History Shmistory

Skyrim Series Part Three: The Apocalypse

Short Skyrim fix today. Post 25/100- Enjoy!

Something pretty awesome that many religions talk about is the end of the world. I’m not necessarily saying that I think it would be awesome if the world ended, but it is pretty cool how certain cultures depict our demise.

For instance, the Norse believed Ragnarök to be the world’s end. Tons of poems, mostly those in Snorri Sturluson’s collection, reference the end of the world and the events that will bring it about.

So, Ragnarök is a series of events that will shatter the world apart. It’s basically a war between the gods and the giants. [1] Fenrir the great wolf will break free of his chains and defeat Odin; Thor will die as he defeats the Midgard Serpent; Bifrost, the rainbow bridge to Asgard will burn; and Nidhögg, the great serpent, will fly through the sky “rending corpses.”[2]It’s not all bad, though. Because after the world has ended and the great wolf has devoured the sun and the moon, the world will be reborn, rising from the water fresh and green. The few who survive will find shelter in the World-Tree Yggdrasil.

In Skyrim, there are similar predictions of the world’s destruction described on Alduin’s Wall. This prophecy states that when the High King of Skyrim (the Dragonborn Ruler) is killed, and his palace, known as the White or Snow Tower, in the capital of Tamriel no longer has a ruler, Alduin (known as the World-Eater) will return and face the Last Dragonborn. Alduin’s wall goes on to describe the downfall of Alduin, thus prophesizing that although existence comes into danger, the Dragonborn will defeat Alduin and save Mankind.[3] 

Basically, Both prophecies tell of a coming battle, including the detail of an all-consuming dragon and his devouring of the fallen and both end on a slightly positive note; Alduin’s wall depicting the Dragonborn’s defeat of the World-eater, and the Eddas’ telling of the rebirth of the world after Ragnarök.

Until tomorrow, amigos!

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Skyrim Series Part Two: Creation Myths

Today is a special day, folks! It is the three-year anniversary of the first time I ever played Skyrim. I had wanted it since the knowledge of its future existence. I couldn’t afford to get it for myself on 11-11-11 when it was released, but my angel of a mother got it for me for Christmas of that year. I didn’t own a PlayStation3…but my dad did! So after going to his house for second Christmas I was finally able to meet my beloved one-on-one.

Six and a half hours later I emerged from the bedroom with my hair a mess and a strange glow about my face. It was approximately four in the morning. The only thing to tear me from my new-found love was my pesky bladder. I grabbed a snack to take back with me and reentered my paradise of Dragons and Stormcloaks. I was hooked.

Fast forward (hundreds of hours of game play) to my junior and senior years of college and enter my 9 month research project on the glory that is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Today I’m going to share some more of that research with you! This time on some of the mythology parallels found between Norse cultures of the past and Skyrim. If you haven’t already read about the sources I used and the general intro for this project, I suggest you do so at some point! I still don’t know how much info I should be giving or not, so if this is too dense let me know and I’ll try to fix it!

On Creation Myths

The people of Skyrim believe that their world was created from two brothers, Anu and Padomay, who got in a fight over a girl, Nirn (that’s the short version). Long version:

Mundus, the realm of men (AKA the solar system of The Elder Scrolls series) according to the mythology of Skyrim, was created after two brother beings, Padomay and Anu came out of time. It is not explained how they were born from time. Through their juxtaposition and the interplay between their opposite forces, another being, Nirn, was created. Nirn and Anu fell in love and Padomay retreated into the Void in bitterness. According to legend Nirn got pregnant and Padomay got jealous. He beat her in his rage and when Anu returned (from where I have no idea) and fought him, casting him outside of Time. Nirn then gave birth to Creation (12 whole planets- damn) but died from her injuries sustained from asshat brother Padomay and also giving birth to twelve planets. Anu was a grieving being born of time so he did what any normal celesital being would do and hid away inside of the freaking sun for a nap. Oh, a couple hundred years later Padomay got back into Time and got pissed that Creation was all created and stuff and smashed the shit out of it with his sword. He shattered all twelve worlds and pissed off his brother something royal. Anu was so mad that he climbed out of the freaking sun to fight Padomay, again.[1]

Probably because he was so pissed off that his brother had just smashed all twelve of his kids, Anu beat the crap out Padomay. After casting his brother aside, he began to grieve his children and dead lady. In a last-ditch effort befitting any creation myth, Padomay gathered his remaining strength and stabbed Anu through the chest so the brothers died together. Anu’s blood formed the stars (awesome!) and Padomay’s blood formed the Daedra (basically the closest thing The Elder Scrolls has to demons- not as awesome). Their mingled blood formed the Aedra, which are basically gods. Lorkhan (an obvious parallel), one of the Aedra, thought “hey, I have a good idea! Let’s fuck over my brothers and sisters!” He tricked them into using their divine powers to combine the broken pieces of Creation into one plane (aka planet) called Nirn to be all sentimental.[2][3][4]

