Norse Mythology and the Middengard Sagas

So….Middengard. What’s it based on? Did I make all that stuff up? No, I’m not clever enough for that, I’m afraid. We all need inspiration. Norse mythology was mine. (I’m in great company: Tolkien anyone?).

Norse mythology is fascinating – and quite complex. I only wanted to use bits (hey, I’m a writer, I can be choosey). So here’s a very, very high level summary. And then a bit about what I used and why.

Cosmology

There are nine worlds in Norse mythology, all with wonderful names:

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Niflheimland of fog and mists          Muspelheim – land of fire and lava

Asgard – home of the Gods                    Midgard – home of the humans

Jotunheim – home of the giant            Vanaheim – home of the Vanir

Alfheim – home of the light elves        Svartalheim – home of the dwarves

Helheim – home of the dishonorable dead, thieves and murderers

All nine worlds are held in the branches of the world tree, Yggdrasil.

So, I was a bit selective here. Midgard became “Middengard” – which is an alternative spelling in Old English texts for our world, or the earth. But in my stories, Middengard is the hidden world, the world that existed before the earth was populated by men, after the Final Battle (see Ragnoräk, below).

I also chose to combine the characteristics Niflheim and Helheim, to make one terrible place, where Alice’s mother is imprisoned.

Gods and Goddesses

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Freya – Goddess of love, war and death

There a number of Norse Gods and Goddesses, some more familiar to the modern reader (or filmgoer) than others. The male Gods are known as the Aesir and the female Gods as the Asynjur. The Vanir are also Gods, who fought with the Aesir but made peace with them after Rangoräk. They are known for their sorcery and ability to see the future. (Following this? Come on – keep up!).

Now, everyone knows about Thor (don’t they?) and possibly Odin, so here they are, along with a few important others:

Odin (Aesir): the most powerful God in Asgard, Odin can see across all the nine worlds.

Thor (Aesir): son of Odin. He is the strongest of all the Gods and the protector of mankind.

Frigg (Asynjur): married to Odin and stepmother to Thor, she has the power of prophecy.

Njord (Vanir): father of the twins Freya and Freyr, Njord came to live in Asgard once the war between the Aesir and the Vanir was over, bringing his children with him.

Freya (Vanir): daughter of Njord, she is the Goddess of love and known for her beauty, but is also associated with fertility, gold, war and death.

Freyr (Vanir): the beautiful male God of fertility, who is also associated with wealth and a good harvest. He rules in Alfheim and is Lord of the Elves.

In the Middengard Sagas (to date), only Freya has made an appearance. I have elevated her power, leaving the male Gods largely out of the picture. Her tears – the Doom Stones – are entirely a story of my making. She plays a crucial role in guiding Alice to fulfill her destiny and is the Goddess whom the Hilderinc most revere.

Importantly in Stone Quest, the character Isolde is of the Vanir. Her powers are wide-ranging – but luckily she only uses them for good. (Or does she? That’s why you need to read Book Three when it comes out….).

Ragnoräk

If you like epic fantasy, you’ll be familiar with “end of the world” scenarios. In Norse mythology, Ragnoräk is the final battle between Gods and giants, when everyone will die, including humans. Ragnoräk will take place on the plains of Vigrid. The signs that the final battle is coming are three uninterrupted, long, cold winters with no summers between. (Dare I mention – “winter is coming”?).

After Ragnoräk, most of the Gods will die, but a new world will rise up, and a man and woman who sheltered in Yggdrasil will repopulate the earth again. Several Gods will survive and these Gods will go to Idavoll. There will be a new terrible place, a hall on Nastrond, the shore of corpses. All thieves and murderers will be imprisoned in this place.

The concept of Ragnoräk, and what came after, is an important thread in the Middengard Sagas. Stanor tells Alice about the final battle in Stone Keeper. I don’t use the name Ragnoräk as I felt this might be too confusing. In my version of the story, the Hilderinc are contributors to (if not the instigators of) the final battle, and to punish them the Gods give the world over to men, leaving the Hilderinc in a guardianship role. It is frustration with this role (and the associated loss of power) that drives Geraint, whereas mankind’s ill-treatment of their gift (the earth) is one of the factors driving Alice’s unknown enemy in Stone Quest. Stone Quest also references Nastrond and the shore of corpses, where Ellie walks to pass the interminable days of her imprisonment.

Anything Else? What about the Hilderinc?

Ah yes, the Hilderinc. All my invention, I’m afraid. I needed some kind of “super human” with warrior characteristics – like a Viking on steroids. The word “hilderinc” comes from Old English and means “warrior” or “fighter.”

Which reminds me, talking of Old English (no, it doesn’t mean English spoken by old people). It used to be called Anglo Saxon and refers to the form of English spoken in parts of modern day England, between the fifth and late 11th centuries. I borrowed words from primary texts of that era. Here are a few of them:

Aetheling – means “lord” or “ruler”. I used this term for the Gods in Middengard, as I didn’t want to make an outright reference to the Norse Gods by calling them the Aesir. There are other Gods/Goddesses in my books that I invented, so this seemed the best way round it.

Anhaga – means solitary one, recluse, outcast. The Anhaga is such a person, as Stanor tells Alice in Chapter 10 of Stone Keeper.

Dõm – means judgement. This word eventually morphed into the modern day word “doom”. It’s an important concept in the Middengard world, as Alice’s stone is a “doom” stone, being a symbol of the judgement Freya passed on the Hilderinc after the Final Battle.

Ealdor – means prince or Lord. In Stone Quest, I gave this title to the ruler of the Skellstor Council, with a focus on the latter meaning. Importantly, the Council leader is not a king, as Middengard is a form of democracy, with no reigning monarchy.

 

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