Loki here, wishing you a very fine last morning the world will ever see!
The heavy sleepers among you may have missed things, but, as prophesied, when dawn broke on this lovely 22nd of February 2014, and the golden cock Gullinkambi crowed as usual from the roof of Valhalla, this time it was answered by the normally-silent sooty-red cock that sits deep in the depths on the snake-and-bone rafters of Hel’s hall. This means it’s time to celebrate! Nidhogg, the hard-working and industrious dragon of Chaos and Destruction, has finally chewed through the roots of the World Tree Yggdrasil, killing the tree and bringing the nine worlds crashing down. The unjust tyranny of Odin and the Aesir is no more. All bonds in the world are broken, and the beings unjustly imprisoned by the cruel gods have been set free: the hound Garm that’s been chained up outside the Gnippa cave for ages, my sons Jormungangir and fuzzy adorable Fenris, my sweet daughter Hel, my fellow giants, and, of course, myself.
As you buckle on your armor and prepare for battle, I thought I’d review the situation for you—what’s going to happen, why it’s happened, what’s at stake—just in case you’ve been taken in by some of that Aesir propaganda that’s floating about.
Today will be the most exciting day ever. Specifically the most exciting battle ever. Now that the many… shall we say “differently-moraled” powers of the universe are free, we’re naturally returning to take revenge on the oppressors. The fence between the Jotun lands and Midgard is broken, so all the giants and trolls and witches who have been exiled to the frozen north are returning to human lands at last (did you miss us?). The gates of Hel are open too, freeing countless hordes of human ghosts, who are riding back to living world at this very moment.
This may sound bad, what with all the zombie apocalypse propaganda, but think about it. These aren’t monsters. They’re just the souls of humans who weren’t lucky enough to catch the eye of Odin’s not-remotely-objective Valkyries (blatant favoritism!). Just for that these poor souls had to spend centuries starving in a pit of snakes and freezing water, while those who toadied up to the gods got to feast in Valhalla at Odin’s eternal BBQ. Not fair. And if centuries of darkness and torment have left the ghosts a little antisocial, well… that’s what being on the differently-moraled side is about: inclusivity, tolerance, looking past small differences, like rot, and unearthly howls, and who eats who.
You too can join in! That’s the exciting part: you get to be in on the most glorious thing that has ever happened or will ever happen! You have to fight, of course. You may be tempted to hide, especially once the fifty-headed trolls start coming over the horizon, but there’s no point. Prophecies are very clear about this. During the battle, the sky will crack open, freeing the fire giants of Muspelheim who will cover the Earth in flames, and then there will be more fighting, and some eating, and fighting, and in the end the corpse-winged dragon Nidhogg will rise from the deep and gloat over the cosmos as the Earth sinks down forever. So locking your doors and huddling isn’t really going to help. You have to fight, but the important part is to choose the right side.
WHAT ARE THE TEAMS?
On Team Aesir (a.k.a. Team Oppression, or Team Status Quo):
Thor the Thunderer
Sure, he’s the one to call if you want some skulls smashed, or need to quickly dispose of several thousand gallons of mead, but the god of storms and thunder couldn’t think his way out of a giant’s mitten if he tried. He did try. It was hilarious!
Tyr, God of Swords and Victory
A liar and a cheat. He gave his word he’d free Fenris from the magic rope he tied him up with in the “test of strength” game they were playing, and then he deliberately left my poor boy hogtied and starving, with a stick jammed in his jaws so he couldn’t even talk or close his mouth. Left him for centuries!
Freyia, Goddess of Love and Beauty
Even a Jotun will sympathize if you want go onto the field with Freyia; she’s intelligent, competent, deadly in battle, and so masterful she can even get cats to go in a straight line and pull her chariot. Also she’s the most beautiful. But, frankly, you can admire her and her skills at even closer range when it’s your sword clashing against hers.
Heimdall, God of Being a No-Fun Stick-In-The-Mud Stubborn Jerk
Seriously, this man is the enemy of fun. All he does is stand out in the rain all day and keep watch, obsessively eavesdropping on everyone and everything. He’s like a cosmic stalker! And whenever someone does try to do something fun—like, say, steal Freyia’s magic necklace, just as a joke—he has to take it all so seriously!
And the Team Captain: Odin, the Allfather
Cold, ruthless, judgmental, hypocritical. Don’t make the mistake of imagining for one second that we’re talking about a kind, benevolent father figure. Odin has ransacked the nine worlds to rack up every power he can to maintain his regime: dwarven weapons, runecraft, black magic, human sacrifice, theft, murder, you name it. The spellbook he lists in the Poetic Edda has waaaay too many manipulation and necromancy spells to belong to any good guy.
And Odin shapeshifts and tricks people twice as much as I do, always for his own gain instead of for the art of it. He even tricked me into doing his dirty work back when I thought he was my friend. Before he hurled me into a pit, the way he does to anything he can’t control.
Don’t believe me? It you’re still thinking of Odin as nice guy, ask yourself this: would a kindly father make a system where only a tiny, select warrior elite gets a happy afterlife and everyone else gets ice and snakes forever? Would he?