The planet Nirn was then inhabited by the Aedra (good dudes) , while the Daedra (not-so-good dudes) created their own realm of Oblivion from the Void left by Anu and Padomay (empty space around Mundus). Shortly after beginning Time on Nirn, the architect of the plan, Magnus, realized Lorkhan was a dick and withdrew from Nirn into the realm of Aetherius. Many of the Aedra followed suit, but others decided to stay and let their powers and life force be drawn from them to give life to Nirn (how sweet). These Aedra became the Eight Divines(hereby referred to as “the Eight”).[5] Finding out that Lorkhan was behind the mortalization of their beings, the Eight literally threw him off a tower, ripped his heart out, and hid it on Nirn.[6] The mortal descendents of the Eight, known as the Ehlnofey, continued to populate Nirn, losing all divinity and power and evolving into the races of Mer (elves) and Men (hopefully you understand that term).[7] 

The creation myths vary slightly in Skyrim, depending to whom you speak. The Mer do not take kindly to their mortality, and call it the Curse of Lorkhan, while the Men, especially Nords, celebrate Lorkhan’s trickery and his gift of life.[8] Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, am I right?

Though the mythology of Skyrim may seem freaking ridiculous and one might attribute that to the fact that the entire universe of The Elder Scrolls is fictional, the creation myths of Scandinavians is not much more grounded (AKA also ridiculous…ly awesome!). The creation myths of the Norse are explained mostly through The Poetic Edda and Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda. According to “Voluspa” in The Poetic Edda, the giant Ymir, from which came everything, came from nothing, where Earth was not found and there was only “the Yawning of the Deeps,” or Ginnungagap.[9] The vast gap parallels The Void in Skyrim’s mythology and how out of nothing came creation. Later  in  The Poetic Edda the poem “Vafthruthnismol” says that the world came from the flesh of Ymir, his bones made mountains, and (I just have to quote this) “from his blood the billows of the sea.”[10] Tasty.

Nords in Skyrim believe that their highest mountain, colloquially referred to as the Throat of the World, was where the breath of the gods brought wind to the world. Both of these myths put emphasis on nature’s creation before that of man. Man’s creation is later explained in The Poetic Edda, saying that a man and a woman were born from Ymir’s armpit. There is not much on the interplay of man and woman in “Vafthrusthnismol,” though it does describe the creation of time, much like that of Skyrim’s mythology, with the phrase “the story of Time, he shall yet come,” referring to Time as a being instead of an idea.[11] “Voluspa,” after describing Ginnungagap, describes how the sons of Odin “uplifted the world-plain and fashioned Midgard, the glorious Earth.”[12] The sons of Odin created the Earth for the cosmos similarly to the Aedra fashioning Nirn, though in Norse mythology the gods chose to create Midgard on their own and not by being tricked (Loki: 1, Lorkhan: 0, although Loki totes makes up for it later).

An extremely specific parallel is that of Men and Elves being descended similarly in both Skyrim mythology and in the writings of The Prose Edda. While in Skyrim, Man and Elfkind evolve from Ehlnofey, the devolved Aedra, in Norse mythology:

Of different origins

are the Norns, I think

not all of one kindred;

some come from Aesir-kin,

some from the elves.[15] 

Snorri tells the reader that some men come from the gods’ descendants and some from elfkind. Although this passage does not state that elves and Men evolved in unison, it does describe the evolution of Men in relation to the elves.

Wow, sweet! I cut like 3,000 words down to 1,200. Let me know how you liked it in the comment section below. Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow, folks.

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New Year’s Resolutions, Past and Present

Probably ever since you can remember people have been making big plans to better themselves each time January 1st rolls around. Whether it’s losing weight, being more kind to others, or a list of books to read, many people find the first of the year to be a fresh start to a better “you.” For thousands of years the concept of a New Year’s resolution has been one found in many cultures, but it hasn’t always been about weight loss and it hasn’t always started on January first. Let’s take a look at the story of the New Year’s Resolution, past and present.

