan plans on doing a fantasy trilogy of books based on Norse Mythology starting in 2015.

Music[edit]

Illustration to a Wagner's Opera

Norse mythology influenced Richard Wagner's use of literary themes from it to compose the four operas that make up Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

Wardruna is a Norwegian musical project with the purpose of exploring and evoking the deep Norse wisdom and spirituality through music inspired on the Futhark runes.

Mats Wendt based his neo-romantic 16-hour symphonic suite Eddan on the chronological reconstruction of the Norse myths by Viktor Rydberg.

Norse mythology is a recurring theme in the Heavy metal music lyrics.

  • German Heavy metal band Rebellion recorded three Norse-based albums, called The History of the Vikings trilogy.
  • German Pagan Folk band Faun's album Acoustic – Buch der Balladen features Norse mythology elements. The album Eden includes a song by the name Iduna, a goddess associated with apples and youth.
  • Mischief Storm (American Rap duo) debut album set for a 2013 release. The Music references, expands and is based on Norse mythology heavily. Stories are told through a modern interpretation, and can be very violent. This is due to the underground nature of the group and an aim to paint brutal vivid pictures of Viking life and Norse myth alike.

Television[edit]

  • Several of the Norse gods feature prominently in the Danish miniseries, Jul i Valhal, and many of the Norse myths are referenced as well. Loki, in particular, is a major character.
  • Miniseries Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King, aka Niebelungen, is based on Nibelungenlied.
  • The TV series Stargate SG-1 regularly features the Asgard race, which is a powerful, yet friendly alien species who, according to the series, are the original source of the Norse gods having portrayed them to help humanity. Thor, a member of the Asgard High Council, is a regularly returning character on the show. Their spaceships, as seen from below, are shaped like Mjolnir, Thor's hammer. In Stargate Atlantis, it is revealed that there is a sub-group of Asgard called the Vanir, opposed to the agenda of the other Asgard, and analogous to the Vanir of Norse mythology.
  • In the 5th Season of TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, the episodes "Norse by Norsevest" and "Somewhere over the Rainbow Bridge" depict Hercules traveling to Asgard and being thrust into a major conflict among the Viking Norse Gods.
  • Odin and the Valkyries appear several times in the television series Xena: Warrior Princess.
  • In Metalocalypse, Skwisgaar Skwigelf and Toki Wartooth both seem to show some belief in Norse Mythology.
  • The television series Doctor Who has referenced the Norse twilight of the gods in the story, The Curse of Fenric.
  • The television series Supernatural has referenced the Norse Vanir in a Season One episode, as gods that locals of Scandinavian descent brought with them. Supernatural also has four episodes that involves a being believed to be Loki the Trickster. In season 5 episode "Hammer of the Gods", members of several godly pantheons (including those of Hindu, Voodoo, etc.) meet in order to deal with the matter of the Judeo-Christian apocalypse. Lucifer kills all of the gods (except for Kali), including Norse gods Odin, Baldur and Loki (revealed earlier to actually be archangel Gabriel).
  • Thor was the main subject of episode 10 of Clash of the Gods.
  • New Zealand television series The Almighty Johnsons is centered around a family who are all reincarnations of Norse Gods.
  • Vikings is a Canadian TV series loosely based on the legendary viking Ragnarr Loðbrók. The characters in the show have visions of Odin and/or pray to several Germanic deities, such as Thor, Freya, Freyr, and Loki, among others.
  • Rintaro Okabe, protagonist in the Japanese anime series, Steins;Gate, uses Norse mythology to name several operations within the series. Each operation has to do with preventing the dystopia in 2036, but the names of the operations have no real connection to the actual myths.
  • The television series Witches of East End (TV series) based on the book of the same name is about witches from Asgard.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim, a Japanese Tokusatsu television series, makes many references to Norse Mythology, especially with the organization Yggdrasill Corporation, the forest-based other-world Helheim, and armor designs for a number of the Riders who turn up in the series.

Film[edit]

Video game[edit]

