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YMMV / Norse Mythology

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Hel is initially described with a body half-white, half-black even though modern interpretations make her half-living, half-dead.
    • Basically the entire pantheon is ripe for this, given the many varying descriptions across different works. The stories that were later Hijacked by Jesus also count.
  • Broken Base: Over Loki, over whether he's a murderous Jerkass to be avoided or a misunderstood and underappreciated guy who does what has to be done for the greater good, and how big of a role (if any) he actually played in the death of Baldur (which only happens in one of the three different tellings of the story and one of the two that probably is heavily influenced by a christian worldview).
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  • Critical Dissonance: Norse Mythology has always had a bigger influence on popular culture (whether its superhero comics, grand opera, epic fantasy, heavy metal music, science fiction) than on high culture (say, modernist fiction, arthouse cinema, avant-garde theater) and so on. The one exception is Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle operas which was intended to bridge popular and high culture.
  • Designated Hero: Not quite as bad as some other polytheistic religions, but the Norse Gods in the stories (and especially in Neil Gaiman's retelling) are still a bunch of exploitative individuals who profit of other people's labour (all their famous weapons — Gungnir, Mjolnir — were created by the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim), go on about the importance of oaths while using Exact Words and Rules Lawyer to make sure they don't have to be bound by oaths (such as when a "stranger", a Giant in disguise builds a Wall for them which they Aesir make him pay for), loathe being reminded of their hypocrisy, are utter snobsnote , and think nothing of abusing their own kindnote  and more or less pass their time living in a Fluffy Cloud Heaven and ignoring their problems. This makes Ragnarok feel like a deserved comeuppance more than an appallingly tragic End of an Age.
  • Designated Villain: Being a giant, one would believe Ymir was evil, and Odin, officially a hero, just happened to kill him for no apparent reason. He never did anything evil, actually just gave birth to people, whose descendants would turn out Always Chaotic Evil, while getting nourished by a cow.
    • This is most likely a case of Values Dissonance, with norse mythology not working on the same principles of good and evil as modern society, and most current religions. Ymir wasn't inherent evil, nor was his children. In some versions Odin Vile and Ve's mother was one of them. They were however in conflict with the &A Elig;sir, and so Ymir was killed.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Odin may have been this to the Norse themselves. Because of linguistic reasons some believe that Odin was a less important death-deity, a couple of centuries later and he replaced Tiwaz/Tyr as the dominant god.
    • Also to the Norse was Freyr, who seems like a footnote in most surviving texts, but was the third most popular deity after Odin and Thor. The three deities are always noted as being the main gods worshiped by the latest original Nordic pagans.
    • There's no consensus on how early or late an addition Loki was to the myths but upon the rediscovery of Norse Myth in the 19th Century, he quickly became one of the most discussed and speculated figures, continuing well into the 20th Century, and this was before the Marvel Cinematic Universe made the Marvel version of him super popular with young women. Somewhere Loki will be gloating, because sneaking in from the margins and hijacking and stealing the spotlight from the Aesir would appeal to his vanity.
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    • Loki may actually be a Decomposite Character, because he shares his trickster trait with Odinn. Thus, considering that Odinn himself was a trickster god to begin with, Loki, in theory, may have been singled out as a separate character from a more complex and original Wotan-like trickster.
  • Evil Is Cool: The Frost Giants, Midgard Serpent, Fenris Wolf, Hel, Loki, and Surtur the Fire Giant with his Flaming Sword, qualify individually and together. Being more heavy metal than the Aesir seems an impossibility at first glance, but these guys pull it off on Ragnarok.
  • Fridge Logic: Couldn't they chop Loki's head in half without touching his neck?
    • Apparently not - one version has Loki insisting that by his head, he meant his whole head, so they couldn't leave any of it behind or they'd have forfeited.
    • Despite his selfish, dishonest, violent, morbid, gray-area behavior, in the more Christianized stories, Odin is portrayed as a benevolent god. And when his infamous cunning, wisdom, and habit of breaking oaths raise questions as to why he's so buddy-buddy with Loki, Odin's made out to be a trusting old fool who only keeps Loki around because he swore a blood oath.
      • Depends on which ones you're looking at; some Christianized stories snark at him rather a lot. Or literally beat him up: in one story he gets decked three times by a mortal woman. (And then pretends to be a female physician to get a chance to rape her.)
