Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scandinavian Mythology

The mighty Thor rides a goat-drawn chariot.

That's right... goats!

Zeus has a chariot pulled by gorgeous winged horses. Even Santa gets some cute reindeer. The Norse myths give the Valkyries, or women warriors who collect the dead from the battlefield, winged-horses that drive chariots.

Thor just got the short end of the stick. I can see oxen or bulls. But goats? Maybe they were the two older Billy Goats Gruff.

None of the three books I read on Scandinavian mythology explained this, although in Mary Pope Osborne's book, Favorite Norse Myths,  (4.8 reading level) the goats were gold. I guess that might look cool.

According to the book, Scandinavian Mythology (6.7 reading level), by Jason Porterfield, Thor is the Viking ideal. In the book, Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse (4.9 reading level), by Leonard Everett Fisher, Thor has a magical belt that doubles his strength, a magical hammer that makes lightning when he strikes things, and a chariot that rumbles as thunder when he rides it around the sky. The bleating of goats is the sound of light rain - just kidding. Thor  is the most popular of the Norse gods.  

Porterfield's book is packed with information and the language is at a higher level than the other two books. Osborne's book reads like a story and is probably going to be the most engaging if you don't want to get bogged down with facts, while Everitt's book is more introductory with each page describing a god.

What I enjoyed the most about reading the books are how much literature came to mind that uses Norse myths. The Alchemyst: the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott has the tree Yggdrasilll and its collapse. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R. Tolkien uses the legend of the curse of the ring. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis has an endless winter. In Norse Myths an endless winter will precede Ragnarok, the final battle between the gods and giants or good and evil.

Odin gets an eight-legged horse that is faster than any horse. He is the "All Father" and has a habit of taking all the best for himself. Maybe that's why Thor got the goats. Every Christmas we put up these cute straw goats which my bestemor or grandma said came from Sweden. Porterfield said that many Christmas traditions are celebrations of pre-Christian Scandinavia and the straw goats represent the goats that pull Thor's chariot.

I looked up online why he rode goats and there is a story of him eating the goats and then resurrecting them. It also said that the horns on the goats were magnificent and that they were faster than any of the other chariots.

Jason in the Lost Hero gets rescued from some evil wind gods by a winged-horse-drawn chariot. It might have been funny if he'd been picked up by a goat-drawn chariot. The goats are the fauns or satyrs who protect the kids at the camp.

But I'm getting side-tracked.

I suppose the Scandinavians picked the goat for practical reasons. The goat was important to the farmer in providing milk for a family and other sustenance such as nutrition. My view of the goat  is more urban than rural.

:-) :-) :-) 3 Smileys

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