Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The non-vengful will inherit the universe - My thoughts on Helheim and surviving Ragnarok

Greek myth is hard enough.  It isn't well preserved and we need to do a lot of filling in the blanks and attempts at reconstruction and reading things as if the smallest connotation of every word is intensely meaningful because there's little else we can do if we want to have the story, the whole story.

Reconstruction is hard.

Compared to just about everything else, Greek and Roman mythology is the gold standard of preserved that all others strive for but fall short of.  Even Christian Myth has a kind crap preservation status (because of attempts to stamp out heresy) and that's the dominant culture's myth.

So with Norse Myth we're left with a lot of questions and a lot of trying to infer things from limited material.

And Ragnarok is very much an example of this.  It comes to us almost entirely through the two big Eddas which are later compilations of earlier traditions, one of which (the prose one) shows clear signs of a Christian author trying to get shit past Christian censors via painful editing.

So the thing is, Ragnarok is the reckoning, the end of the old order, the end of the nine realms, the end of Yggdrasil itself.  But not the end of all things.

A new earth and a new . . . --well it isn't called Asgard anymore what with it being swept mostly clean of most everything-- arise from the waters and a new sun has been born to the sky.  Things start again,

On earth two people survive, in former-Asgard four gods survive, and these people don't interest me much.  What interests me is that Baldr and Höðr show up to join the surviving gods.

Baldr and Höðr survived, if you want to put it that way, by being dead at the time.  They were in Hel and, like Hel herself (apparently) declined to go off and fight the last battle.  This could be a simple conflict of interest, as Hel's subjects they'd be part of Loki's army fighting against he Aesir, as Aesir they'd be . . . well, guess.

Or it could be something else.

They were dead at the time.  They are absolute proof that not everyone in Helheim followed Loki into battle.  They are the only evidence we have of what happened to the people who stayed in Helhiem for Ragnarok.  And what happened?  They got to leave the afterlife and live in the new world.

It's not clear if this is a one time thing that lasts through Ragnarok into the aftermath, or if Hel's gates are now permanently open, but either way it seems like you can get out now leaving the new world to the forgotten, abandoned, mythless dead.

Everyone who didn't go off to fight in Ragnarok.  Remember, almost everyone who lives goes to Helhiem when they die.  If you're not taken to Fólkvangr or Valhalla after a noble death in battle, you go to Helheim.  (Don't worry, there is a prison there, Nifelhelheim, so evil people won't be fucking up your afterlife.)  Many of them go off to fight in Ragnarok, but clearly not all.

So what happens to the non-militant dead?  Well our only example, the thing from which we must extrapolate and draw conclusions, is Baldr and Höðr.  They live.  They go free.  The inherit the new universe which, hopefully, will be less fucked up than the old universe.

Don't get me wrong, it'll be fucked up, but hopefully less so.  It'll be fucked up because god or mortal we're all flawed.  We fuck things up.  It's what we do.  But we also strive to make things less fucked up than when we found them.  So we'd try to make the new world better than the old.

And so the old order is completely upended.  The abandoned forgotten discounted dead rise to inherit what remains.  And that's probably a good thing.  Baldr and Hel between them could craft a better universe.

Odin and Loki were wise and cunning, but also assholes.  Baldr is basically distilled goodness, Hel is someone who has spent her while life being a host to all comers (she set up luxury accommodations for Baldr.)  Thus the new world appears to be set up to run on new rules.  Rules that won't be made by cheaters and tricksters but by people who might not be the wise, but make up for it in compassion.

The ones who live through Ragnarok are a hodgepodge.  The ones who live after it, though, are in my reading the ones who were dead in Helheim and decided not to fight under Loki in Ragnarok.  The non-vengeful dead.

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