If anyone has any doubts that Norse mythology can inspire people in today’s society, she only needs to look to Marvel Comics. Thor is the star of both page and screen, appearing in at least five movies in the Marvel epic so far.
I like Norse mythology better than Greek, maybe because it has more cohesion than the Greek and that appeals to my modern sense of storytelling. Norse mythology has an end, Ragnarok, and a rebirth. No matter what happens in all the other tales concerning the gods and magical beings, it will all end in this epic battle.
Apart from from using the myths to fuel fantasy stories, how else can the Norse myths inspire? Because I’m a character writer, that’s where I am most likely to find inspiration.
Loki is an intriguing character because he changes over the course of the stories.
Original myth: Loki starts out as trickster, not necessarily an evil character, but one the other gods can’t trust and by whom they are often inconvenienced. But as the stories build to Ragnarok, he becomes the embodiment of evil. That outline makes a compelling arc for a character in any genre.
Update: The Loki character belongs to a family that dominates a certain industry–sports, politics, or tech company. Loki doesn’t have the talent for the family industry and feels left out. However, he discovers he does have a talent for manipulation. In the beginning, he uses it for just small gains or to frustrate members of his family. But as he gets better at manipulating, he faces a choice: to use his ability for good or evil.
The story of Baldur is both tragic and uplifting, the latter unusual in Norse myths.
Original myth: Baldur, the most beautiful and kindest of the Norse gods, is killed when Loki tricks Baldur’s blind brother Hoder into killing him. Baldur is trapped in the Underworld. Hoder and Baldur are sons of the king of the gods Odin and his wife Frigga. Another of Odin’s sons kills Hoder in revenge for Baldur’s death.
The death of Baldur signals to the gods the coming of Ragnarok. When just about everyone and everything is destroyed in that battle, Baldur and Hoder leave the Underworld and join the few other surviving gods in the renewed world. I find it interesting that in a myth cycle that is depressing, Baldur and Hoder are given a happy ending.
Update: The Hoder and Baldur characters are brothers, and Hoder permanently injures Baldur. In a contemporary story, it could be that Hoder is driving drunk and cripples Baldur. The family shuns or cuts all contact with Hoder. Years later, when the family is facing tragedy, Baldur and Hoder either work together to avert it or are the only ones to survive it.
In the myths, Baldur has a son Forseti, who is the god of reconciliation. In my contemporary story, a child of the Baldur character could be the catalyst for healing the family.
Again, the books I listed under Greek myths also have helpful sections about Norse ones.
- Mythology by Edith Hamilton
- Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch
- Myths and Legends: an Illustrated Guide to Their Origins and Meanings by Philip Wilkinson
Have you read the Norse myths? Which stories do you like?