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What's with the name?

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Olden Lore

Pagans Split on Thor‘s Depiction of Norse Gods


Thor came out in theaters on Friday, and while it’s getting some good reviews, the actual Thor-worshiping pagan community has had a mixed reaction. Apparently, some pagans felt that the Norse gods depicted in the movie based on the Marvel comic were not represented in a very respectful manner. Meanwhile, in Iceland, the country’s Pagan High Priest is totally cool with it.

First, the offended parties. Eric Scott at Killing the Buddha laments that the efforts behind the commercial success of the decades-old comic book and its film adaptation didn’t seem to consider the small number of people who still worshiped Norse gods:

The truth is, I looked at the toys in my hands and I saw the result of millions of dollars of development and thousands of hours of manpower, put into something bearing the name of a god, my god, and it had nothing to do with me. Their Thor was a god forgotten by all except the few quiet geeks who read his adventures in Journey into Mystery and The Mighty Thor for forty years. It wasn’t that they meant to upset or unsettle me; they simply realized that people like me were too few to matter. It’s impossible to think of a story about Jesus like this, not written to pander to or irritate Christians, but simply not considering them at all.

True, movies like The Passion of the Christ, The Last Temptation of Christ, and even The Life of Brian were not made under the impression that Christians did not exist. They were all well aware that Christians were a large part of the moviegoing audience. But Thor isn’t based on Norse religion directly. It’s based on a comic that’s loosely (loosely) based on Norse myths. For example, Thor of the comics is actually a god, where the movie Thor is a (spoiler?) member of a highly advanced alien race. One may as well complain about Stan Lee’s interpretation, not Kenneth Branagh’s.

In any case, as it is with all religions, there’s no monolithic face to the believers, and some opinions differ. Such as Iceland’s Pagan High Priest Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, who said that the Norse gods have been depicted in literature and other media for centuries, including in “the music of Elgar and Wagner.” So, another story about Thor in pop culture won’t hurt anyone. Some even see this as an opportunity to introduce people to the Norse deities.

Are good stories — true, religious, mythological, all or any of the above — a bad thing? Definitely not. And neither is whetting appetites for learning about real ancient religions. Or am I the only one who watched Hercules: The Legendary Journeys?

(Blastr and Bleeding Cool)

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  • Anonymous

    My Mom has a bit of an obsession about Roman & Greek history (she is agnostic), I remember her thoroughly approving of Ulysses 31 when I used to watch it :-) So, in summary, I agree with your conclusion!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001024198090 Scott Mccormick

    I loves me some Icelandic sagas.

    My sons are both named after Nordic heroes too,so yeah,I’m a fan.

  • Lionmml

    Though the Norse pantheon was not given divine status in the movie, well, I think a bit of THOR was in Thor. :)

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    Herc and Xena are the reason I have a degree in ancient history. I spent many an hour sifting through my books looking things up after watching an episode.

    This is just a bit of attention seeking, if you ask me. I bet he didn’t get all upset over Thor being depicted as a little grey alien in SG1 >_>

  • Ron

    the stories and myths about the norse gods are mostly known to us through the interpretation of christian priests and the rest writing about how dumb and horrible they were.

    so the comic book and the movie are bastardizations of bastardizations of bastardizations etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=525535616 Bridget Marie Blodgett

    Truth. It’s like assuming that the celtic people of France were exactly as Cesar described them to be. None of us really believe that why would we suddenly do so now?

  • Holleyx

    Like most pre-Christian Indo-European history you have to rely on a mesh made of scraps of information from disparate sources, then try and weave them together in a way that sounds most plausible.

    The perspective of how this is done has changed over the last 30 years, before then people had a habit of just making stuff up to fill in the gaps … which explains much of the representation of Norse mythology in popular culture nowadays :-/

    The etymology of your name, Bridget, is a good example of this :-)

  • http://profiles.google.com/deceleration.waltz Deceleration Waltz

    All source material, whether Christian, Pagan, Buddhist, etc., is fair game as far as I’m concerned. (Just look at the way Dogma played with Christian mythology; I still know several Christians who love that movie.) As long as you recognize that your faith is your faith and movies are movies and never the twain shall meet, it’s all good.

    As a Neo-Pagan, I’ve never been bothered by things like The Craft or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These ideas of gods and magic and what-have-you are way older than all of us, and no-one has exclusive claim to them.

  • Anonymous

    …For example, Thor of the comics is actually a god, where the movie Thor is a (spoiler?) member of a highly advanced alien race…

    Not so fast in assuming these are two different things. There are those who believe that all deities of the world’s religions have been merely extraterrestrial visitors described and believed in the only way those not familiar with space and space travel could possibly describe and believe in…supernatural (unexplained) beings from (the) heaven(s).