Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thor in Comics, Myth, and Film; and the Christianization of Myth

I spent some time recently mulling over this interview on the Norse Mythology Blog (which is a fantastic resource for anyone studying or interested in Norse Myth, by the way), and it finally allowed my thoughts on the topic of the Thor movies and Marvel and Myth to come together in a way that's been eluding me for some time. While I highly recommend you read the post on that blog first, discussing the Thor movies and how they relate to the myths and culture of the Norse people, you can probably get away with reading this post without it, as well.

Most mythic traditions are not static (those that descend from Oral traditions even less so) -- we see that in the discussion of the myths from the perspective of the three different sources mentioned in this interview (Adam of Bremen, Snorri, and Tacitus). We see it, also, comparatively, in the Greek and Roman myths, where a lot more sources and therefore a lot more contradictions have survived. Myth and religion before Christianity was often HIGHLY localized, and it makes sense that this same localization could exist temporally as well -- time and culture warping and changing the myths, excising the old and introducing the new, to make it relevant to the modern values of that period and culture as those values and cultures shift. This is why there isn't a lot of argument about the fact that comics are a continuation of these ancient mythologies, generally speaking.

I can completely understand the frustration of Christian values being cast backward onto myths which predate them* but we can't deny that Christianity has transformed culture and civilization in the western world (in some cases to the good, in others horrifyingly the opposite.) It's only natural that this coloring and transformation would continue to occur as we retell these pre-Christian myths and bring them into the modern era, and I would argue that perhaps this is just another form of localization, not meant to invalidate or erase, but to co-exist peaceably alongside all the other interpretations and perspectives, much like we tolerate, study, and treat inclusively the differences and contradictions between Euripides and Plutarch. Or, to stay within the same fold of faith, the Swedish traditions discussed by Adam of Bremen and the Icelandic tradition as preserved by Snorri.

I think it's obvious from the Prose Edda's introduction, that Snorri grinds up the cultural artifact of Norse Myth just as determinedly as the entertainment industry -- and arguably, for the same reasons, to make it easily graspable by the widest possible demographic, in order to preserve the poetic forms of that period -- but we accept him as a legitimate and valuable source for Norse Myth, all the same, in spite of the fact that he was Christian, and living in a time when the majority of the worship of these gods had been stamped out by the Church. So is he really so different from Marvel? Or Hollywood in general?

I'm not saying we shouldn't point at the Thor movies and the Thor comics and deconstruct them, discussing what is consistent with the previous mythology and what isn't -- I think it's absolutely important and critical that we do so! But I think, perhaps, we should also be discussing and acknowledging and accepting that myth evolves while we engage in this study, rather than using the deconstruction as a way to invalidate the new interpretations. We should examine where these "new" or "transformative" elements have come from, just as we examine Snorri's Edda, or Homer's Iliad, but that doesn't mean once they've been identified, they should be rejected out of hand.

Hollywood and Marvel aren't my personal first choice for a vehicle of preservation and continuation of myth (I wouldn't write books of my own, otherwise), but I think we can safely say that they make it that much harder to forget that Thor exists. And they get maybe the absolute most important element right when it comes to Thor's character and duties -- as the interview also discusses, he is more than anything else a protector. Perhaps the way in which he chooses to protect Jane and the world in the first Thor film is not quite what the old Norse people would have imagined,** but since this is a different time, practically a different world, it only makes sense that Thor's approach to the problem (still very direct, mind you, which *is* in line with the older sources) might shift as well.

Personally, I think we've been very fortunate with Marvel's Thor. After seeing Trash Clash of the Titans, and Immortals That Movie We Do Not Speak Of, and reading plot synopses for TWO*** forthcoming "Hercules" retellings which seem to not be related to any myths surrounding Hercules at all in the slightest, Marvel's Thor is all the more impressive as an adaptation and modern reinterpretation, certainly he's treated with far more respect as to his essential character.

And honestly? Sometimes I think, when it comes to mythology as it is reinterpreted into modern religion, we do ourselves a disservice by clinging too much to the past. And if these gods are so powerful, so incredible, that they merely choose to allow us to see them in one form or another, I have a hard time believing they don't adapt along with us as the world turns on -- or at least that they've been around long enough that these changes in how we view them and their roles aren't anything they haven't seen before. Or at least, I'd like to give them at least that much benefit of the doubt.

*I shake my fist at the sky about this A LOT, and no tradition, imho, has suffered more from this kind of imposition than the Jewish tradition, which was 100% co-opted. And there is definitely no excuse for doing this if you're creating something that is meant to be historical. Fantasy is different, and something set in the modern day -- well, that's what this blogpost is about ultimately.

**I think there is definitely an argument to be made for the second film following a more mythic-Thor manner of problem solving: go to your opponent's home field, and then just THROW DOWN as hard as possible until they are crushed by Mjolnir. Generally in the myths this works out pretty well for Thor. One time he slays an entire hall of Giants, women and children included.

