Post by Anhinga on May 22, 2015 13:54:36 GMT -8
So before anyone reads this, I would like to say I SUCK ROYALLY at writing. I thought this may be neat to share though, given it's WoW theme.
I wrote this last semester (SP2015) for my Norse Mythology class.
Norse Mythology in Northrend
An Analysis of Norse Mythology in
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
Many forms of entertainment have sought to bring stories from Norse mythology to the masses, whether it be a movie, game, book, or art. Many of these new installments of Norse mythology were amazingly successful, such as the movie Thor. Rarely considered are the numerous video games that allow a player to live out Norse mythology in one way or another.
The massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft (WoW), is set in a fictional world known as Azeroth. Game play primarily consists of completing quests, dungeon runs and raids, and other in-game activities. As a game, WoW has frequently adapted legends, fairy tales and the like to become quests and adventures. Approximately 6 years ago, WoW released an expansion to their game called Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK), in which its players travel to the harsh, desolate, and cold Northrend. The main goal is to kill the big bad guy, the Lich King, similar to the end goal of almost any video game. One feature of this expansion became apparent to me shortly after starting my adventures in Northrend: many of the stories and heroes you help are based off of Norse mythology. In the following paragraphs I will describe a very interesting adaptation of Norse mythology: a rehashing of it in a wildly popular video game.
For ease of understanding, I will refer to Northrend when I am specifically speaking of Wrath of the Lich King adventures, heroes, and villains. When I am referring to a god or in-game character which is pervasive through all World of Warcraft lore, I will refer to them as being a WoW character, class of beings, or adventure.
Here is a little game guide to help make this paper more understandable:
WoW is the acronym of the video game (in it's entirety).
Azeroth is the home world of the World of Warcraft universe.
Northrend the northern continent of Azeroth where the Wrath of the Lich King expansion pack takes place in, where most of the characters in this paper are found.
Ulduar is the prison of the old god Yogg-Saron, and upon reaching Northrend, the player learns all of the Watchers have been corrupted and brought to Ulduar.
Titans are essentially gods in the WoW universe, and travel across the universe to bring order to worlds. The Titanic Watchers were assigned by the Titans to guard Ulduar from tampering. Specifically, they are Freya, Hodir, Mimiron, and Thorim.
Yogg-Saron, an Old God, is imprisoned in the Titan complex Ulduar. Old God's are mysterious, godlike and greatly malefic horrors which ruled in tyranny over the infant universe before they were defeated and sequestered by the Titanic Pantheon.
The Aesir and Vanir
The Aesir in Norse mythology were the upper class of Gods. They lived and ruled from Asgard, a place more or less equivalent to Heaven. They were enemies with the Vanir ( Sturluson, 2014, p. 7; Lindow, 2001, p. 49). In WoW, the Aesir are known as Storm Giants, and are a class of Titans which are more or less benevolent gods. The most famous Aesir in WoW are Norgannon, who is the Titan overseer of arcane magic, and Aman'Thul, often considered the leader of the Titan Pantheon (website 2).
The Vanir, who reside in Vanaheim, are the lower class of Gods in Norse mythology, and are mortal enemies of the Aesir. At times in their history the Aesir and Vanir have entered a very uneasy truce (Lindow, 2001, p. 311). The Vanir of WoW are Earth Giants and are the lower tier of Titans. The Aesir and Vanir are not mortal enemies in WoW as they are in Norse mythology, yet there is still a very clear distinction between the two in that the Aesir are more powerful mentally, while the Vanir are physically tough. In WoW, the offspring of the Vanir are Earth Giants, Stone Giants, Earthen, Dwarves and Troggs, which are all beings created from the earth is various ways. The most famous Vanir are Sargeras and Khaz'Goroth, which are two of the most evil figures in the WoW universe. Sargeras is a corrupted Titan who wants nothing more than to destroy Azeroth, whereas Khaz'Goroth corrupted a benevolent dragon guardian into becoming the malevolent Deathwing, who was also intent on destroying Azeroth (website 2).
Angrboda and Ymir
Picture 1. Queen Angrboda (left) and King Ymiron (right).
Ymir, who was the first Frost Giant in Norse mythology, was born in the icy chaos of Niflheim. His sweat created the first man and woman, and his body was material for the world. His grandson Odin slaughtered him in his eternal sleep and used the body to shape land, sea and sky (Lindow, 2001, p. 322-325). In Northrend, Ymiron is the king of the Vrykul (the Vrykul will be covered in another section). A long time ago Ymiron felt betrayed by the Titans, and in his anger commanded the weak offspring of the Vrykul race, which were the humans, to be exterminated. Some families decided to preserve their children. In a way, he and Vrykul were creators of all humanity (website 2).