  • Have a Gay Old Time / Hilarious in Hindsight: Loki is a jotun, which is sometimes localized as troll, and may have inspired the word. During the age of the Internet, the term "troll" took on a whole new meaning: a person who sows chaos and discord (sometimes For Great Justice, sometimes For the Lulz), which is Loki's raison d'être. But wait, it gets better: trolls are known for "flaming" others, and guess what color Loki's hair is? Here's a hint: one of his kennings is "Flame-Hair." Bow before your god, all ye Internet trolls.
    • In the myths, Thor defeated Jotuns/trolls with his hammer. Nowadays, admins defeat trolls with the banhammer.
    • Also, Loki may have invented the net.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Loki may have been a cheating, lying, cowardly, treacherous Manipulative Bastard, but even so, his constantly poor treatment by the Aesir, and his utterly horrific punishment, make it hard not to give him at least a little sympathy.
    • His son Fenrir, while an egotistical Glory Hound, doesn't seem to have actually been evil before he was betrayed by Tyr and bound until the end of time, solely because the Aesir feared his power and destined role in Ragnarök. This is especially true because, since he kept growing afterward, he may not have even been an adult at the time.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Odin is just as good as Loki with his constant schemes to delay or thwart Ragnarok completely. In some sources it is implied that he is responsible for every war in human history so that he will have a steady supply of heroes to fill out the ranks of his army in Valhalla so the Gods have a fighting chance at Ragnarok.
    • Worse than that. The valkyries, universally depicted nowadays as hot amazon babes on winged horses just there to lovingly lift up the spirits of the fallen and take them to Valhalla. Well, some sources describe them as far more than just beautiful Psychopomps for the heroic dead. They helped make your heroes dead. A random arrow deflected in flight hits a chink in your armor. A broken lace on your boot makes you stumble and gives your enemy the opening to strike you down. Etcetera. All the work of the Valkyries, invisibly flitting here and there on the battlefield to screw over the finest of warriors so that Odin would have the best of the best on his side come Ragnarok. It was how the Norse answered the question "why do the good die young while jerk-asses live forever?" It was also why the original steeds of the valkyries weren't beautiful winged horses, they were dark and hoary wolves.
  • Memetic Badass:
    • Thor. It is often pointed out he is the main reason Asgard stands a chance against the giants at all.
    • Tyr is no slouch in the strength department as well; especially considering he is the only god not afraid of Fenrir, whom even Thor was terrified of, and willingly entered a wager that would result in his hand being eaten without even flinching.
    • On the monster side is Jörmungandr, a colossal pestilent serpent that can circle the entirety of the realm of mortals. He is most often considered the strongest of Loki's children (which is saying a lot) and, though it results in his own death, he is able to take down Thor with just one bite from his toxic fangs.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • Unfortunately, due to the Nazi deification of all things blond and blue-eyed, a disproportionate number of the "fans" of Norse mythology you'll find these days are Wotanists, a neo-nazi white supremacist sect who wish to return the lighter-skinned "to their ancestral religion." How these nutters would react to the fact that Norse mythology is full of Inter Species Romance (such as the marriage between Njodr and Skadi, Loki being a Frost-Giant, Frey falling in Love at First Sight with a giantess), or what can be called the polymorphous perverse (Thor being a Wholesome Crossdresser and a fetching bride as Freya, Loki's fondness for coupling with animals).
    • More to the point, the Norse Gods are described repeatedly in the original myths as vulnerable and mortal, they are afraid of Frost Giants, Trolls and others and rely greatly on powerful weapons and artifacts (such as Mjölnir) to feel safe, have to sacrifice eyes and limbs to achieve their ends (Odin sacrifices his eye, Tyr sacrifices his arm) and of course there's the fact that in the end, Everyone Dies. Founding an ideology of power and domination based on Gods who are mortal, vulnerable and self-destructive is missing the point.
    • The concept of Valhalla and Sessrumnir. People often talk about how they eat at Odin's table and are served mead by hot Action Girls. But when they are not eating they are fighting. Maiming each other dying and regenerating. Forever, or at least until Ragnarök. Drinking with Odin sounds more like making yourself numb with alcohol to deal with the horror. Or perhaps they liked the neverending fighting.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Loki crosses it when he orchestrates the events leading up to Baldur's death and prevents his resurrection by not weeping for him. The rest of the gods were pissed.
