Near the midpoint of the book, you write that "Vali was not religious but for a heartbeat he realized the truth of the gods of his people. Every one was a god of death – of war: Freya, goddess of fertility and war; Thor, god of thunder and war; Freyr, god of pleasure and prosperity but battle bold. Only Loki was not a fighter. Only Loki stood at the sides and laughed, a laughter more deadly to the self-important gods than any sword or spear. No wonder they had chained him." In Norse myth, Frey gives away his mystic sword for interracial love. Balder, Bragi, Idunn, Njord, Idunn, Sif and others have no connection to war – and Loki famously taunts them for it.
Vali later says that "Loki is an enemy of the gods, not of people. When did you ever hear of him acting against men? He kills giants, he kills gods, but men he helps or leaves alone." Thor is, of course, the giant-killer of myth. Loki’s involvement in the murder of Balder is portrayed in the Edda as unequivocally evil. Placing your book after death of Balder and binding of Loki means that – in mythic time – it’s after Loki has become a wholly wicked creature. His next step is to destroy the world and kill all of humanity (save for one lucky couple).
|McNamara's The Star-Crossed Stone|
ML - People have been doing this for years. I mentioned Don Quixote, but I could easily chime in with Richard III, the figure of the malcontent in Elizabethan drama, Tom Jones, Becky Sharpe, Moll Flanders, Sam Spade – Robin Hood, for goodness sake! However, we are at a point in history where it is difficult to find a traditional Roy-Rogers-style hero. The growth of the anti-hero says nothing negative about us at all. It just says that we enjoy moral complexity and won’t settle for simple categories of good and evil. I’m not sure "anti-hero" is even a meaningful phrase any more. "Complex hero" is less snappy but more descriptive.
|Tony Soprano with Viking beard|
In both Wolfsangel and Fenrir, I have complex villains. However, when I wrote Lord of Slaughter – third in this series and out next year – I decided to come up with one who is a little more down-the-line evil. It was quite good fun writing a no-holds-barred nasty piece of work.
I was thinking of the main Norse gods when I wrote that speech for Vali. I wouldn’t read too much into Loki’s taunts – he also taunts Thor for hiding in battle, something that has no corroboration in other stories. Also Eldir, a serving man at the home of the gods, says of the Norse gods who are drinking in a hall: "Of their weapons they talk, and their might in war." He, unlike Loki, is not associated with lies so we may trust his word better. All the gods you mention are in the hall that Eldir is referring to. Loki is outside it when the action begins.
The notion of Loki as a hero is interesting. Again, I didn’t think of him as that. As far as I recalled, I was being true to the myth to make him antipathetic to the gods but friendly to men.
My Loki hates heroism and finds heroes boring, self-centred egotists. Loki is not straightforwardly heroic, but he is outwardly sympathetic to ordinary humans. I’ve hunted for the story where I formed this impression and can’t find it. Perhaps you will know it – he basically helps two islanders outwit a giant, I recall.
|Odin at Mimir's Well of Knowledge by Emil Doepler (1905)|
ML - A quote from Hávamál ("Sayings of the High One") from the Poetic Edda:
A measure of wisdom each man shall haveIt’s right there in the source text, along with "Let no man the fate before him see / For so is he freest from sorrow." The runes bring unhappiness because they reveal the truth of the human place in the schemes of the gods.
But never too much let him know
For the wise man’s heart is seldom happy
If wisdom too great he has won.
|Odin, Wisdom-Seeking Wanderer by Arthur Rackham (1911)|
I would accept that Loki views knowledge as a dangerous thing, but this predates Christianity. Pandora’s Box springs to mind and the myth of Prometheus. Also the idea that mystic knowledge is privileged and should be treated with great care, accessible to only a few, is central to many religions – from that of shamans through the medieval Catholic church right up to modern Masonic cults. It is Christian, but not exclusively so.
The association of knowledge with unhappiness comes out of my conception of magic – that it involves a descent into madness. At other points in Wolfsangel, knowledge is seen as very desirable. Vali wishes he had a Christian scribe to help him out and longs to learn to read. Also, remember that it’s Loki who’s describing Odin’s quest. He doesn’t like him. Loki is seen as a figure who celebrates the ordinary sensual pleasures – it’s enough for him to enjoy the light of a spring morning. He doesn’t need to know where it comes from or why it seems to glitter. So his quest for knowledge is only negative if you believe Loki and see the state of magic-induced madness as a bad thing.
|"It was then that I carried you" - Footprints now available on a coffee mug|
ML - He’s Vali’s father and has appeared to reassure him. I hope there isn’t a parallel with the "it was then that I carried you" story. I find the Bible evocative, inspiring and frightening. The footprints story has always struck me as a piece of unbearable latter-day schmaltz! I remember hearing it for the first time as a kid and having difficulty keeping my dinner down.