Angrboda was an evil Ice Giantess and mistress of Loki. She gave birth to monsters like Fenrir, Jormungand and Hel (Lindow, 2001, p. 59). In Northrend Angrboda was the wife and queen of king Ymiron. She is clearly evil, but by no means an Ice Giantess (but Ymir, Ymiron's prototype was an Ice Giant). A quest in Northrend asks you to slay her and interrupt the ritual she is using to wake Ymiron from his eternal slumber (website 2). Jormungand, the World Serpent and child of Angrboda and Loki, is a beast of great prowess. This Norse monster was fated to fight in Ragnarok, the final battle between Gods and Giants (Lindow, 2001, p. 59). In Northrend, the Jormungar are worm-like creatures native to Northrend. They are said to be children of Loken (website 2).
Loki, Thor, and Sif
Picture 2. Loken (left), Thorim (right).
Loki is the son of giants, a trickster, shape shifter, and was one of Thor's closest friends. He is known to be notoriously mischievous (Lindow, 2001, p. 216-220). In Northrend, Loken is a Sentinel, Keeper, and Prime Designate. Loken was another of the original Watchers, and was charged with ensuring that Yogg-Saron didn't escape from his prison in Ulduar. Recently Loken has been corrupted by the Old God (Yogg-Saron), and has started betraying, capturing and killing his former colleagues, the titanic Watchers. He is a shape shifter, and sets players on their path of redeeming Thorim, but ultimately bringing him into Loken's hands. In order to accomplish this, Loken tricked Thorim into believing that the Frost Giants had killed his wife Sif. Loken is currently located in the Halls of Lightning and is killable by players (website 2).
Thor is one of the most famous Norse gods Thor is son of Odin and Jord, god of Thunder, and summons lightning with his hammer, Mjolnir. He was a good friend with Loki, and the Trickster often used the fact that Thor was not especially bright to pull jokes on him. Sif was Thor's wife (Lindow, 2001, p. 266, 287-291). In Northrend, Thorim is one of the titanic Watchers, charged with overseeing Yogg-Saron's prison from his place at the Temple of Storms. A long time ago, Thor was tricked by Loken, his twin brother, into believing that the Frost/Ice Giants (whose offspring are the Sons of Hodir) murdered his wife Sif, while in reality it was Loken who did it. Thorim, enraged by what he thought the Giants did, broke his promise to watch over the races of Frost, threw his hammer Krolmir away and retired to the top of his Temple, falling prey to depression and haunted visions of Sif. Thorim is currently corrupted by Yogg-Saron, and located in Ulduar (website 2). Mjolnir is Thor's thunder hammer, crafted by dwarves, and was given to him as a gift from Loki (Lindow, 2001, p. 99-101). In Northrend, Krolmir was the hammer of Thorim, which he discarded at Thunderfall in the Storm Peaks. Upon hearing the story that the Frost/Ice giants had killed Sif he threw the hammer to the ground with all of his rage. Artifacts of the hammer's power can still be seen in Thunderfall: giants and runed dwarves, frozen mid-fight (website 2).
Sif is the Goddess of Harvest in Norse mythology and was Thor's wife. Sif was known to be very beautiful, and her golden hair was more than remarkable. One night Loki sneaked in her bedroom and stole some of her hair. When Thor learned of Loki's actions, he beat Loki badly (Lindow, 2001, p. 100). In Northrend, Sif was Thorim's wife before she was killed by Loken, who blamed the Frost Giants for her death, knowing that Thorim would act hotheadedly. When players start the quest chain to lead them to Thorim, Loki, masked as a female Vrykul, attaches a strand of hair to the player's head (website 2).
This trio out of the Norse pantheon seems the best fit for their Northrend counterparts. For example, Loken mirrors Loki almost action for action. The story about Sif's stolen hair in-game ties very well into the games lore. The mythological version isn't quite as exciting: Loki cuts Sif's hair as a prank, and this enrages Thor enough that he decides beating Loki is the most reasonable solution. Loki talks his way out of probable death from the hands of the Thor, promising to have a headpiece made of gold made for Sif. As the story unfolds, Loki makes the dwarves craft not only beautiful headpiece for Sif, but the hammer Mjolnir for Thor, and spear Gungnir for Odin, and a few more powerful artifacts (Lindow, 2001, p. 100).