***seriously guys what the eff is this movie? Hercules has SO MANY AWESOME MYTHS I just CANNOT UNDERSTAND why hollywood doesn't just USE one instead of making him something totally else that has nothing to do with anything even remotely related? Even for Roman Hercules this does not make any sense, and it states openly in the summary that it's set in the bronze age -- which makes it 100% wrong already. Sorry Hollywood, there were no Gladiators in 1200BC. (It would make me a lot less angry if they would stop putting dates on these films that are not even remotely historically accurate at all in the slightest.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fate of the Gods: Regarding Eve

When FORGED BY FATE came out, I did a guest post over on Vicky Alvear Shecter's blog, talking about Eve, and why I chose to retell her story, particularly, the way I did. I want to just take a moment to revisit some of that, because I'm not sure I've ever really discussed Eve's character, before, on the blog, aside from the Rodin sculpture at the National Gallery, which is maybe one of the most evocative pieces of art I've ever seen.

In Fate of the Gods, we see a lot of the series from Eve's point of view. She isn't the only protagonist, but it's her choices which ultimately decide the fate of the world, even from the moment of her Creation. Like the Biblical account, Eve stumbles across the Tree of Knowledge and meets the Serpent. Unlike the Biblical account, there isn't any trick, any deceit, and while the silver-tongued Serpent does make some suggestions, Eve's decisions are her own.

The Fall of Man by Hendrick Goltzius
(photographed by me)
So why did I retell Eve's story?
In college, I remember once seeing a flyer which blamed Eve, and therefore all women, for all temptation and sin. Basically, all the weakness of mankind had somehow buried her, and by association, all of the rest of the female sex. I could not wrap my mind around this concept, even as a Catholic, with all the associated guilt of Original Sin. The idea was so ridiculous to me, so beyond anything I'd ever imagined -- I still can't really believe it, to be honest -- but I think it was at that point that everything changed for me. I knew then that I really wanted to tell a different story, offer a different interpretation of Eve and her character.

After all, if Myth is a living thing, meant to be told and retold, interpreted and reinterpreted as the world turns, to make it relevant to the modern age -- why shouldn't Eve get a second chance, too? A chance to be her own woman, and make her own choices, and decide her own fate? And if Eve is going to get all the blame anyway, she might as well get a chance to earn it.

In Fate of the Gods, I gave her that chance. And I hope you all will, too.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fate Forgotten Blog Tour Adventure!

For your information and reference, a list of all the stop in the FATE FORGOTTEN blogtour! Links will be updated when the specific posts go live!

Week One:
November 5-8: ThorLove Bloghop WOO!

November 8: Review from LT Host
Week Two:
November 11: Thor/Athena excerpt at Cait Greer's blog (Author of EYRE HOUSE and PARAWARS: UPRISING) & an interview at Night Owl Reviews.  
November 12: About Loki -- Norse Myth, Tom Hiddleston, and FATE FORGOTTEN at Kit Campbell's blog.

November 13: Fantasy Writer of the Day on reddit's r/fantasy

November 14: Review of Fate Forgotten by Diana Paz (Author of TIMESPELL)
Week Three:
November 18: Fate Forgotten Book Talk at Zachary Tringali's blog

November 19: An Interview with Thor on Mia Hayson's blog

November 20: Author Interview at Fade into Fantasy

November 21: Odin in Norse Myth and Fate of the Gods on Rebecca Enzor's blog

November 22: Why I love my heroes: Garrit DeLeon, at Howling Turtle

(and if you want to be part of the blogtour, shoot me an email amaliatdillin (at) gmail (dot) com!)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Top 5 Favorite Thors! (ThorLove Bloghop!)

In celebration of Fate Forgotten, and all the the ThorLove within, let me share with you my Top 5 favorite Thors!

Ultimate Thor, complete with earrings and beer bottle!
1) Ultimate Thor (Marvel's Ultimates)

Ultimate Thor made Thor relevant to me and the modern world in a way that captivated me. It wasn't until I read The Ultimates that I really felt any connection or understanding of Thor at all. But suddenly, there he was, trying to save the whales and the environment and the world, and it just RESONATED. Hippy, Tree-Hugging Thor. It made so much sense to high-school-me, and it was BECAUSE of this reinterpretation of Thor's character that I started looking for Thor's other incarnations, within Marvel and without. Ultimate Thor is the source of all my ThorLove.

2) Mythological Thor

Because he is so much more complex than he at first appears. From his relationship with Loki, to his role as the god of the Everyman, the god of the Peasant, to his position as Guardian for the Aesir, Asgard, and humanity. He is fascinating, and the more I read of the myths and the sagas, the more I really appreciate why he was so beloved to the Norse.

