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Ajay Mani, Andrew Rash, Nick Ellison, David LePage

Introduction


Our project is about the Nordic culture and it’s myths and stories which have been passed down through oral and written tradition to modern times. The Norse are a culturally complex society that admire above all else the idea of death in battle and that consists of many various aspects of mythology and societal customs. The authors of our project are: Andrew Rash, David Lepage, Nick Ellison, and Ajay Mani.




Historical and Cultural Context


The Norse came from Denmark, the southern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula in northern Germany. In the Norse culture there are no major cities, just towns and villages. The Norse came after the popular Viking culture and is sometimes associated with them when they are actually descendants. From lands we now know as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway Viking set out in longboats and pillaged and plundered anyone in their paths. They were sometimes referred to as barbarians, when in in fact their culture consisted of an elaborate society including myths and stories passed on through oral tradition. In the Norse culture, one of the main beliefs was that everyone was mortal, which gave the Norse mentality that any fight was winnable. The Nordic people were very aggressive and warlike people who killed to settle their problems. The Norse were a strong and determined people who worked hard and fought even harder. They carried this idea over to the Gods as well, in which they believed all gods were mortal just like the humans. In their society the Vikings consisted of three levels- Nobles, freemen, and slaves. The nobles consisted of land-owning chiefs or kings, the freemen were tradesmen and craftsmen, and lastly the slaves were owned by the nobles and were usually foreign captives. Surprisingly women in Nordic cultures were of high importance for their ability to effectively run a household.

The Nordic people were very into the idea of different Gods and worship was a key part of their culture. Valhalla was the home of the Gods and it was reachable by foot. The Norse also had a holy river which was revered by the people, it was called the Rhine. The written language of the Norse is basically inexistent, but in it were magical symbols and runes that were said to only be known to Odin. These runes are key to unlocking the truths and events of the Norse people and are still being deciphered to this day. The Norse were a very valued centered culture, one of the most important values embraced wholly by these people was the idea of dying in battle. It was considered the highest honor to die in battle and is how all the Norse wanted to die. There were 9 key values embraced by the Nordic people, these were: Courage, truth, honor, fidelity, discipline, hospitality, industriousness, self-reliance, and lastly perseverance. The Nine Nobel Virtues are a set of moral and situational ethical guidelines that the Nordic people embody. These values are based on ancient Nordic Paganism and have existed since the beginning of the Nordic culture.

The Norse are otherwise known as “Vikings” or “Northmen.” The term "Vikings" is used to refer to the Scandinavians of the Viking Age. Vikings were pagans and worshipped many Gods each representing an aspect of the world as they experienced it. Eventually the Scandinavian people converted to Christianity and the idea of one God. The Norse had two main groups of God’s the Aesir and the Vanir. All these Gods lived up in Asgard which was the home of the Gods. It was a common belief in Nordic culture that if one died in battle than they would be taken to Valhalla, or the home of all warriors, by Valkyries. When warriors died in battle it was tradition to set them off to sea on a boat and burn their body along with their possessions. Along with this tradition it was customary that slaves also be burned with the body, thus implying the Norse believed and practiced human sacrifice. The ruler of Asgard was Odin who had many sons, the most famous being Thor who can be seen being depicted in modern movies such as “The Avengers”.
ASGARD/BIFROST
ASGARD/BIFROST


Major Archetypal Characters + Plots

ODIN
ODIN


Archetypal Characters

Odin- The Norse god of war, poetry, wisdom, and death. Odin fills several major archetypal character slots. His ability to take any form he wants fills the role of the shape shifter archetype. He would turn into humans, usually hoping obtain knowledge in some way. The Norse believe his use of disguise eventually led to the creation of all poets. Odin also can be classified as the “Authority/Emperor” archetype. He is seen as the creator of all the lands, and ruler of Asgard. Odin often decided who lives and dies as well as who is kept bound until Ragnarok, which is what he did to Loki. This gives him authority over all the gods and goddesses, which also classifies him as the “Judge” archetype. Odin also fills the archetypal role of the “Wise Old Man”, because of his constant quest for knowledge. He traded his eye for ultimate intelligence, as well as killed 9 dwarves in exchange for a mead that would grant inspiration. Odin is very similar to Zeus from Greek mythology, or Jupiter from Roman. These similarities can be drawn to both having a lust for certain things, Odin for knowledge, and Zeus for women. Both gods are also seen as the head of their religions.

