POPULAR RESONANCES: JULY AND AUGUST 2016

This marks the third installment of JH Roberts's regular column Popular Resonances. Popular Resonances examines references to ancient Germanic culture and Germanic mythology in modern popular culture as it happens. For more information on the feature, please see Roberts's introductory post here. This installment includes Thor: Ragnarok, Jotun: Valhalla Edition, Great Whale Road game, The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo, and much more.

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Popular Resonances: June 2016

Ragnarök (motif from the Heysham hogback)    by   W.G. Collingwood, 1908.  Wikimedia Commons .     

Ragnarök (motif from the Heysham hogback) by W.G. Collingwood, 1908. Wikimedia Commons  

This marks the second installment of JH Roberts's regular column Popular Resonances. Popular Resonances examines references to ancient Germanic culture and Germanic mythology in modern popular culture as it happens. For more information on the feature, please see Roberts's introductory post here.

Television:
This month featured many news stories on the television show based on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (read our review here). In early June, Variety reported Gillian Anderson joining the cast as Media, and Nerdist reported on the two newest additions to the cast: Orlando Jones and Demore Barnes. Of particular interest to our site, these actors join Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday (Odin), Jonathan Tucker as Low Key Lyesmith (Loki), as well as many others. First photos on Nerdist and Spinoff show Shadow and Mad Sweeney boxing, while Mr. Wednesday looks on, and IMDB features a photo of Media as Lucille Ball. American Gods will premiere on Starz in January 2017.

Movies:
Buzzfeed features a spotlight on Taika Waititi, the director of upcoming Marvel Studios’  Thor: Ragnarok. He makes a few comments on the film, including why he picked it as his Hollywood directorial debut: “I’ve turned down pretty much every script I’ve ever been sent. I didn’t turn down Thor because there wasn’t a script,” he said. “At the moment, I feel like there aren’t many Hollywood films where I would make a difference.” He also suggests that Thor will be light-hearted: “Right now, in the world, people need to laugh, because there’s so much sadness going on and a lot of pain out there,” he said. “To watch people spending millions of dollars recreating that sadness and pain and then winning Oscars by doing it? That, to me seems… possibly even arrogant. You pay good money to go to the cinema. I think you should enjoy it. I do believe that right now, cinema needs to make people happy.” The New Zealand Herald reports that Waititi has been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who host the OscarsThor: Ragnarok is set to be released November 3, 2017.

Video Games:
Sony’s gameplay of God of War 4 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) confirmed that the game will include Norse mythological characters. Full interview and gameplay footage available on The Know’s Youtube Channel. Games Radar responds to rumors about the game; for example, whether Kratos' son is Thor or Tyr, and if Kratos is Odin. Expected release date is Dec. 29, 2017.  

Comics:
On June 15, Marvel debuted their new series Vote Loki. Though it's early to tell, the series seems to continue the post-Hiddleston Loki, who is much more nuanced than his previous “God of Evil” incarnation. As the title suggests, Loki is running for office, hoping to be President of the United States: Marvel.com reports that "it's the same Loki readers have come to know and love over the past few years, just with...new ambitions. The real reason he's running is a mystery, but I promise it'll be a satisfying one--to new readers, yes, but especially to existing Loki fans." According to the first issue, his presidential campaign has an advantage, since voters can depend on him to lie to them, whereas other politicians pretend to tell the truth. Thor, goddess of thunder, makes an appearance, as well.

Books:
Nerdist and the New York Times report that Neil Gaiman’s next book will be titled Norse Mythology. From Nerdist: “Norse Mythology will focus on the nine Norse worlds—AsgardVanaheimAlfheimMidgardJotunheimSvartalheim [sic], NidavellirNilfheim, and Muspelheim—worlds that inhabit a wide range of creatures, from humans to dark elves to ice giants to gods to the dead, and everything in between.” I presume they meant Helheimr instead of Niðavellir or Svartálfaheimr, since those are two names for the same place. By this description, we can hope to see less of the big three (Thor, Odin, and Loki), and more of the lesser known deities and supernatural creatures. Norse Mythology will be released by W.W. Norton, scheduled for February 2017.

Professional Wrestling:
Professional wrestler Odinson won the SFCW tag team titles June 4. Odinson is a mixture of traditional, Marvel, and Mad Max: Fury Road Norse elements.

Baseball:
In a GQ interviewNoah Syndergaard of the New York Mets gives tips on what it takes to get hair like Marvel's Thor: “A little TLC. Nothing too crazy. Use some Axe hair products. Shampoo every three or four days or so. Then you're golden.” If only there was a brand called “Hammer” one could use to get Thor hair.

Other:
Nerdist and BoingBoing reported on a newly designed toolbox shaped like Marvel’s version of  Mjölnir.  This toolbox, designed by Dave’s Geeky Ideas, is not currently available for sale, but perhaps someone will pick up production.

Throwback Thursday: American Gods, a Novel by Neil Gaiman

Alvíss and Þrúðr by Lorenz Frølich, 1895. Wikimedia Commons.

American Gods is a novel by author Neil Gaiman. As the title suggests, the characters are mostly gods, but from many different pantheons (it is pan-pantheistic, if you will). The characters include several Germanic deities and figures, appearing in their American manifestations: Thor, Loki, Odin, Eostre, Alviss, the Norns, Yggdrasil, and Ratatoskr.

These gods are American because they live in the minds of people who traveled to America; from their minds, the gods took root and grew into American manifestations; as such, we see both the American and Icelandic manifestations of Odin in the novel.

Gaiman's conception of national deities resembles recent work by scholars such as Eric O. Scott, in that there is not a static manifestation of “Odin,” but rather different versions in Iceland and Norway.[i] Additionally, Gaiman’s conception of these gods as “American” allows him to use them in ways that might be offensive if the gods were their traditional manifestations. From the postcolonial perspective, however, this conception of America as a static entity, even in eras well before current borders were established, is problematic. Canada must be included as “America,” as Odin arrived in Canada, and then became American. It is unclear, however, if Mexico or any countries further south are American.

As a popular manifestation of Old Norse myth, Gaiman provides an interesting take on these characters, as well as the evolution of religious traditions through the ages. His reflections on the waning influence of pagan deities in the modern age are apt, and some specific details he includes (such as Loki's scarred lips), show he is very familiar with the source material. 

[i] Scott, Eric O. “Pagan Sympathy as Political Resistance in Two Sagas of Icelanders.” Presented at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, 2016

Lair Spindle Whorl: Younger Futhark Runes, Ogham, or Abstract Symbols?

A team from the Glenshee Archaeology Project has found a potential spindle whorl (5 CM in diameter) near a Viking Age longhouse excavation site in Lair, in Glenshee, Scotland. The object appears to be decorated. The team is waiting for specialists to analyze the object for potential Younger Futhark or Ogham inscriptions:

"David Strachan of Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust explained the possible significance of the find.

'Through the ages spindle whorls have often been decorated – and the spinning action would bring life to these shapes, much like the old spinning top toy,' he said.

'While we certainly have abstract shapes on this example, some of the symbols look like they could be writing, perhaps Viking runes or Ogham inscription, a form of early medieval Irish script.'"

(From: Cryptic symbols may hold key to Glenshee’s Viking-age past on thecourier.co.uk)

Notably, another spindle whorl—dubbed the Saltfleetby Spindle Whorl—featuring an inscription containing a very rare mention of the enigmatic god Heimdallr (along with the name of the widely attested god Odin and the rather mysterious figure of Þjálfiwas found in 2010 in Saltfleetby, England.