JOURNEY TO VALHALLA: Thor and the Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Enduring Influence of Norse Mythology on Popular Culture
“I choose to run towards my problems, and not away from them. Because that what heroes do.”
Those words were uttered by Thor in the 2017 movie Thor: Ragnarok. For many filmgoers, Thor is a superhero; a member of the Avengers and a key figure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe launched a decade ago.
But the story of the hammer-wielding hero can be traced back to Norse mythology when Thor was the god associated with thunder, lightning, strength and the protection of mankind.
Such is the influence of Norse Mythology on popular culture, it is no surprise that Thor is a major character in one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. Many other movies have been influenced by Thor and other characters from his world. In the 1994 comedy The Mask, Jim Carrey’s character discovers a green mask that is possessed by Thor’s brother Loki. When he wears the mask, he acquires incredible powers of darkness, and his life is transformed to hilarious effect.
On a more serious note, in Ingmar Bergman's 1960 release The Virgin Spring, one character’s secret worship of Odin invokes dark and magical power with tragic results. Just two years earlier, Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis starred in The Vikings, a swashbuckling epic that tells the tale of two Odin-worshipping half-brothers who fight for the throne of Northumbria.
Along with his brother Loki, his father Odin and several other beings from the mystical world of Asgard, Thor has featured in many comic books and graphic novels. Norse mythology has also cropped up in Japanese manga and anime series.
Since Victorian times, Norse mythology has also been a popular topic in the literary world with writers as diverse as J. R. R. Tolkien and Douglas Adams being heavily influenced by or featuring the mythology directly in their work.
Norse mythology has featured in many forms of music from classical to heavy metal. Richard Wagner’s operatic epics Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) were influenced by Norse sagas, while Swedish metal band Therion’s lyrics have been based on similar concepts. There is an entire genre known as Viking Metal which focuses on Viking culture and beliefs.
In the modern world of video gaming, Norse deities are never far away. Thunder Struck, Viking Clash, Viking Quest, Viking Treasure, Viking Runecraft and Hall of Gods are just some of the Norse-themed online slots available online on the best casinos like Duelz.com.
Games such as 2018’s long-awaited epic God of War, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Too Human, Bayonetta 2, Volgarr the Viking, Vikings: Wolves of Midgard and Wrath of Loki are just a small sample of the titles that have brought Norse mythology to PCs, consoles such as the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, and handheld devices including the Nintendo DS. Northern European mythological features more in the gaming world than in any other medium.