The Northrend version is very interesting. A quest is offered by Lok'lira the Crone, who appears to be an old female Vrykul. According to her own words, she is "known as a Yrkvinn, a practitioner of illusions". She leads you for a long quest chain, which eventually ends with you dragging Thorim out of his depression and restoring his warrior's spirit. Thorim, encouraged by what seems to be a smile from fate, decides to take revenge on his brother Loken for killing Sif. Unfortunately, this whole scenario was a trap, and Thorim promptly falls into it. Apparently Lok'lira was a disguised Loken, and has been manipulating Thorim all along, walking him steadily into the trap. The last quest in the series offered by Lok'lira ends with a gift of a thin strand of hair, which seems to be a nod towards the prank Loki pulled on Sif in mythology (website 2).
Valkyries/Val'kyr and Valhalla
Picture 3. Val'kyr.
The Valkyrie collect warriors fallen in battle and bring them to Valhalla (Lindow, 2001, p. 95-96). In Northrend, the Val'kyr observe the Vrykul warriors and judge their worthiness. They essentially play the role of the eyes of the Lich King much like supervisors of the Vrykul. A particular Valkyrie name Brynhild was the most beautiful of all Valkyries in Norse mythology. She was the only one Odin could not have his way with, which is why he put her asleep in a ring of fire on top of a mountain. She was rescued by a hero named Sigurd (Lindow, 2001, p. 194). In Northrend, Brunnhildar is a village inhibited by female frost vrykul known as hyldnir. Here they train to become skilled warriors, but in a noble way, unlike the Vrykul and Val'kyr in service of the Lich King. The Hyldnir wage war against the Sons of Hodir, a faction of Frost Giants, because they believe the Sons are betraying Thorim, to whom the Hyldnir remain loyal. Two of the non-player characters in Brunnhildar seem to be named after Sigurd (Sigdis the Trader and Sigfinna) (website 2).
Niflheim is the mythological realm of ice, and home of the Frost Giants in addition to the origin of Ymir (Lindow, 2001, p. 240-241). In Northrend, Dun Niffelem is the home of the Sons of Hodir (Frost Giants) (website 2). There is also a Vrykul village named Nifflevar (website 1). Jotuns, another class of giants in Norse mythology, lived in Jotunheim although they were also known to reside in Utgarde (Lindow, 2001, p. 206). In Northrend, Jotun is a giant or cursed titan, labeled “The Curse Bearer” who walks up and down an empty road in a sparse region of Northrend. In addition to this giant, Jotunheim is a Vrykul city in Icecrown (a region of Northrend), where the Vrykuls train, so they can fight in Valhalas. The winners from Valhalas are sent to Ymirheim, to become Ymirjar; the losers are transformed into Val'gur, undead Vrykul (website 2). In Norse mythology, the warriors picked to die by the Valkyr are named Einherjar (Lindow, 2001, p. 104-105).
Valhalla was more or less the Paradise for all slain warriors in Norse mythology. After warriors died, Valkyries would descend to them, and if deemed worthy, would fetch them to the Halls of Valhalla. Here, the warriors could eat, drink, fight (to the death) and make love to their hearts content in a cycle that would end only at Ragnarok, the End of the World (Lindow, 2001, p. 308-309). In Northrend, Valhalas is a Vrykul arena in Jotunheim, Icecrown. Vrykuls from all over the continent are trained hard so they can get a chance to fight in Valhalas. The winners from the arena are sent to Ymirheim, where they become the elite Ymirjar warriors; the losers are transformed into Val'gur, undead Vrykul. The battles are overseen by the Val'kyr, female Vrykul transformed into angel-looking creatures, serving the Lich King directly and loyally (website 2).
The World Tree
Yggdrasil is the world tree of Norse mythology, a huge ash tree that supports the Nine Worlds. Its roots run as deep as the Well of Knowledge. Nidgogg the Dragon parasites on the tree and calls it home ( Sturluson, 2014, p. 6, 9; Lindow, 2001, p. 239, 319-322). In the WoW universe, the original world tree, Nordrassil was located on Mount Hyjal, its roots going to the Well of Eternity (which is very similar to the Well of Knowledge). In Northrend, Vordrassil is a World Tree in Grizzly Hills, corrupted by Yogg-Saron, similar to Nidgogg's parasitism on Yggdrasil. (website 2)
In Norse mythology Freya is the Goddess of love, fertility and desire. She's also a feisty warrior and Queen of the Valkyries. She liked flowers very much or at least liked them when she was not busy seducing men, dwarves and Gods alike (Lindow, 2001, p. 126-128). In Northrend one of the titanic Watchers, Freya is also known as a Daughter of the Titans. She seems to be overseeing the life on Azeroth, and plants in particular. She was also tasked with watching over the imprisoned Yogg-Saron from her Temple of Life. She is currently corrupted by Yogg-Saron, and located in Ulduar (website 2).
