Lessons from the Vikings
Detours in Life
Mega Post #4
When Jacqueline Kennedy referred to her husband’s tenure as a new Camelot, we understand that she meant it was a golden age, like that of King Arthur. When the Greek government dubbed a campaign to rescue ethnic Greeks from behind the walls of the Iron Curtain “Operation Golden Fleece,” we understood that they were invoking an ancient name to communicate that these people belonged to them. Each generation of storytellers adds another layer of fact and fiction to the myths, such that the themes and characters of myths are timeless, and endlessly relevant, as they are reinvented and reapplied to the lives of each new generation. The purpose of these myths is to provide examples of how detours in life can be navigated.
Many today are spouting words of the hopeless. Many feel the times in which we are living are bleak. It would seem that mankind has lost its heart and that all feelings are cold and uncaring. No one wants to listen; everyone just wants to scream their own opinions and fears, none based upon fact. Let’s takes a moment and see if the stories of our history could shine some light and perhaps hope for us today. Stories of the Vikings who lived in certain cold times and locations might just teach us something.
It was in 2013 that the lead character of the computer-animated musical fantasy “Frozen” sang the following: “The snow glows white on the mountain.” Like many films, this highly successful film was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Snow Queen”. The nineteenth century Danish tale also served, many believe, as the premise for one of the characters in the twentieth century book by C. S. Lewis, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”.
Andersen’s tale of seven stories depicting the story of the Snow Queen had its roots in Norse mythology. Like many myths, the earliest ones of the Northern Germanic tribes that settled in Scandinavia, Denmark, Norway, Holland, and Iceland centered on creation. The Norse myth of creation begins in the land between two celestial areas of contrasts. The frozen land of Niflheim and the hot land of Muspell both portrayed the landscape of Iceland which has both frozen tundra and bubbling geysers.
According to the legend, the heat of Muspell takes a toll on the frozen glaciers of Niflheim and as the ice begins to that and melt, an evil giant the Norse named Ymir appeared. A cow of formed out of the melting snow and produces milk for the giant to drink. As the heat continues, the giant Ymir sweats and from that sweat, two more giants are created. The cow known as Audhumla licks the ice and another giant called Buri is freed from his frozen lair. The giants rule the skies and the stars and one has a son which marries another’s daughter. Ymir continues to be evil and is disliked. He is later killed by the children of the god Bor and his body made to create the rest of the world. From his skull, the Norse believed the sky was created; from his brains, the clouds. Ymir’s bones became rocks on the earth and his blood the rivers and seas. However, all but the god Bergelmir and his wife drown in the overflowing blood of Ymir.
One of the children of Buri, the god freed from the ice, is known as Odin. His brothers are Vili and Ve and the Norse believed these three could breathe life into inanimate objects. When everyone else is drowned by the blood of Ymir, Odin, Vili, and Ve give the remaining children of Bergelmir a region in the east known as Urgard for their home. The three brothers then use the last remaining part of Ymir, his eyebrows, to erect fortifications around their own home, Asgard. The brothers were, according to the myths, out walking along the coastline one day and came upon tree trunks that had washed up on the shore. They breathed life into them creating humans. Odin is said to have given the trunks breath and life; vili, emotion and intelligence; Ve, the senses of sight and hearing. In some of the myths, Ve also is said to have bestowed upon the humanoid shapes, expressive features, and the ability to speak.
From the lifeless tree trunks now transformed with new life as humans, came the first man and woman. In Norse mythology they were called Ask and Embla. Because they also needed a home, the creator gods as the brothers were called, created a new realm for the humans that was called Midgard or Middle Earth. Between the realm of Odin, Vili and Ve known as Asgard and Midgard was a bridge. This bridge was known as Bifrost and looked very much like the natural phenomenon we know as a rainbow. Ask and Embla were given the responsibility of caring for their Middle Earth realm and for populating it with more of their kind.
Norse mythology often gets forgotten in its origins and most of us think of the exploits of later humans from the region which we know as of Vikings in thinking about tales from this region. We think of the land of Wales from whence the writer of the most popular tales of Middle Earth came or the New Zealand landscape where the films were made when we think of Middle Earth. Few realize that we live on the original Middle Earth. Perhaps this is where the true beginnings of the heavens, earth, and hell trilogy came.
The readings we have of the more modern day religious tales bear witness to similar beginnings in part to the mythologies of mankind. This should not be taken as evidence that such readings or scriptures are false. The best stories incorporate what the listener knows as familiar with what is trying to be told or taught.
Mythologies were the original lessons of life for ancient mankind. J. Michael Straczynski explains: “The point of mythology or myth is to point to the horizon and to point back to ourselves: This is who we are; this is where we came from; and this is where we’re going.” Straczynski feels we have lost our purpose in the last century and are merely wandering through life aimlessly. Perhaps that is the attraction of such modern day myths like the popular film series” Star Wars” and the British television program that has run for the last forty-plus year, “Dr. Who”.
Mankind may indeed be hungry for heroes like Odin. What we forget is that however life became breathed into our bodies, we do have life and we can become an integral part of that mythological struggle we know as life if we but place ourselves in it. Too often we go through life reacting instead of creating. The Viking warriors were present in their moment and lived, finding ways to overcome life’s detours.
While the events of the past two months have been frightening – nature seeming to attack and then man waging war upon innocents – there have been heroes. People volunteered from all walks of life and location to help others. In Las Vegas, when a call went out for blood donors, people stood in line for hours to donate. One of the neatest things about a detour is that we often have the opportunity to gain a new perspective. As long as we keep our faith and continue to do good, we will make strides on our journey of life.