Popular Resonances: May 2016

Johannes Gehrts's Hel, 1889. Wikimedia Commons

This marks the first 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.

Loki shows up in Ms. Marvel #6, released April 27, 2016. Bruno and Mike “summon” him with a magic circle full of smart phones and coffee. “Hipster Viking” Loki first appeared in Ms. Marvel #12.

The Wicked and the Divine resumed in April. The comic series features an incarnation of Woden.

Chris Hemsworth posted a video discussing why Thor and Hulk did not appear in Captain America: Civil War: “The kids just have a scrap and we sit on the sidelines.” 

Marvel Studies announced new cast members for Thor: Ragnarok: Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, and Karl Urban. Cate Blanchett will play Hela, a character adapted from Hel, goddess of Hel, a location of the same name. Tessa Thompson will play Valkyrie, a character referencing the Valkyries. The third installment in the Thor film series begins shooting in June 2016. Moviepilot reports that Ragnarok may include elements from the Planet Hulk storylines.

Video Games:
There are rumors that God of War 4 from will include Odin and Thor and that Kratos, the main character, will visit Alfheim. Álfheimr is one of the Nine Realms in Norse mythology.  

Gameinformer reports a new game under development, Logic ArtistsExpeditions: Viking, which will stay authentic to Viking history, while still "keeps things rooted with authenticity, while still giving characters a chance to seem larger than life." It will be released on PC later this fall.

Banner Saga 2 will be released for PS4 and XBox1 on July 26. It is currently available for Mac and PC on Steam. The Banner Saga trilogy is "an epic Viking saga."

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir, released in the US June 7, is now available for preorder. Leifthrasir is a HD remake of the 2007 Odin Sphere.

The second installment of Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series The Hammer of Thor is now available. Excerpt here.

Beowulf/Grendel, a dramatization of the Anglo-Saxon poem, was performed in Philadelphia this month by the Renegade Theater company.

Ashville, Ohio hosted a Viking Festival featuring Viking music.

An Eventful March: Bald's Leechbook and MRSA, Anglo-Saxon England and Genetics, and Modern Folk Belief and the Huldufólk in Iceland

I. Bald's Leechbook and MRSA
In an interesting development for Old English scholars, numerous Western outlets report that an Old English remedy for an eye-sty recorded in Bald's Leechbook (compiled in the 9th century and surviving in a single manuscript) has shown to be effective in treating Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), bacterium that have become immune to beta-lactam antibiotics. NewScientist.com reports:

"The medieval medics might have been on to something. A modern-day recreation of this remedy seems to alleviate infections caused by the bacteria that are usually responsible for styes. The work might ultimately help create drugs for hard-to-treat skin infections.

The project was born when Freya Harrison, a microbiologist at the University of Nottingham, UK, got talking to Christina Lee, an Anglo-Saxon scholar. They decided to test a recipe from an Old English medical compendium called Bald's Leechbook, housed in the British Library.

Some of the ingredients, such as copper from the brass vessel, kill bacteria grown in a dish – but it was unknown if they would work on a real infection or how they would combine."

This particular remedy has been tested before but with negative results by Brennessel, Drout, and Gravel in 2005 (see their results here). Michael Drout has subsequently responded to Harrison's and Lee's 2015 results on Drout's blog here.

II. Anglo-Saxon England and Genetics
A genetic study out of the University of Oxford published in March in Nature has received media attention from outlets such as the BBC and The Guardian. The study has implications on what we know about Anglo-Saxon England, the Migration Period, the Celtic peoples as an ethnic group, and subsequent migrations in the era. Peter Donnelly comments:

"According to Prof Peter Donnelly who co-led the study, the results show that although there is not a single Celtic group, there is a genetic basis for regional identities in the UK.

'Many of the genetic clusters we see in the west and north are similar to the tribal groupings and kingdoms around, and just after, the time of the Saxon invasion, suggesting these kingdoms maintained a regional identity for many years,' he told BBC News."

III. Modern Folk Belief and the Huldufólk in Iceland
A feature on the influence of modern Icelandic folk belief in the huldufólk ('hidden people') in Iceland was recently published in The Guardian (and definitely look at the fascinating accompanying pictorial!). A sample from the article:

"Road-builders are used to seeing their plans scuppered by the protected habitats of bats and newts, or sites of special scientific interest and outstanding natural beauty. But in Iceland, there is another hindrance: the world of the huldufólk, as they call them, the hidden people.

The rock, known as Ófeigskirkja, has been at the centre of an eight-year battle to stop a road being built through this 8,000-year-old landscape, a spectacularly barren and evocative terrain a little to the north of Reykjavík, which some believe is a site of supernatural forces. In a country of such desolate stony expanses, haunted by howling winds, bubbling geysers and fiery eruptions, it’s not hard to see why more than half of the population entertains the possibility that a parallel community of elves, dwarves and ghosts might exist – a statistic repeated in tourist brochures since a landmark 1975 survey. But few, like Jónsdóttir, claim to have a direct line to them, allowing her to hear their cries for help ..."

While modern Icelandic folklore is an area which I intend to delve further into he future, readers may be interested in similar folk beliefs surrounding the Landdísir recorded in 18th and 19th century Iceland (but probably reaching back into at least the Old Norse period).

"Viking Language 2: The Old Norse Reader" by Jesse Byock Now Available at Special Rate

The second part to Jesse Byock's guide to Old Norse, Viking Language 2: The Old Norse Reader, was released at the end of 2014. Per the publisher's announcement:

"Viking Language 2: The Old Norse Reader is now available with a limited-time offer. The reader immerses the learner in the legends, folklore, and myths of the Vikings. The readings are drawn from sagas, runes and eddas. They take the student into the world of Old Norse heroes, gods, and goddesses. There is a separate chapter on the ‘Creation of the World’ and another on ‘The Battle at the World’s End,’ where the gods meet their doom. Other readings and maps focus on Viking Age Iceland, Greenland, and Vínland. A series of chapters tackles eddic and skaldic verse with their ancient stories from the old Scandinavian past. Runic inscriptions and explanations of how to read runes form a major component of the book. Where there are exercises, the answers are given at the end of the chapter. Both Viking Language 1 and 2 are structured as workbooks. Students learns quickly and interactively. More information on our website: vikinglanguage.com"

Byock has announced that both editions are now 20% off until April 30, 2015. For more information, see the offer announcement here.