Hod and Mimir
Picture 4. Mimiron
In Norse mythology, Hod was the blind god of darkness and winter. He was son of Odin, twin brother of Baldur god of Peace. Loki tricked Hod into killing Baldur (Lindow, 2001, p. 177-179). In Northrend, Hodir is another one of the titanic Watchers. Hodir used to watch over Yogg-Saron's prison from his Temple of Winter. He, like the other Watchers, is currently corrupted by Yogg-Saron, and located in Ulduar (website 2).
Mimir was god of Wisdom and Knowledge in mythology. He was very close to Odin, even in his current decapitated state (Lindow, 2001, p. 230-232). In Northrend, Mimiron is a mechagnome (a mechanical gnome), an inventor, thinker and tinker of great knowledge. He was a titanic Watcher. He is currently corrupted by Yogg-Saron, and located in Ulduar (website 2).
Is Odin Somehow Represented by Yogg-Saron?
Yogg-Saron, who is the real culprit to much of the corruption in Northrend, could represent several concepts of Norse mythology. Yogg-Saron corrupted Azeroth's world tree Vordrassil, and many wonder if Yogg-Saron's name somehow represent Yggdrasil (Lindow, 2001, p. 319-322). Ygg is also one of the aliases of Odin (Lindow, 2001, p. 61), and it is possible Yogg-Saron may represent a corrupted Odin (website 3).
Bor, Skadi and Var
While there are many connections between Northrend and Norse mythology, several places/people in Northrend are given Norse names, without a great deal of connection existing between the character and the characters mythological story.
Bor was the grandson of Ymir and Audumbla. Bor's most famous act was fathering Odin, the head of the pantheon (Lindow, 2001, p. 90). In Northrend, a region is named after Bor entitled Bor's Breath, and looks like a canyon of ice/frozen river (website 2).
Skadi and Ingvar are two characters found, and killed, in a place called Utgarde Keep (website 4). Utgarde in Norse mythology refers to the stronghold of the giants in Jotunheim (Lindow, 2001, p. 302). The Skadi of Norse mythology was a giantess, ex-wife to Njordr, and the Goddess of winter, hunting and skiing (268). In Northrend, Skadi the Ruthless is a male, and perhaps the only similarity is that he is a Frost Vrykul, and he looks like somebody who may enjoy hunting (website 2). Ingvar could possibly represent Var, who is the goddess associate with oaths and agreements(Lindow, 2001, p. 312), as the Northrend version seems to be a communicant between the Vrykul and the other races on Northrend (website 1).
While still meeting the expectations of a multimillion player gaming community, World of Warcraft was able to present a thrilling trek through the frosty reaches of Northrend, while giving it's player base an opportunity to play through some of their favorite Norse stories, albeit with a slight twist in some cases. These adventures even played into the greater theme of Wrath of the Lich king, making the opportunity of questing alongside the Norse pantheon even more interesting to players. Ulduar, which is a region mentioned often in this paper, is where a great deal of the mythological elements meet together, as the Watchers are all imprisoned there. It is the role of the players to break Yogg-Saron's corruption of the Watchers, and then, in the style of an old-fashioned jail break, break all of the Watchers out of their jail, allowing them to go back to their jobs of maintaining Yogg-Saron in his prison, so he is unable to corrupt Northrend again.
(** a note about my sources used: most of the commentary regarding Northrend as a Norse mythology analog comes from WoW players with interests in Norse mythology. As is frequently the case with doing research on a video game, I struggled to find any published sources regarding the game and it's Norse Mythological underpinnings. Since many of the game websites lacked original author names, I use the number of the website in my citations list to cite in-text)
1. “WOTLK and Norse mythology.” allakhazan.com wow.allakhazam.com/forum.html?forum=21&mid=1234975745297168273
2. “Nordic Northrend.” wowhead. www.wowhead.com/news=81221/nordic-northrend
3. “Yogg-Saron.” wowwiki. www.wowwiki.com/Yogg-Saron
4. “Modern influences of Norse mythology.” hubpages.com jg11bravo.hubpages.com/hub/Viking-Law
1. Lindow, John. Norse mythology: A guide to the gods, heroes, rituals and beliefs. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.
2. Sturluson, Snorri. The Poetic Edda. Trans. Carolyne Larrington. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print. Sturluson, 2014, p.