Thor- The Norse god of Thunder, Thor is by far the most popular character of the Norse mythological beliefs. He is the son of Odin and Jord, a female giant. Thor takes on the role of the “Self-Appointed Hero” archetype, as he declares himself guardian of all of Midguard, which is the land of men, or Earth. Thor also could be most similarly compared to Hercules, the demi-god from Greek mythology. Hercules also fills the role of “Self-Appointed Hero”. Thor is considered the loose-cannon of the Aesir as well, always challenging those who oppose the gods, mostly including the giants. This also draws similarities to Hercules, who constantly tried to prove himself to the gods.

Loki- The Norse trickster and leader of theives, practically coining the archetype for himself. Loki is neither an Aesir nor a Venir, instead he is and Ettin (elemental). This grants him power over the element fire. His constant challenging of the gods is scene as necessary for change to occur. For these reasons, Loki draws similarities to
characters such as Wormtounge in Lord of the Rings, as both are traitors to their people, but seen as helpers in time of need. Loki constantly assisted the Aesir, and Wormtounge killed Saruman. Loki is also similar to Hermes, the god of theives and inventor of fire in Greek mythology.

THOR
THOR



LOKI
LOKI


Archetypal Plots

The Norse creation Myth is similar to that of many other religions’ creation myths. It involves humans, nature, and other existing elements coming into the world through supernatural happenings or beings. The very first giant, Ymir, was created by the chaotic forces of fire and ice combining. Along with him the cow Audhumbla was created. Very similarly, the creation myth for the Greeks also tells how there was only chaos in the beginning of time. All of these creation myths involve chaos being all that exist in the beginning, only to be resolved by the colliding of different elements. For the Greeks, it was light and dark, for the Norse, it was fire and ice. The giant Ymir then began to sweat, and a male and female emerged from his left armpit. This is similar to the story of Adam and Eve, where a rib was removed from Adam’s body to make Eve. In the Greek creation stories, the god Zeus defeats the titan Cronus, who was ruling the world at the time. Similarly to this, in the Norse creation story, Odin kills Ymir, the giant that had become reckless while ruling. Ymir’s dead body is what made up Midguard, or Earth. Like in other mythology, such as the Native American’s beliefs, the earth is believed to be made of a god or supernatural being itself.


Story Summary


Creation Story
In the beginning was Muspell, the realm of fire, and Nilfheim, the realm of ice. Muspell was a place of dreadful light and heat of which only thefire giants and demons were capable of living. Surt, the leader of the Fire Giants, guards Muspell's border, armed with a flaming sword. Above Muspell was Niflheim, the darkest and coldest region, and consisted of ice, frost and fog. In Niflheim there are eleven rivers flowing from a great well. The rivers are frozen and occupy Ginnungagap, a great void in between the two realms. When the wind, rain, ice, and cold meet the heat and fire of Muspell in the center of Ginnungagap, a place of light, air, and warmth is born. Here the fire melted the ice and it began to drip and there grew a human-like creature. It was a Jotun, or giant, by the name Ymir. While Ymir slept, the sweat under his arms grew two more giants, one male and one female, and one of his legs paired with the other to create a son. The melting frost became a cow called Audhumla from whose udders ran four rivers of milk that fed Ymir. After days of licking salty ice blocks, a man was released from the ice. The man who had grown out of the salty rock was Buri, the first god.He had a son called Borr, and he got married to Bestla, a Jotun woman. Borr and Bestla had three sons, Odin, Vili, and Ve, of whom Odin was the greatest. Odin and his brothers killed Ymir and carried him to the middle of Ginnungagap and created the world, called Midgard, from his body. Each of Ymir's body parts were used to create all the features of the world.


YMIR / THE FIRST FROST GIANT
YMIR / THE FIRST FROST GIANT







The Ragnarok
The Ragnarok means the end of the cosmos in Norse mythology. It is the inescapable turn of events that all lead to the destruction of the gods. The days grow colder and colder due to Fibulwinter, or three consecutive years of ongoing winter. This is caused when Mimir is beheaded and can no longer guard his well. As a result, Yggdrasil’s, or the world tree’s roots will begin to rot. The well will freeze solid and freezing storms will rock the world tree. One of the branches will break off and hit the world serpent, Jormungand. The wolf Skoll will finally devour the sun, and his brother, Hati will eat the moon, plunging the earth into darkness and the stars will vanish. The great wolves Fenrir and Garm will break free. Giants will free Loki from his imprisonment and the Nidhog dragon escapes from under Yggdrasil. Loki leads the inhabitants of hell and the fire giants with Surt all heading towards Asgard. All the Giants fight the Gods in the great battle of Ragnarok on Vigrid Plain. The force of the winds blow Yggdrasil until it falls to the ground, set afire by the dark elves forge. The Bifrost Rainbow Bridge collapses and the worlds will fall.