3) JMS's Thor

JMS's Thor
When Thor's main title was relaunched in 2007, he was written by J. Michael Straczynski. The opening of that new series blew me away, when Thor, in the void of not-quite-death, is resurrected by his sometime-host, Donald Blake, who tells him, it is for MEN to decide when the gods are no longer needed. Thor comes back, and brings Asgard with him -- to Oklahoma. If you haven't read Volume One of JMS's run on Thor, I'm telling you right now you're missing out. And not just on Thor. There's also Lady Loki to consider.

4) Marvel's Movieverse Thor

Chris Hemsworth embodies Thor so perfectly it boggles the mind. And his gentle affection for Jane, his love of his friends, even at his most arrogant -- it's heart-melting. The shirtless Thor shot doesn't hurt either, if I'm being honest. When Hemsworth was first cast, I wasn't 100% sure of him -- I must have rewatched the first 15 minutes of New Trek a dozen times just to reassure myself that he had the POTENTIAL. He was so skinny! But I can't imagine anyone else cast in the role, now, and the first movie did a fantastic job of translating the comic and Thor to the live action screen. Here's hoping Thor: The Dark World doesn't disappoint, either!

5) Thor from Fate of the Gods, of course!

Thor is absolutely my favorite character to write. I love how thick with honor he is, and the way he tortures himself with it. I love the relationships he forms, and his loyalty, so hardened, and ultimately, so brittle -- when it breaks, it shatters, and there is no piecing it back together again. I love his capacity for love, and the way he doesn't always make the right choices, even for the best reasons. Sometimes, he's selfish. Sometimes, he believes he's helping, but the result is just more pain for himself and the people he loves most. I love that he will never abandon his people, even when they abandon him. More than anything, I love the idea that Thor has a place in our world, a purpose beyond anyone's understanding. I loved fitting him and his myths into the big puzzle that is the theology and philosophy of our modern world. I loved finding a home for him here.

And I hope that you'll love him, too!

Some other Thor incarnations you might love, (just) outside of my top 5:

  • Thor in Thor: The Mighty Avenger -- the first issue of which I'll be giving away to one lucky ThorLove bloghop participant! The art is so expressive it is ridiculously amazing.
  • Thor in Age of Odin by James Lovegrove (Norse gods, Ragnarok, and Sci Fi military battles of win!)
  • Thor the bear in Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (Odin and Loki are along for the ride, too.)
  • Thor from Thor's Wedding Day by Bruce Coville (it's a chapter book for kids, told from the perspective of Thjalfi! What's not to love?!)
  • Thor in Gods of Asgard by Erik Evensen (the art alone is worth it!)

Thanks so much for participating in the ThorLove bloghop -- I hope that you've found some new Thors to appreciate along the way! Don't forget to check out everyone else's favorite Thor posts over the next few days, and of course, pick up FATE FORGOTTEN if you want more of my particular brand of ThorLove! Also check out ST Bende's ELSKER SAGA for some step-son of Thor action, and a really fascinating take on Thor, himself!

Don't forget to read the other #ThorLove Bloghop participant entries! And there's still time to join in on the fun!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Fate Forgotten is Here! And the Thor Love Bloghop Begins!

It's FATE FORGOTTEN's book birthday, today!!! Pick up your copy in paperback from Amazon.com, and in digital formats for Kobo, Nook, and Kindle! And if you're wondering what Fate Forgotten has in store for you, allow me to remind you with some blurb-action:
Since the gods returned Adam's memory six hundred years ago, Thor has been a scourge on
his lives. But when Adam learns that Thor has been haunting his steps out of love for Eve, he is determined to banish the thunder god once and for all. Adam is no fool: Eve still loves the man she knew as Thorgrim, and if she ever learned he still lived, that he still loved her, Adam would lose any chance of winning Eve to his side, never mind liberating the world. But after everything Thor has done to protect Eve, everything he's sacrificed, the thunder god won't go without a fight. Not as long as Eve might love him again.

Which means that Adam has to find a new ally. The enemy of his enemy, complete with burning sword and righteous resentment of the gods. But in order to attract the Archangel Michael's attention, he needs Eve -- an unmarried Eve, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

It shouldn't be too difficult to find her in the future. Not now that he knows how to look.
Will Adam and Thor throwdown? Will Michael get involved? Or will Eve discover the truth and put a stop to all this nonsense post haste? Pick up FATE FORGOTTEN and find out! (Then don't forget to write your own review and post it on Amazon, B&N or Goodreads!)

AND!!! Today the #ThorLove bloghop begins, and as a host, I can't wait to read up on all your favorite Thors in pop-culture. As a participant, I'm thrilled to be able to talk a little bit about *my* favorite Thors, too. My own #ThorLove post will be going live at midnight tonight, but there's still time to sign up and enter to win prizes, to boot -- Mr. Linky and Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway