…creativity strikes when you least expect it.
Last night I sat down to read and take notes from Myth and Religion of the North. I ended up getting distracted and spending about an hour knocking out 1,600 words of a story that’s apparently been rattling around in what passes for my brain.
Why Odin takes warriors
The story began as a bit of dialogue between Odin and an unnamed warrior. I was trying to get into Odin’s head. As I’ve detailed in this blog, Odin favors strong warriors b/c he’s recruiting for the Einherjar–the army of undead men who will fight in Ragnarok against the Jotunn.
From a mortal’s perspective, we can’t explain why anyone is taken before what we might perceive as their time — particularly valiant and heroic warriors. So, wesay a “god” is responsible for the death. (By “we” I mean my conception of what a pagan Norseman might think…which could be totally off base…but that’s the mindset I’m trying to get into)
And, in some cases, Odin’s given the hero a weapon (Sigmund) to use and then Odin causes that weapon to break. Then a valkyr scoops him up and it’s off to Valhol to prepare for Ragnarok. Mortals might call that “betrayed” by Odin.
From (my) Odin’s perspective, though, he doesn’t think of himself as “a liar.” He thinks of himself as a man who will lie if he has to — to get what he wants, protect his people, etc. Not that that’s better, necessarily. He’ll also do other things–whatever it takes–to protect his own.
A little help here?
In my proto-story, Odin lies by omission to the warrior. Odin sees potential in the warrior (but how does he see it? ;)) so he says: “Warrior, I will help you, but you agree to fight for me in my army when you die.”
I’m specifically thinking of Sigmund and the sword Gramr (which means Wrath in Old Norse and is an amazing name for a sword). Odin gave Gramr to Sigmund. And with that sword, Sigmund became a mighty king over the course of many years.
Then a great battle began (read the Volsunga Saga) in which Sigmund, though old, fought so well that none could stand against him…
the battle had dured a while, there came a man into the fight clad in a blue cloak, and with a slouched hat on his head, one-eyed he was, and bare a bill in his hand; and he came against Sigmund the King, and have up his bill against him, and as Sigmund smote fiercely with the sword it fell upon the bill and burst asunder in the midst: thenceforth the slaughter and dismay turned to his side, for the good-hap of King Sigmund had departed from him, and his men fell fast about him; naught did the king spare himself, but the rather cheered on his men; but even as the saw says, “No might ‘gainst many”, so was it now proven; and in this fight fell Sigmund the King,
The man in the blue cloak is Odin; the bare bill is Gungnir. And if I remember correctly, in the Icelandic sagas if a man dons a “blue cloak” (or is seen wearing one) it signifies the intent to murder/kill. (And in the sagas there’s a legal difference between murdering and killing. It’s a murder if you don’t immediately go to the closest homestead and declare in front of witnesses what you did. Murder is despicable; a killing can be totally justified.)
That’s what I had in my head with respect to the help Odin would provide to my unnamed warrior.
My story then evolves from a scrap of dialog in which Odin and the warrior make their bargain to a scene in which the warrior, having died valiantly in battle b/c his sword turns in his hand, is caught up by a valkyr. He then awakens in another place, seemingly healed. He gets up and stumbles into a hall bigger than any he’d ever seen with gold-bright shields hanging from the ceiling.
Hundreds of warriors are in the hall and my unnamed warrior is pushed and shoved through the throng till he staggers out into the clear space before Odin’s throne.
My warrior is angry and confused. He feels betrayed. But one of the warriors around him (an Einherjar) presses a cup of Heidrun’s mead into his hand and whispers to him, “All here have stood where you are now. We all made fools of ourselves before the Valfather. But don’t worry, you’re among brothers.”
Or something along those lines. I forgot what I wrote exactly. There’s more to the story beyond this brief sketch. The POV is the unnamed warrior and he tells his backstory in flashbacks–which totally evolved as I was writing.
I’m not sure how “good” my story is or even where it’s headed. I’m just glad I WROTE.
Which then had me wondering about why I’m so blocked with respect to my 2nd book. I’m kinda thinking that I enjoyed, and was spurred on by, the act of making this new story up on the fly. Of discovering the story as I wrote.
With my 2nd book, I outlined the crap out of it. I’m not really able to discover–or I don’t think I’m able to discover–much about it. And when I do discover things I have to make sure they make sense relative to what I’ve already decided. And if the discoveries are better then I have to scrap the older stuff…which causes changes to ripple, etc etc.
Or maybe all of that’s in my head and I’m just making up excuses while shying away from some hard work. And in some ways it’s easier to write a story with nothing tied to it–it’s a lark. But the novel, oooh, that’s important. (Not really, but you know what I mean.) I’m so stressed about making it good that I’m robbing the joy from it.
Either way, the Einherjar story was — and will hopefully continue to be — a fun side project.
Now to re-find the fun in that other story.