The Rise of Viking Lore Aug02

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The Rise of Viking Lore

Chances are your high school literature teacher never exposed you to the “Prose Edda.” If someone mentions Snorri Sturlson, you probably won’t connect him as the skald (or poet), who penned the aforementioned “Prose Edda.” Yet much like the blind poet, Homer, whose masterworks “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” are largely responsible for passing down the mythology of the Greeks and Romans, Sturlson’s “Prose Edda” is the primary source for Norse mythology. Still largely shrouded in mystery and maddening gaps in the storylines, the ancient tales of the Scandinavian peoples are enjoying a resurgence of popularity in contemporary culture. Blockbuster movies featuring Thor, Loki and Odin rake in hundreds of millions of dollars. Snorri’s old tales are full of fantasy, brutality, mischief, drinking, fighting and warrior pride. But, why are they so popular now?

Author Aaron Shaver draws heavily on the ancient Norse myths as the backdrop for his thrilling new contemporary fantasy series, The Berserker Heritage, where modern culture clashes with ancient races and the blood never forgets. BuddyHollywood.com recently had the opportunity to chat with Shaver about the rise of Norse Mythology in pop culture.

Q: So, lets cut to the chase and ask the question—what’s fueling this new passion in the film, TV, and literary world for Norse mythology?

Aaron Shaver: There have been books and movies that increase their popularity, but I think it’s a chicken and egg question. Creative people, filmmakers and authors, like the Norse gods because we know them less. They are more flexible. They haven’t been codified by the pop culture as much as the Greek gods or some of the other more well-known pantheons. Though we know Thor as the god of thunder and Loki as the god of mischief, when you look at the source material they are so much more than that. For example, Loki was a trickster, but he also was a helper and champion of mankind. We may think of Odin as the benevolent, wise All-Father, but he is often portrayed in the original stories as violent and vengeful.

Q: When it comes to world mythologies, it may be fair to say that the tales of the Norse pantheon are lesser well know compared to, say, the Greek pantheon with Zeus atop Mt. Olympus. Why do you think that is? After all, they are both mythologies from Western cultures.

Shaver: Yes, both are western mythologies, but if you look at the history of the Greeks, and later the Romans, there are a multitude of sub-cultures that became the forerunners of our own Western culture and politics. They have a history that was recorded; written down and passed on to future generations. Even our own democratic form of government was derived from the Greeks and Romans. The Vikings, on the other hand, appeared to spend far more time conquering, fighting, and drinking than writing down their stories.

Q: In light of the popularity of Marvel’s Thor movies, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, TV shows like Vikings and derivative cultural phenomena like Game of Thrones, what do you think has caused the uptick in interest in Norse mythology in recent years?

Shaver: That’s a tough question. How does any trend build momentum? I think it’s more like a wave. Give it a decade and it will recede; give it another decade and the wave swells again. Whenever there is new evidence of ancient cultures that archaeologists discover, there is a resurgence of interest in that culture. Norse mythology has so much blank space, and nature hates a vacuum. Our culture wants to fill in those gaps. Now seems to be the perfect confluence of discovery and imagination.

Q: How accurate do you think some of these movies and TV shows are to the original tales and personalities of Odin, Loki, and Thor?

Shaver: I’m sure it’s a far cry from being accurate, but the stories even in their source material, were flexible. Some stories portray Odin as being a kindly old grandfather, and others portray him as a con-man, a bad guy. I think when we see Thor in the Marvel movies, his personality is pretty close to the original Eddas; always looking for a fight; eager to fight and drink. I think the most accurate depiction of Odin is in Gaiman’s American Gods. He’s not the kindly grandfather from the Marvel movies.

Q: I would venture to propose this fascination with Norse mythology, which is enjoying a resurgence these days, isn’t something new. Author Michael Crichton explored the mythology and culture of the Norsemen in his book, Eaters of the Dead, which was later made into the not particularly successful film, The 13th Warrior. And 1930’s pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard drew heavily on Norse mythology for his iconic hero, Conan the Barbarian.

Shaver: Even Lord of the Rings puts a Norse slant on English history. I think GenXers and Millennials are attracted by that sense of living by the work of your own hands, which is thematic of Norse mythology; having a sense that we can vicariously live through the tales of those who worked hard, in a cold, harsh, bitter environment to make a life. These were brave, heroic people. I think this generation wants to believe they, too, could get on a boat and by the work of their own hands earn what they want.

Q: You draw on Norse mythology for your debut novel, Furious, (WordCrafts Press, 2018) the first volume of The Berserker Heritage. Without any spoilers, tell me a little about the book.

Shaver: I wanted to introduce the old mythology into a contemporary culture and watch those two things clash. I wanted to smack changing diapers, punching a time clock, and buying groceries against the Viking mentality of gold and mead and a good fight. And there are trolls.

Q: Tell me about The Gentleman Bard.

Shaver: The Gentleman Bard is a website and YouTube channel where I pick apart and have a conversation about geek culture. I talk about what makes a good story and explore how it shows up in our real lives. Once you see these patterns in storytelling, you’ll start to see them showing up when you have a conversation with your wife or your boss.

Q: Last words?

Shaver: I Love the mystery behind the myths, the flexibility of the characters, as they are introduced. Historians and literary experts still aren’t sure what’s real and what’s legend from the “Prose Edda.” These tales are composed of layer upon layer to dig into. I had fun taking what is known about these myths and giving them a twist. I think fans of contemporary interpretations of Norse myths will get a kick out of it.

About Aaron Shaver:

Aaron Shaver is unashamedly a product of the TV Generation. He found his love for storytelling at a young age through books as well as cartoon shows on Saturday mornings and preachers on Sunday mornings.

He earned his under grad in theatre and a master’s degree in public relations. Which means he’s always telling a story. And sometimes, they are true.

Shaver and his wife Elaina, who performs and teaches theatre locally, reside in the Nashville area with their wild clan of four children. There house is a very loud house.

Visit him online at GentlemanBard.com