  • The Ragnarok Online universe contains many references to Norse Mythology - in fact, almost everything in the game is based on Norse mythology.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! layson Card Game has cards based on Norse mythology, such as Polar Star Treasure Brisingamen, Polar Star Angel Valkyrie, Polar Sacred God Odin, Polar God Loki, and Polar God Thor.
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld uses the Norse mythology keystones, names and artifacts as its main plot basis. Lara Croft in pursuit of finding her mother visits the Neiflheim and other mythical places. Thor's hammer Mjollnir is used as her weapon.
  • In StarCraft, four of the fifteen Zerg Broods are named Fenris, Garm, Jormungand, and Surtur, and there is also an overlord hero unit called Yggdrasil. In addition, there is a Terran unit called a Valkyrie, as well as in Starcraft 2 there are several Terran units that are named based on Norse references.
  • The role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons has included Norse gods as optional elements since the publication of its Deities and Demigods sourcebook.
  • The tri-Ace role-playing game Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is based on Norse mythology, though it does deviate at some points. The main character is a valkyrie named Lenneth, whom many have thought represents Brynhild. Lenneth has been commanded by Odin to gather souls of dead warriors for the upcoming battles of Ragnarok. Depending on the path the player chooses, Lenneth will face either Surt, lord of the fire giants, or Loki in combat.
  • Max Payne and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne both have several references to Norse mythology, including characters named Balder and Woden, Aesir Corporation, the drug Valkyr, and the Ragnarock nightclub.
  • In the Final Fantasy series, various characters and items are named after elements of Norse mythology. Final Fantasy VII's world features cities named Nibelheim and Midgar. Several of the games include weapons (Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Tactics) or airships (Final Fantasy VIII) named Ragnarok. Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels feature multiple references, including the otherworld realm of Valhalla, the world-ending beast Ragnarok, various names used in altered forms and outfits inspired by figures from the Norse mythos.
  • The Norse are a playable faction in Ensemble Studio's Age of Mythology.
  • In Halo, the player's character Master Chief (Halo) wears a special type of armor called MJOLNIR.
  • Too Human has a story based on Norse Mythology where it is interpreted that the Gods are actually Cybernetically-Enhanced Humans.
  • Viking: Battle for Asgard is set in Midgard where the forces of Hel and Freya battle for dominance.
  • In Eve Online, many advanced ships and items associated with the Minmatar race have names based on Norse mythology. These include the Ragnarok-class Titan, the Sleipnir-class Command Ship, the Einherji fighter drone, the Fenrir-class Freighter, Vargur-class Marauder, Huginn-class Recon Ship, Muninn-class Heavy Assault Ship, Loki-class Strategic Cruiser, Naglfar-class Dreadnaught, the Nidhoggur-class Carrier, and Hel-class Supercarrier.
  • In Castle of the winds, the freeware/shareware RPG for windows, many of the characters/place names/weapons are named after Norse mythology.
  • The superhero game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance features the Marvel Comics version of Thor as one of the major playable characters and features the Norse characters and realms as the focus of Act III, in which Dr. Doom conquers Asgard and steals Odin's powers.
  • Another Marvel Comics-related game, Thor: God of Thunder, was released as a tie-in to the 2011 film Thor and features mythological realms that are not explored in the feature film.
  • A Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 persistent world called Markshire NWN1 version | NWN2 version is influenced heavily by Norse mythology. They incorporate the pantheon directly into their world and take the culture into a renaissance period. The world is highly roleplaying oriented. Markshire is listed as a Hall of Fame world and has been reviewed with the highest rating of any world for NWN on the NWVault.
  • In Odin Sphere one of the five warlords is the 'Demon Lord Odin', who commands an army of Valkyrie warriors. The game depicts many aspects of Norse mythology, such as the Armageddon - standing for the Ragnarök, the Haljas (guardians of the Netherworld), the Aesir and the Vanir (Valkyries and Fairies) fighting over the control of the land.
  • Rune is a 3rd person hack-and-slash game featuring a young Viking warrior on a fantasy quest, based around Norse mythology.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones several weapons are named after figures and objects in Norse Mythology, including the weapons Garm, Gleipnir, and Fenrir.
  • Many places, quests, and weaponry in World of Warcraft are based around Norse mythology and stories.
  • In the video game Age of Empires: Mythologies the Norse are a playable nation.
  • In the PC based MMORPG game World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, much of the storyline, characters, locations and monsters are named after and or based on popular parts of Norse Mythology.
  • In the video game Tales of Symphonia, Heimdall, Ymir, Fenrir, and Yggdrasil were taken from Norse Mythology.
  • In the video game series Boktai, many aspects of the plot are based on Norse mythology, such as the final bosses Hel, Jormungandr, and Vanargand, and the ultimate weapons Gram, Gungnir, and Mjollnir, to name a few.
  • In the video game La Tale, Norse mythology is reoccurrent in many of the games themes (i.e. fighting Valkyries). There are many maps in game that have ideas taken from Norse Mythology, including Bitfrost, Valhalla, Asgard, The Long Tree (being Yggdrasil), Midgard, and a few more.
  • In the video game Heroes of Newerth, you can play as a Valkyrie.
  • The Shin Megami Tensei: Persona video game series contains several Norse gods and beings as summonable Personas. Additionally, some skills such as Odin's Thunder Reign, Loki's Niflheim, and Surt's Ragnarok are derived from Norse Mythology.
  • In the video game Xenogears, names were taken from Norse Mythology. These names include, but are not limited to, Andvari, Fenrir, Heimdall, Sigurd, and Yggdrasil.
  • The MMORPG RuneScape has a few notable Norse Mythology links, mostly in the 'Fremennik Tribe' and their quests.
  • In the MMO Dark Age of Camelot there are three playable realms, one of which is called Midgard. The people encountered there have many references to Norse mythology, and they have such playable classes as Berserker, Runemaster, Skald, Thane and Valkyrie.
  • The video game Magicka is loosely based on Norse Mythology, and contains several elements and references.
  • The role-playing game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda Softworks is heavily influenced by Norse Mythology in its setting and game-play.
  • In Age of Empires Online the Norse are a playable faction.
  • In the PC game Heroes of Might and Magic III, the faction Stronghold has a few Norse Mythology elements, one being the building Valhalla.
  • In the PC MOBA Smite several playable gods are from the Norse pantheon

Norse mythology in other media[edit]

  • Rooster Teeth Productions RWBY features the character Nora Valkyrie (voiced by Samantha Ireland) whose name not only references the female warriors who would lead Viking champions to Valhalla (and Nora is possibly a reference to Norse in general), but her weapon is a hammer known as Magnhild which she uses with uncanny strength. Of all the characters in RWBY, her characterization (and perhaps Yang) is closest to that of the character that inspired her: Thor.
  • The Yu-Gi-OH! TCG has a series of cards the (Nordic and Aesir archetypes) based on Norse gods and other mythological creatures.

See also[edit]