|The Troll Wall is a difficult climb (even without carrying babies)|
|John Hurt's Caligula enjoys cross-dressing as much as Loki does!|
We have one view of Odin in Wolfsangel, and it’s a view that lasts the first three books. However, there is a large development planned in Book IV that shows another view of Odin. Is there a possibility Loki might have been lying? Or – more consistent with my Loki – speaking truths that he knows people will misinterpret?
|Loki helps Hoder kill Balder by Carl Emil Doepler (1882)|
ML - It’s an interpretation. I’m not presenting a paper on Norse myth, I’m offering a view. What happens when you write is that the characters take on a life of their own. The Edda has its view of Loki, I have mine. Now I know that sounds enormously arrogant, but Snorri is doing what I am doing – changing the form in which the myths are rendered. These are part of a spoken tradition. Snorri is writing them down and, in doing so, inevitably changing them. OK, he’s nearer to the source material, but that doesn’t mean we have to take his word as inviolable – not as creative writers anyway. It would be different if you were coming at the text as an academic.
Also, the world renews after the gods are gone – Loki’s actions make the place better – unless you read the last couple of verses of Völuspá. So it’s a telling of a story from a different point of view.
|Snorri Sturluson - creative writer or academic?|
Odin brings war into the world. With his death it disappears. Now, you can view that as a bad thing if you like, but I interpret it as a good one. And, yes, it does entail me ignoring certain statements of Snorri’s, but that’s fundamental to the nature of storytelling, and it’s been that way ever since people began telling stories. As I’ve compared myself to a Nobel Prize winner, I may as well compare myself to Shakespeare. If you look at what he does with Macbeth, for instance, he entirely ignores the actual history and turns Macbeth from a reasonable real ruler into a monstrous fictitious one. I don’t think it works as a criticism to say, "But, Shakey, baby, you haven’t got it right." No, but it’s rather irrelevant to the drama Shakespeare created.
|Beowulf vs Dragon in DC Comics (1975)|
ML - The answer is "neither." Again, I have to say that I approach this stuff as a creative writer, not an academic. So I pick names I like. The correspondences – particularly those of Disa and Bragi – did strike me at the time I thought of them but only as an afterthought. Academics tend to want the creative process to be mechanical – an identifiable train of cogs that can be traced back to the power source of myth. They assume that because something refers to something else, it was intentional. Sometimes that’s true, but in this case, it isn’t.
Authwi is a typo in the Pyr version – my typo, but a typo nevertheless. I could say, then, that you’re simply wrong to deduce the correspondences that you do. However, the correspondence seems too strong - Authwi is pretty much a direct rendering of auðui – for there to be nothing at all in what you say. So I would say that the allusions you’ve identified are both accidental and revealing. I don’t think there’s a contradiction in that.
|Paradoxically, "Creative Writing" is now an academic subject!|
I’m not mining the myth like an academic would mine a text for references to support their central idea. It’s much more haphazard and organic. What is remarkable is that, when you proceed in this way, you can come up with some remarkable allusions that you never actually intended and in such a number that would make you believe it couldn’t be just coincidence. Spooky stuff, eh?
|Loki in Chains (1880)|
Again, I’m not looking for direct correspondences in the myth, but this was where the idea of two brothers bound to a destructive destiny came from, and it was appealing one turned into a wolf. Originally, Feileg was called Narfi. Unfortunately, to the British ear that name is comic. It either conjures up NAAFI – which used to be the notoriously foul army catering service – or the word "naff," so it had to go.
It was only as the story was written that I saw that the werewolf transformation would be related to the Fenris wolf and therefore a threat to Odin rather than to Loki.
There is no process of logic to this. I think sometimes logic can be the enemy of creative thought. I could have said, "but the myth says he must kill his brother and bind Loki." But I’m rendering the spirit rather than the letter of the myth and I have no problem with that.
|Badb by Elizabeth Caffey (2011)|
ML - I agree. She was originally thought of as an incarnation of Odin. However, as the story wrote itself, it became more obvious she was an incarnation of Loki himself. That emerged at the moment I wrote Loki’s line to Saitada:
"My name is Misery. Do you want to know a secret?"
"Yours is too."
She emerged at that moment. I may be misquoting a bit there, but the gist is correct.
I changed her function but not her name. However, it may turn out that Loki wasn’t right about her in later books and that the Trickster has himself been tricked. Or it may not.
|Note: Star Trek's Tellarites do not appear in Wolfsangel|
ML - Veles the Slav god has Odinic qualities, but Loki-like ones too in that he’s the enemy of the central god of the Slav pantheon. He’s also a shapeshifter and a mischievous figure. Again, I just thought of the name and liked it, although its connotations did strike me.
I didn’t intend a correspondence between him and Odin, but it did occur me that there might be one. I’m not an academic, so I don’t have to tie up these loose ends. I thought it was an interesting possibility he might be an incarnation of Odin or Loki, but I didn’t feel the need to nail that down for myself or the reader. One of the interesting things you can do in a novel is let things float.
|Veles the God by Viktor Križanovskij|