The idea of this series was triggered by a Thor marathon before seeing 'Ragnarok' in the cinema. What was supposed to be no more than a catchup-session to be able to keep up with my friends' new obsession has turned into the massive revelation that just HOW MUCH studying Norse mythology had been missing from my life. (Then I started to read Edda, and... well, I'm here).
'The Wolf and the Serpent' should be seen as a set of tales loosely weaved into one another. The continuity between them is sometimes direct, sometimes isn't.
I hope to approach the topic (and relationship) of Loki and his "canonical" wife, Sigyn from a point of view that is a bit mythological, a bit tale-like, a bit philosophic and a bit realistic. (I'm generally interested in - and unfortunately, attracted by - ambivalency and earth-shattering moral paradoxons...) I decided to slightly alter my writing style as well for fun's sake, and I'm completely stepping out of my comfort zone by writing ROMANCE. (Me! Romance!) Even though... well, romance is just a small part of the stories.
While reading, you will encounter many characters and places from the Edda and other ancient sources. The names I gave certain characters, animals, weapons, etc. are all existing and morphologically accurate words in Old Norse. You will find my concerning footnotes at the end of each instalment.
A note on mythological accuracy: while I have implied many-many elements from the Edda, the narrative doesn't follow that of the heroic lay(s). Actually, it has not much to do with the Thor movies, either. A few details to help your understanding:
- I picture the Asgardian gods (both higher and lesser) as genuinely immortal beings.
- I picture the remaining population of Asgard as something like humans - granted, they're aging very slowly... but they're not "superheroes" and they can be killed.
- In Norse mythology, Hela (Hél) is Loki's daughter, and that is the road I'm going to take, if I ever get there.
- I have pictured the entire main storyline happening before the events in the first movie - meaning that both Thor and Loki are still very young (in godly measure) and much less rounded (or, in Loki's case, bitter) than they "now" are.
Nothing left to say but my usual request - Enjoy!
The Lay Begins
A whirlwind of ash swooshed into the evening air; a wax-and-wane of red-grey shards, fluttering back among blackened logs like patterns of dried blood on the muzzle of a sated wolf.
A storm-beaten man was gazing into the flames with faraway eyes. The spectacle he so loved was there, mingling with the clinking of cups, the blurred chatter of his kinsmen and the faint pine-smell of his homeland; yet the sensation itself lacked. Mordrig of Glitnir felt no warmth.
Crusty old Nökkvidr beside him cast another piece of wood to feed the flames. Its insides were damp, as it seemed, for the fire hissed and crackled, then; boisterous, angry, like a spoilt princeling at the peak of his tantrum. By the hushed heat of his curses, Mordrig could guess that the smoke was making his friend's eyes water. Not that it mattered very much, now that he could lose himself in the parade of embers and ash; angry red, withering grey, vivid orange, glassy white.
Mordrig gave a toothy grin to no one in particular; and when Nökkvidr mistook the move and resumed his muttering, he raised his hand in an abrupt, oddly dismissive gesture. He just wanted to watch the flames as they lapped over dying wood, ever so gently, ever so thoroughly, heeding nothing else. And before the old man could cough up one of his dusty arguments about the importance of his ideas, a bard's voice sliced through the half-silence like a warm knife that melts butter on its ruthless way.
Hear thee the herald! the horn-blast rang
howling winds ravaged dim dwellings
as the king of Æsir for battle longing
brought Jötnar down in a blaze of bloodshed.
Ífingr ran red that day, hollies burned in the hills
blood-soaked soil shattered at Ódinn's command
and the grounds sighed under giant's steps
to Valhöll many valiant ones have returned.
Not in a century's cycle had the Æsir beheld
such a sight; Ódinn in his mantle of might
and red sun rising 'bove the Hills of Heimdall:
hear thee the herald! The night is young.
The night was young indeed: young enough for the taleteller to begin with the last Great War between Jötnar and Æsir – one of many -, as well as the the glorious homecoming adventures of Ódinn Allfather and his companions. Many children have born, grown up and died in battle since then; and while Mordrig was not even a promise in his mother's womb when the Lord o' Giants was vanquished, Nökkvidr was there; and he turned back right from the doorstep of Valhöll to save his captain, as he so liked to tell.
This time, though, he voiced no oration on his battle-deeds when he leaned closer to Mordrig, and whispered,
"Have you heard the news? The Allfather holds a feast in mighty Valaskjalf when the moon turns…"
"That is no news. There is always a feast in Valaskjalf," Mordrig shrugged, keeping his eyes upon the bard. Soon, he would finish the battle-lay and ask for suggestions; and if there was one song he would have dearly liked to hear that evening, it was that of Ódinn's sons gambling with a giant. That tale was known to draw laughter and cheering from the audience even in the darkest hours.
"Yet this time, I shall go there and feast with the gods."
"It is no jest. Five hundred years ago today, the war was still raging between us and the Jötnar. King Ódinn shall not forget those who stood by his side. I shall be dwelling in his halls in a month, and so shall Leidhangr, Eidr, Óminni, Einhendr…"
"And Fjöllmenr," Mordrig guessed. "With his faerie-daughters…"
"Now," Nökkvidr said, a spark lighting in his eyes. "I am a knight, see, and knights need squires. I was wondering if you would jump on such an opportunity, especially knowing that you may feast your eyes on Fjöllmenr's daughters – and especially young Sigyn – for three days and three nights, amidst utter merriment. What say'st thou?"
"I'll be damned if I refuse," Mordrig laughed from his heart. "A true friend you are, old man."
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Glitnir in Norse mythology is the hall of Forseti, the Norse god of law and justice, and the seat of justice amongst gods and men. (Fun fact: today, it's the name of an Icelandic bank). I picture Sigyn and her family as mortals of Forseti's household.
The Æsir (in mythology) is the collective name for the principal Asgardian gods.
'Jötnar' refers to the Jotunn in a beautiful Old Norse plural.
Ífingr in mythology is the river separating Jötunheimr (Jotunheim) and Ásgardr (Asgard).
Valaskjalf is one of Odin's three castles (I chose it to be the 'main' one).
The characters' names:
Mordrig (Old Norse Morðríg, [m]: 'Murder')
Nökkvidr (Old Norse Nøkkvidr, [m] 'Poorly dressed' or even 'Naked')
Fjöllmenr [m]: Crowded, well-attended / sometimes: popular
Leidhangr (Old Norse Leiðangr, [m]: Ship)
Eidr (Old Norse Eiðr, [m]: Oath)
Óminni [m]: Oblivion / forgetfulness
Einhendr [m]: One-handed
For the poem, I borrowed one of the loose poetic structures from the Edda. It's called málaháttr (speech-meter) and relies on nothing more than stresses and alliterations. By the way, it was unexpectedly hard to reproduce this in English – my native language flows much more naturally with it.