Best Of 2022: God Of War Ragnarok’s Twist On Norse Mythology Is An Excellent Subversion

Spoilers ahead for God of War and God of War Ragnarok

“Baldur is blessed with invulnerability to all threats, physical or magical,” Memir tells Kratos and his son Atreus in 2018’s God of War. Yet as Sundri, the dwarven blacksmith, handed the young god a bundle of mistletoe arrows, I knew Baldur’s fate was sealed.

I am not an expert on Norse mythology, but the legends of Odin, Thor, the giants and the Vanir are ones that have interested me for many years. I know the broad strokes and some of the smaller myths that surround Ragnarok, from the story of Thor tricking the sea into drinking it to create waves to the story of the building of the walls of Asgard. – which ends with Loki getting pregnant. Horse, by the way. While some players wondered how Kratos would ever stop an undetectable god, I knew the answer was already sitting in front of us, neatly tucked away on Atreus’ quiver. The exact details of Baldur’s ultimate death may be different in God of War than in Norse mythology, but the mistletoe–and by extension, Atreus–still plays a significant role in the death of his fearsome adversary. .

Most of what we know about Norse mythology comes from two older 13th-century works, the Poetry Edda and the Prose Edda. I’ve explored both briefly, but most of my knowledge of these old pagan stories comes from Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, an excellent book that reimagines many Norse legends while making them palatable for a modern audience. Describes. Because of this, God of War didn’t throw too many curveballs my way with one notable exception. The eventual revelation that Atreus was actually Loki was quite shocking, not least because it introduced some problems with the timeline of events. For the most part, however, God of War sticks pretty closely to the mythology it’s pulling from, only deviating notably when it comes to certain characters and their prominence in the story. Oh, and not usually an angry Greek god either.

Going into God of War Ragnarok, I was expecting more of the same – more subtle spins on otherwise well-established mythos. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For all the praise I can heap on the many different aspects of the Santa Monica studio’s spellbinding sequel, what’s most deserving is the game’s narrative toys before subverting those expectations in entertaining ways. How often happens with established knowledge of Norse mythology.

Fenrir is one of the most obvious examples. At the beginning of God of War Ragnarok, Fenrir, one of Atreus’s pet wolves, dies in the young boy’s arms moments after first meeting him. This is a surprising turn of events considering that Fenrir played an important role in Norse mythology, devouring Odin whole during the world-ending events of Ragnarok. You see, Fenrir is one of Loki’s three children, the other two being Hel, goddess of the underworld, and Jormungunder, the world serpent. It is prophesied by Asir that the three will bring great trouble to the gods because of who their father is.

In Norse mythology, Loki is often depicted as a cunning trickster who serves as both an ally and an enemy of the other gods. The same can be said of Atreus, though the Santa Monica studio redeems him somewhat by portraying the villain as someone capable of compassion and kindness. This significant change in character is also reflected in the veneer. When the wolf dies, Atreus unknowingly places Fenrir’s soul inside his knife, later transplanting it into the body of the giant wolf, Garm. Fenrir may not be Loki’s son in the traditional sense, but Atreus resurrects him in the process and it is not unusual to consider him his creator. It’s a unique twist on Norse mythology that fits God of War’s portrayal of the young god. Instead of swallowing Odin whole during Ragnarok, Fenrir offers our heroes an escape — saving lives rather than exterminating them. He is not the vengeful force that he is in Norse mythology, and this is partly because Atreus is a very different character from the original Loki, who often decides against violence as a first reaction.

Jormungandr’s role in God of War is more akin to Norse mythology, as we see the giant serpent against Thor during the Battle of Ragnarok. However, the outcome of their encounter – and the implications it creates – are far more interesting than the original story. Watching the moment from a distance during the grand finale of the game is breathtaking. The World Serpent expands over the horizon as Thor, who is struck by a small bolt of lightning, crashes through the portal to Alfheim as he receives a massive blow from Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. In Norse mythology, the World Serpent and the Thunder God are archenemies, prophesied to kill each other in Ragnarok. Legend has it that Thor killed the serpent by striking it with his hammer, only to move nine steps before it was engulfed in deadly venom by Jormungunder. So hard that it splits the World Tree, Yggdrasil, and sends Jormungandr back to a time long before his birth–a prophecy that Mimir tells Kratos and Atreus in 2018’s God of War. tells

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In this game, Jormungander – who feels strangely familiar when Atreus first meets him – is the one who is killed by Thor in time. While this is happening, the current world snake is hibernating under the ice in the Lake of Nine. He was born not centuries ago, but when Atreus and Angroboda were visiting their grandmother’s home in Jotunheim, the realm of the giants. There, Atreus revives a giant serpent with a lost soul by giving it the soul of a giant, as he transplants Fenrir’s soul into Garm’s body. Again, Loki is not Jormungander’s father in the traditional sense, but he uses his giant powers to give life to the World Serpent. As Memir said, it also explains why the Jormungandrs have a personal vendetta against Thor before they meet each other. It is very possible that the encounter between the two took place when the giant was still alive in his original body.

There are many other instances where God of War Ragnarok subverts my expectations of Norse mythology, but the ones involving Atreus are the most fascinating. Loki is an integral character in Old Norse texts and Atreus still fulfills that role, albeit in a very different way.

This interpretation of ancient mythology has always been part of God of War’s DNA. It originated in Greece, pitting Kratos against Zeus and the rest of the Greek pantheon, before moving north to Midgard and beyond. The great thing about ancient mythology – and Norse mythology in particular – is that it’s open to interpretation, with plenty of blank spaces waiting to be filled in with your own imagination. Many of the characters in Norse’s fiction are barely so; They are just mentioning names in passing. Baldur is described as being popular, and then he dies. He has no dialogue and no color of personality, yet Santa Monica Studios made him a multi-layered villain. There are moments in Ragnarok that excited me given my existing knowledge, but the most satisfying thrill came from seeing these events transformed for a new audience. It speaks to the enduring appeal of these thousand-year-old myths, and their fantastic interpretations contribute to elevating God of War Ragnarok into one of them. Best Games of 2022.

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