This morning (when I should’ve been writing) I was instead reading this article. The author (Dr. Karl Seigfried) runs this site. And on his site, he has this transcript of a radio interview–which is also a good read (I only read his section).
One of the many points that Seigfried makes is that myth should not be interpreted literally.
Which is exactly what I’m doing. Mostly.
In my books, all of the following has happened (backstory), is happening (current events) or will happen (future). Which, coincidentally, is what each of the Norns represents: Urd, Verdandi and Skuld–but not in our linear conception of time. Much like many “early” peoples, the Norse had a cyclical view of time. Which reminds me of something the Cylons kept saying in the new Battlestar Galactica. And yes, that is how my mind works. Sad & scary.
Picking up the thought from above, “all of the following” includes (but isn’t limited to ;)):
- Tyr sticking his hand in Fenrir’s mouth: deception or sacrifice? Humans/Aesir see it as sacrifice, but Loki and his family? Trickery. Deception. Who’s “evil” here? Who’s sympathetic? Tyr, the wolf or those threatened by the wolf (us)?
- Odin sacrificing his eye at the Well of Mimir: Literally, that’s a gigantic ouch. Symbolically? Isn’t that what a “god” should be doing?
- Odin, Vili and Ve murdering Ymir and creating the world from the bits & pieces. So, yeah, that’s not possible. But think about what it symbolizes. This is an example of where I did not literally interpret the myths, because my Aesir are not the gods we know (and my “earth” is not ours”).
As an author who’s taken on the (fun) burden of faithfully abiding by what happens in Norse myth, I’ve regularly backed myself into multiple different corners which all have a common theme: How do I inject motivation into the actions of the major players?
For some, it’s easy. Tyr sticking his hand in Fenrir’s mouth is a good example since that action can be interpreted in different ways by multiple POV characters. For Loki, it’s deception. For the Aesir, what Tyr did is heroic.
What’s tougher is Odin sacrificing his own eye. I basically have two “meta” choices–hand-wave it away as backstory or include it as current events. If the latter, then I have to get Odin into a mindset where he would believe that cutting out his own eye makes sense. And, while doing that, I gotta sell it to the reader — along with the whole shebang.