“Thor: Ragnarok” is the third installment of the Thor franchise, which is part of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. As you would expect from it’s titular character, the franchise is loosely based on Nordic mythology, with this particular iteration focusing on Ragnarök, which roughly translates to ‘The Doom of the Gods’. The original story tells of the fire-god ‘Surtr’ along with his army of giants, engulfing Asgard in fire, successfully destroying the Asgardians home, as well as all of humanity. The only survivors are a man (Lífþrasir) and woman (Líf), who are left to rebuild their world.
Although the film does include some of the main protagonists and antagonists from the original story (Thor, Odin, Loki, the Valkyries), most of them don’t have quite as bleak of an ending as they do in the original Nordic tale. Thor is bitten by the giant sea serpent ‘Jormungandr’ and dies from it’s poison, Odin is swallowed whole on the battlefield by Fenrir, the vicious wolf. Thor’s hammer ‘Mjulnir’, however, which is destroyed in the film, would have not been destroyed in the original tale, as ‘Thor might smite as hard as he desired, whatsoever might be before him, and the hammer would not fail’ (Prose Edda).
The Nordic religion isn’t the only one to have been portrayed on a grand epic scale in Hollywood. Christianity has always been a focus when it comes to the silver screen, with ‘Noah’ being directed by Darren Aronofsky, and portrayed by Russell Crowe in 2014. This film also added some artistic flourishes the original tale, amplifying the fantastical elements of the story by adding ‘stone golems’ called ‘Watchers’. Ragnarok has been compared to the Christian ‘end times’, however the rebirth and recreation which occurs in the aftermath seems to be a more cyclical interpretation of an apocalypse, perhaps more in keeping with Noah’s Ark.
Students applying to Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic might want to read ‘The Viking Spirit’ by Daniel McCoy for a more comprehensive understanding of Nordic mythology. Humanities and Arts students might want to consider how changes to source material in literature, film and the arts may improve, or detract from the original inspiration. Students considering Archaeology might want to think about what artifacts and rune-stones, such as those depicting Thor and Mjulnir, can prove about the mythology of certain cultures. Theology students might want to see how gods from different religions are portrayed in the Arts.
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