Fenrir’s Tale
Another myth tells of Fenrir, a wolf who was one of several monstrous children that Loki was father to. Fenrir grew up in Asgard among the gods, but he was so fierce that only Odin's son Tyr could feed him. The gods learned of a prophecy which stated that the wolf and his family would one day be responsible for the

HEIMDAL / GUARDIAN OF THE BIFROST
HEIMDAL / GUARDIAN OF THE BIFROST

destruction of the world. Fearing what Fenrir might do, the gods tried to chain him down. The wolf, however, broke every metal chain as though it were made of grass. Odin ordered the dwarfs to produce an unbreakable chain. The gods tried to trick the wolf because he saw how thin the chain was, and found that he would gain no pride in breaking such a weak chain. Eventually, though, he agreed, thinking that otherwise his strength and courage would be doubted. Suspecting treachery however, he in turn asked the gods for one of them had to put a hand between his jaws. Once he discovered that he could not break this new chain, the enraged Fenrir bit Tyr's hand off. The gods left Fenrir bound on a distant island, from which his howls could be heard. He would eventually escape on Ragnarok.

FENRIR and TYR
FENRIR and TYR

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Themes. Motifs, Archetypes

Norse mythology has two main themes, the first theme being Rules and Order and the second theme being Transformation. Rules and Order is an important aspect to Norse mythology by how it was used to show how the people should act and behave in their lives. It started when the gods killed the giant Ymir. Ymir was a troublemaker and a hooligan. When he died it signified the control on selfish and barbaric behaviors. It showed that they must focus on creating something greater than themselves rather than their own desires. When the gods created the earth and all the living things they had to separate and organize everything. They separated the night and day, man and animals, and land and water. They gave proper activities and rules for man and animal and rules for the cosmos. The second theme, Transformation, was more revealed in the creation myth. It started when the gods turned the dead body of Ymir into the earth. The body was made into the soil, oceans, land, trees, animals, and man. It symbolized how everything is reprocesses through the earth and will be used again. The dead will transform into something else.
Archetypes in Norse mythology are similar to other mythologies. One archetype that is well known in Norse mythology is the Trickster. His name is Loki and he is a god. He is sometimes friends with the other gods and others times he is an enemy. Being who he is, he might be seen as a person who does things only for his own gain however he has been courageous and has helped the gods in some instants. His ability to shape shift is an important trait about this archetype since there are many other mythologies that have used the idea of shape shifting. He was the father of Fenrir, a giant wolf, and Hel, goddess that ruled the kingdom of the dead. This where the word Hell comes from. He is a character that can be seen as malevolent or as heroic. There are other archetypes like Jourunagund, a serpent who grew so long that he stretched around the world and Fenrir a wolf that even the gods feared.
One strong motif that occurs in Norse mythology is war. The battle between Aesir gods and the Vanir gods and the battle of the gods against the giants is an example. They believed that if they died a honorable death in battle Odin, god of war, would grant them entrance to Valhalla. Valhalla is similar to heaven but in terms of Norse mythology it was for the brave and strong. They believed Valhalla was a place where there was an infinite amount of drink, food, and battle. They would battle to prepare for Ragnarok where Odin would lead them to battle to fight against Fenrir. They believed if you did not die in battle you did not have an afterlife.


Important Links



http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/creationmyths/a/11083199Norse.htm

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/creation.html
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http://www.akasha.demon.co.uk/norse.htm


http://www.wizardrealm.com/norse/gods.html

http://www.viking-mythology.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norse_mythology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norse_mythology_in_popular_culture

http://www.sunnyway.com/runes/mythology.html

http://thenorsegods.com/the-norse-gods/#more-103

http://www.xena.nu/norse.html

http://prezi.com/yl5816j1iql4/mythologyarchetypal-plots/