Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh My Gods

Posted by: Marie Harte
Oh my gods. I can't tell you how many books I've read where the characters subscribe to polytheism--the belief in more than one god. Having grown up on Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, the original (and terrific) Clash of the Titans, and on the fringes of a Dungeons & Dragons crowd, which is steeped in different mythologies, I've always been drawn to the concept of belief and gods.

For me, escaping into ancient stories of Greek, Roman, and Norse deities was the only way to spend a decent hour in study hall, considering the library never seemed to carry the romances I wanted to read. Ancient civilizations always had a story to explain certain truths. Want to know why the seasons change? Ask Hades or Persephone, who has to spend 6 months of every year in the underworld. Ever wondered about the sun? Ask Sol, Helios, or Apollo. That lightning that strikes during a thunderstorm? Thank Odin, the father of the Norse gods.

Too bad I wasn’t the first one to combine mythology and romance, because it’s a terrific combination. The first story I read that revolved around gods and men was written by Sherrilyn Kenyon in one of her Dark Hunter books. Terrific fun and totally up my alley. Since then, there have been dozens upon dozens of books incorporating ancient gods into tales of love and adventure.

One group of gods that, in my opinion, hasn’t gotten much attention, are the Norse. Sure, they’re great when you want to talk Vikings or Valkyries (female warriors of Odin), but where the heck is Balder, Frigg, or Heimdall? How about the Vanir? We always hear about the Aesir—the warrior gods. But the Vanir, the fertility gods, lend themselves better to romance considering they’re all about propagation.

Like the Greeks and Romans, the Norse gods have foibles and flaws, much like men. They are jealous, loving, and spiteful. And most importantly, they’re not immortal. The gods come and the gods go, and at the end of the world, a new group of gods will take over for those who die in battle.

I thought I’d share a little bit about Norse mythology, just for fun.

Yggdrasil—the world tree, which connects the nine worlds of existence, separated into three levels
Midgard—where people live on the middle level
Asgard—where some of the gods live on the highest level
Niflheim—the lowest level, covered in ice, where Hel reigns. It’s also where those who don’t die in battle go
Bifrost—the rainbow bridge connecting Asgard to Midgard
Odin—Father of the gods
Frigg—Odin’s wife, Mother of the gods
Sleipnir—Odin’s eight-legged horse
Loki—the son of fire giants, sworn brother to Odin and sometime friend. Known as the Trickster
Sigyn—Loki’s wife, unshakable in her loyalty and fidelity

Angrboda—Loki’s mistress, a Giantess, who gave birth to three monstrous children who will help take the world apart at the end: Fenrir, Jormungand, and Hel
Fenrir—the wolf, Loki’s son
Jormungand—the serpent destined to destroy Thor. He's also Loki's son.
Hel—Loki’s daughter. Her top half is that of a beautiful woman, the bottom that of a rotting corpse. She’s queen of the dead in Niflheim
Thor—Odin’s eldest son, the Thunder god. He carries mjollnir, his famous hammer
Balder—the son of Odin and Frigg, beloved by everyone. Killed by his blind brother due to Loki’s trickery, his death will trigger the end of the world (Ragnarok)
Heimdall—the son of nine maidens, guardian of Bifrost (the rainbow bridge). He is watchman of the gods.
Ragnarok—the Doom of the gods and the end of the worlds as w
e know it.

I could go on and on, but that’s just a snippet of what I worked with when I wrote my story for Carina. I can’t get enough of the gods, and that’s not even the Greeks or Romans. Not to mention all the other cultures out there with fascinating mythology. And now I’d better stop and get to work. Because if I’m not careful, I’ll get swept away by stories of the past.

NOTE: If you’re curious, a great reference is Bulfinch’s Mythology, which covers Greek, Roman, Scandinavian, Oriental, and Celtic mythology.



  1. Like you, I love mythology. My favorite is the Tuatha De Danann, the mythical race of demigods who came to Ireland in a ship in the clouds, landed their vessel on top of a mountain, disembarked and destroyed their vehical. Hmmmm. Aliens?

    Great post, thanks.

  2. I love learning about the myths and legends of different countries. So interesting.

  3. Oh, Barbara. Yeah, aliens. Never heard that they came to Ireland in a ship in the clouds. That's really, really interesting...


  4. Glad you liked the post, Janni. I love learning about myths too. The more different, the better.

    :) Marie

  5. I love mythology. My son is really into it right now and is reminding me of all sorts of things I had forgotten. <3

  6. I've always had a fascination with Celtic mythology but lately I've been branching out more. There's so much in those old stories that can stir up your imagination.

  7. Oh, Marie! That's not all. The Tuatha brought . . . stuff with them. Dadga Mor's Cauldron of Plenty that produced unlimited food when someone put a tiny morsel into it. (Food replicator??) The Lance of Lugh, the only weapon that could kill those of their race. (Light saber), and there was the magic fleece, which had the ability to heal mortal wounds, and the singing stone, used to crown kings ever since it's appearance. (It's housed in Edinburgh Castle, by the way. Sounds otherworldy to me.

  8. There are so many mythologies and they're all fascinating. Maybe because snow is so foreign to my Australian life, the Norse gods have never really lived for me. But I love how pretty much every mythology involves quest stories. I'd argue quests are the heart of the fantasy genre. We're writing in an ancient and grand tradition :)

  9. Very true, Jenny. I love a good quest story with characters I can root for. Then, add a romance, and how can you lose??

  10. Oh, I'm totally getting an alien vibe from the Celts, Barbara. Good stuff!

  11. Hey Seleste. I've already told my little guys about Pegasus, and we're working into more conventional myths. Or maybe I should say more popular.

    Eleri, Barbara is telling me things I never knew. Really interesting. I was never much into the Celts myself, but now I'm going to have to take a closer look.


  12. Hey Jenny.

    I often look at those huge volumes that mention myths from every clime and place. I'll have to check out the Australian region.


  13. I have one of those volumes. It's quite eye-popping to read the things people have believed. I think mythology collections are excellent gifts. You know, when Christmas/birthdays roll around and people say, "what do you want?" and you can never think, because you might need a new iron but you're definitely not wasting a birthday gift on it. So, I think a mythology collection is a great idea. I'm slowly building up my writing ref collection this way -- poetry anthology, architecture, amazing place,... anything that could get ideas flowing.

    I got sidetracked. Marie, the Dreamtime stories are fascinating. You'll end up booking a plane ticket to Aus!

  14. Marie, if you're interested, I'll send you a few titles for reference. Celts originated in in Gaul, not in Ireland or Scotland. The Celtic beliefs were brought to those places by the Milesians, who traveled to Ireland led by a widow, named Scotee, and her family. Her descendants, known as the Scottee tribe, settled in Scotland, hence the name of that country. The Milesians defeated the Tuatha De Danann, and the Tuatha were banished to another realm, supposedly underground and in another dimension. (Hence the "faerie mounds" and the stories of people taken to the realm of the fae, never to be seen again, etc., etc.
    I love this stuff!

  15. TMI. I know. You don't have to say it. I'm a little . . . obsessive? Over the top? Socially awkward? Eh, must be a writer.

  16. Hahaha. No worries Barbara. All this myth talk had me visiting the bookstore yesterday, where I bought Myths and Legends on sale off the bargain shelf. And this volume has sections on Europe, West and Central Asia, South and East Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania (Australia/Polynesia.) The motherlode!

  17. Cool! Fertile ground for story fodder.

  18. Great post today. I had fun looking around your blog :)


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