On Team Chaos (a.k.a. Team Liberty, or Team Revolution):
“He Whom All Gods Hate” the Fenris Wolf
The biggest, cuddliest, fuzziest puppy there’s ever been. Ever since Odin had cruel Tyr trick him he’s been trapped on a remote island all alone, but now he gets to come play! Also that whole swallowing the Sun thing is totally propaganda. It’s one of Fenris’s descendants that’s going to eat the sun, my boy is just going to eat Odin. You can’t fault him for going after Odin, I mean, Odin tortures (very large) puppies!
Jormungangir the World Serpent
If you’re lucky enough to live by water, you may already have noticed my second son’s coils churning the oceans to foam. I can’t wait to get to Midgard and see him again. Odin took him away when he was tiny, and I didn’t get to visit when I was locked up, so last time I saw him he was only 25,000 miles long, and all alone there at the bottom of the sea without his papa. Poor little guy.
Hel, Queen of the Damned
I know she sounds scary, what with being an ancient, primeval witch. And she looks scary, a crone, all ice pale on one side and black like a frozen corpse on the other. But I’ll lend you some Troll Shards—magic shards trolls and giants have in our eyes that let us see beauty and ugliness reversed. Pop one in your eye and you’ll soon see my girl is ten times lovelier than Freyia.
Surt the Fire Giant King
We’ve never met, but I can vouch for his work, very thorough, very reliable, very scorched-earth. He’s supposed to wield a flaming sword more brilliant than the sun, and it’s his crew’s job to crack open the sky and break Bifrost the Rainbow Bridge. Here’s to teamwork.
I trust my reputation to precede me. I am the mind that burns so bright that the Allfather spotted me among all the beings in the nine worlds and brought me to Asgard to stand at his side. If my imprisonment means you haven’t had a chance to get to know me, you have one last chance today.
WHAT IS THE VENDETTA ABOUT?
Finally, before you accuse me of trying to hide the real issue and getting you to pick based on personality alone, you may be wondering what this whole Ragnarok business is about. So I’ll do my best to give you an unbiased summary of both sides:
- This was our world first. In primordial days we Jotuns, descendants of the giant Ymir, lived all over the wild, icy universe. But Odin and his brothers murdered Ymir, let almost all of us drown in his blood, and exiled the survivors to a remote corner, while he defiled Ymir’s corpse and used it to create a soft sappy world for soft sappy humans.
- Odin filled the world with painful, ugly, blinding, horrible light that gives us Jotuns terrible migraines. The sun is the worst offender, gaudy horrid thing, but there’s also the moon and stars, just so we can never get away.
- Odin and the other Aesir have waged continual war against Jotunkind, building a fence to confine us, trapping his rainbow bridge to burn us, and sending countless expeditions of violent idiots *cough*Thor*cough* into our lands to hunt us whenever they thought we were recovering our former power.
- Odin kidnapped and imprisoned my children, Hel, Fenris and Jormungangir, who were completely innocent young monsters, just because he claimed they would be dangerous when they grew up. And he killed some of my other, more humanoid children, and keeps poor Sleipnir in a barn! Just because he’s a horse…
- Odin lets something like 90% or more of all humans fall into Hel’s hall forever and keeps Valhalla reserved only for his favorites. Really, do you support that system?
- Odin is an oathbreaker. He and I swore a sacred, binding blood-oath that we would never harm each other or let the other be harmed, and he broke his oath and imprisoned me in a pit, bound in the ice cold guts of my own dismembered son, with a serpent dripping acid on my face. For a very long time.
- Jotuns and trolls kill people. Sometimes. I guess. Not that humans don’t. Heck, not that Odin himself doesn’t squish humans whenever he’s feeling cross.
- And there was the incident with Baldur. Don’t know who Baldur was? Good. He was a weak, pathetic little excuse for a god, god of sappy things like tenderness, and familial love, and sunlight, and all the little fragile comforts that make life bearable, like the spring thaw and tender shoots and baby bunnies. Horrid. Oh, and he was Odin’s son. So I tricked his blind brother Hod into killing him with a shaft of mistletoe. It was a beautiful plan, elegance itself, worthy to go down among the great tricks of all history. And I let the truth slip, since I thought Odin wouldn’t punish me for it—he couldn’t punish me for it, because he swore a binding blood-oath never to harm me, never ever. Oathbreaker.
And that is the honest truth about how the score stands. So, time for you to choose a side, and quickly. My ship, with all the hordes of dead on board, is probably arriving even now. You must make up your own mind, of course. I won’t try to bias you. But do you really want to spend the last day of your life helping an oathbreaker? Or would you rather spend it tasting the ancient forces that the oppressor gods have tried so long to leash? And if you’re finding the decision pressuring, just remember: if you do decide to throw your lot in with the more… unconventional… side today, there won’t be anyone around to judge you when it’s over. There won’t be anyone at all when this is over. Just a dragon.
Loki Laufeyjarson is a Jotun and an honorary Aesir god, blood-brother of Odin. The Tor.com blogging account which Loki hacked in order to make this post belongs to Ada Palmer, an historian of European literature and philosophy, who writes the blog Ex Urbe, and composes Viking-themed music for the a cappella group Sassafrass. Her first novel is forthcoming from Tor Books in 2015.