  • Never Live It Down:
    • There's something about a guy getting impregnated by a horse that people just don't forget.
    • Odin’s often manipulative nature and occasional Dirty Old Man actions. So much so there are quite a few adaptations that make him essentially just a Norse Zeus.
  • Newer Than They Think: In many respects, it's the newest ancient polytheistic pantheon in history and more importantly, cultural memory:
    • The written sources for Norse Mythology are the Eddas by Snorri Sturluson and Icelandic Sagas which were written down in the 1200s, which makes it, as of this writing, less than a millenia old, younger than The Qur'an, The Shahnameh, Beowulf, Nibelungenlied, The Song of Roland, Arthurian Sagas, leave alone The Mahabharata and The Ramayana, and far far younger than Roman and Greek mythology (which dates back to 5th and 6th Century BCE) and The Bible (Old and New Testaments).
    • The Semundar Edda or Poetic Edda although collected in the fourteenth century, is reckoned to be somewhat older than the Snorra Edda, though.
    • While the days of the week in the Anglophone are based on Norse pantheon, it was entirely forgotten and obscure for most of The Middle Ages, The Renaissance and The Enlightenment. Writers like Shakespeare, Chaucer, Cervantes, Dante, Goethe and Schiller kept making references to the Bible, to the Arabian Nights, to the chivalric cycle of the Middle Ages and especially Greek and Roman mythology but made no references to Norse mythology for source material or poetic reference. German intellectuals deprecated any of the poems deriving from that (Frederick the Great noted that Nibelungenlied was not worth a powder of shot). The norse myths and the original texts were rediscovered in the late 1600s and 1700s and became popular in the 19th Century, and German and European intellectuals came around to it when Richard Wagner composed the Ring Cycle.
    • Its entry to Pop-Cultural Osmosis can definitely be credited to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee who deliberately created The Mighty Thor to avert Small Reference Pools and avoid the overexposed Greek and Roman Pantheon, and that comic dates from The '60s. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is likewise how most audiences around the world who were broadly familiar with the Graeco-Roman classical traditions came to learn of the Norse pantheon. Unlike the Greek and Roman Myths which are well represented in the architecture, vases of antiquity (giving later artists a reference for how Zeus and the other gods, heroes, and figures were seen as by its worshippers), very little material culture survived for the Norse myths, and this gave the MCU license to define Asgard, the Bifrost, the Nine Realms, its various creatures, its heroes, and its villains for several generations around the world.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • Loki's eventual punishment and the agony he goes through, made worse by the fact that, originally, he had nothing to do with Baldur's death, but claimed such among other taunts after the other Aesir didn't invite him to their dinner and spent the time before his arrival talking about him behind his back. The Baldur thing seemed to have been a retcon to make the other gods look less like assholes for it. Also, there's something so sad about him having his lips sewn shut and all the others laughing at him. Then again, even before he was turned into a Satan expy, he was still kind of a dick, and it doesn't seem to hamper him in later myths.
    • Sigyn. By all that's holy, Sigyn. Loki's wife, whom he cheats on with Angrboða (though she may have been a second wife or the whole affair may have been over before Sigyn came into the picture) and is at least implied to have had numerous other affairs. When Loki is punished by way of a Fate Worse than Death, part of this punishment involves one of her sons being turned into a mad and/or starving wolf and kills his brother, whose remains are used to chain Loki in a cave under the earth. She chooses to stay with him down there, and in a basin collects the venom from a snake attached to the ceiling which otherwise would drip into his eyes, helpfully keeping him alive through the centuries until he is able to break free at Ragnarok and wreak vengeance on the Aesir, who as we remember murdered her sons.
  • Values Dissonance: Thjalfi's freedom was effectively given away as blood payment after his father (accidentally) slightly inconvenienced a God. It says a lot of the times that this was treated as fair, and that the arrangement was depicted as working out happily.
  • Vindicated by History: For most of history, the Norse mythology was deprecated by European intellectuals who honored Greek and Roman mythology, as well as stories from the Bible as being of great value. The Eddas that form the source for the mythologies was written by Sturluson for primarily linguistic reasons and as a reference guide towards understanding skaldic poetry and not because he liked the stories. Yet in the 19th, 20th and 21st Century, the Norse myth is considered to be as compelling and moving as other pantheons and its characters Thor, Odin and Loki unleashed a Fountain of Expies in multiple High Fantasy and other genres.


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