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Thor, Odin, Loki: From Myths to Movies
Perhaps I am underestimating people's knowledge or intelligence when I here attempt to point out the inaccuracies in Marvel's portrayal of the Norse Gods. Obviously changes will happen, both in themes and in plot. Yet, as someone who grew up with the Norse Gods and had the stories read to me when I was four, I do have an emotional attachment which makes it difficult to watch Thor and the Avengers movie.
The Two Brothers
Oh, Loki and Odin, what did they do to you? Of all the relationships in Norse mythology, Odin and Loki has to be the most developed one, with them constantly fighting, often traveling the world together and sometimes helping each other out, both smiling and laughing themselves out of any danger. A great example is the time Odin sadly kills an innocent by accident, accepts responsibility for it, and prepares to die by the hands of the victim's father. It is Loki who gets him out of it, by convincing the father that revenge will not solve anything, and then going out to find a treasure to pay for Odin's freedom(which Loki of course steals, Loki being Loki). The times Odin saves Loki are to numerous to be mentioned here.
Now, Loki and Odin were not related in the myths either, they were what brothers by blood, which in the viking world meant that they decided to be like brothers until the end of time. Still, it was certainly a warm brotherly love between them, which is then sadly torn apart when Ragnarok approaches. Loki gets more and more at odds with the other gods, especially Heimdall and Balder. Odin tries to look away, but in the end can not. It is a tragic relationship, but it does not translate well to the movies. Some is lost in Loki being a step-son rather than a step-brother of sorts, so much interactions from the sources must be thrown out. More is lost in having Loki be Thor's opponent, despite them never fighting much.
Thor and Loki
There are certain characters and duos that seems to touch something deep in us. One is the duo consisting of the intelligent, calculating and slightly egoistic guy coupled with the big, strong dumb guy with a good heart. This is Loki and Thor. Loki was often Thor's travel partner as well as Odin's, and Loki would often trick Thor for selfish reasons, after which either Thor or Loki or both had to spend the rest of the story cleaning up Loki's mess. They also did several of the classic comical buddy-movie stereotypes, like going undercover cross-dressing, as Thor pretends to be the bride of an ogre to learn where the ogre has the stolen Mjølnir, and Loki acts as Thor's bridesmaid. It is sort of rare to have religious stories played purely for comedy this way.
Loki's main enemy was actually Heimdall. Their antagonism is perhaps the one most faithfully put into the movies, although not focused upon. Loki's family is not seen at all, something I would have liked to see. Loki himself seems somewhat different, but I do not have to big problems with it. In the legends he is a funny trickster, always a step in front of everyone else, yet his schemes always seems to fail him, sometimes by his own hands. In the movies his insecurities are played up, little remains of his cockiness or way with words.
Odin and Thor
Odin is a lot more passive than his mythological counterpart, he sits on his throne and has the need for a long sleep at times. In the myths, Odin was the one of the three main gods who had most contact with humans. Loki was most interested in the power he could get in Asgard, and Thor spent most of his time in Jotunheimen, as much for his own amusement as for protecting people. Odin was the on traveling among humans in disguise, and sending his crows to collect news. He gave man intelligence and laws and looked after us. Even his throne is a portal allowing him to see what humans are up to. I would have liked to see that concern in Odin from the movies.
And finally Thor. Thor is very much like himself, although his role is bigger than in the myths. Here he truly is the main character, which makes sense for a superhero story. The myths paint a simple and perhaps a little childish and stupid man, quick to anger but with a certain sense of right and wrong. I think Thor from the Marvel movies might one of his most intelligent reincarnations, other versions I have seen really go with the stupid angle. Not a bad version, and his relationship with Odin is not too different from the myths, although he is here the son of Frigg, making him a legitimite child of Odin. This is pretty much the same as what happened to Hercules in the Disney movie.
As a slight sidetrack, Thor's hammer, described as tiny because of problems when it was made, is in the Marvel universe almost comically big.
You might say that it is stupid to compare these two, the Marvel movies and the original myths, for the movies do not paint them as gods, and a lot of things have been changed. Yet I feel that what was lost in this transition could have benefited the movies greatly in terms of character relationship. Also, I feel that telling how the original differed from this retelling might have some value, as a help to understand who the Norse Gods were.
© 2013 Nidag the Goat