  • In the 2000s BC, the Babylonians celebrated Akitu in March/April, which was the beginning of the year according to their calendar. They celebrated with roughly a week’s worth of religious ceremonies regarding the supreme god Marduk. The second day of ritual included the King of Babylon reading a list of assurances to the gods. These assurances included things that would please the gods as well as those meant to appease Babylonians such as offering societal and tax privileges. By making these promises, the King hoped for a year of good harvest and fortune from Marduk. Aside from the King’s assurances , the Babylonians promised to return all borrowed cooking and farm tools and pay all personal debts.
  • The Roman calendar originally started in March, as well. However, in the eighth century BC, the Roman King Numa Pompilius added the months Januarius and Februarius to the beginning of the calendar, which (as you can assume) eventually became January and February. Januarius was aptly named after Janus, the god of doors and beginnings. Romans would make promises and give sacrifices to Janus and would exchange gifts with neighbors. According to the Romans Janus had two heads, one to see into the past and one to see into the future; by promising to fix wrongdoings in the past, they hoped to be shown good fortune in the upcoming year.
  • In Medieval Times (500 AD- 1500), Knights would take the Peacock Vow during the last feast of Christmas week. The vow consisted of placing one’s hands on a peacock and swearing to continue one’s pledge to chivalry.
  • (Past and present segue) Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a time of reflection and renewal. It occurs on the first two days of the Jewish New Year, falling sometime between September 5 and October 5 on the Gregorian calendar. Rosh Hashanah begins the Ten Days of Repentance and the ten days end on Yom Kippur, one of the most important Jewish Holidays. The first ten days of the Jewish New Year allow for reflection on, and seeking atonement for, the sins of the past year. It is said that judgment for the past year is made on Rosh Hashanah but is not finalized until Yom Kippur. Kol Nidre is the prayer that beings the evening service of Yom Kippur and it is a service for asking god to annul vows made in the past year that were left uncompleted (within certain guidelines that make my head hurt to try and understand). After confessing their unfulfilled vows, individuals ask for forgiveness for said vows. The evening service of Yom Kippur closes with Neilah, a one hour service that is basically the final opportunity for making things right with God and promising to do better in the New Year.

Well, I was doing pretty well in timing this post to be up right before the end of the first day of the year but I failed at that. Whoops. Anyway, now we’re going from the history of New Year’s Resolutions to my personal ones. I might throw in some reasons, I might not. We’ll see.

  1. I resolve to spend one hour of every day doing something that I love. Hopefully, but not necessarily, broken into twenty or thirty minute segments of writing, reading, painting, or anything that does not involve technology (none of this hour can be used for blog writing)
  2. I resolve to write one blog post every day for 100 days, starting today, January 2nd, and ending on April 12 (which, oddly enough, is my sister’s birthday!). I don’t have specific breakdowns of how many in each category I will write, but I will write a post every single day for the next 100 days barring an emergency.
  3. Because of that ambitious blogging resolution, I resolve to remove myself from Facebook for the next 100 days. I do this to a) give myself more time to devote to resolutions 1 and 2, b) allow me to connect with those people in my everyday life more thoroughly, and c) just give me a freakin’ break from that shit.
  4. I resolve to call my parents and brothers once a week, even if it is just to say hello. (and to let my sister and her boyfriend know how grateful I am for them letting me live in their house…at least once a week!)
  5. I resolve to continue working out 4+ days a week, in order to make 2015 my healthiest year yet!
  6. I resolve to drink a glass of water before I drink anything else that I want.
  7. I resolve to continue saving 65+% of my income for a car and/or future relocation.
  8. I resolve to be the best daughter/sister/friend/me I can be.
  9. I resolve to discover a new place every week.
  10. I resolve to fold and put my clothes away as soon as they are done (probably the hardest resolution for my laundry-hating self).

To be honest, I’ve never really been one for New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve always thought that they were silly; we are all going to give up by March, anyway, right? But I have already started a lot of these habits in small ways and I just want to have an easy way to know when I really started committing to them. As you can see, I have made a lot of promises to myself for 2015. But I really think that I can handle all of these, especially with the time I’ll hopefully save by not letting notifications and likes define my self-worth and not rotting away while looking at how happy everybody looks. Don’t worry, you’ll probably still see sweaty selfies of me with my sister on her page if you’re friends. Nobody wants to miss those, right?

Facebook friends, if you’ve made it here and you’d like to keep up on me during my hundred-day hiatus, subscribe to my blog! Also, feel free to leave a comment on this entry if you have any ideas for future posts when I get lazy/desperate between now and April 12th. I’d really appreciate it!

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Comment below! Thanks for reading, folks. Until tomorrow!

Skyrim Series Part One: Introduction

AKA The Beginning of my Obsession

Alllrighty folks. Here it is. Part one of many. I will be systematically posting the majority of my “award-winning” Skyrim paper! Basically I love to write about history in modern media, and I need a history post on this blog, so this is me being lazy and blogging something I’ve already written. I will probably use Skyrim posts as filler when I don’t have a lot of time to post something in my awesome History, Shmistory  category in the future.

If you don’t know what Skyrim is, I propose you either stop being my friend (kidding*!) or check out the website. In one phrase, Skyrim is an incredible video game moderately based in Norse culture and mythology. I fell in love with its predecessor, Oblivion, and made my mom (ok, I asked politely for her to) get it for me when I didn’t even own a console on which I could play it. That is how ridiculously obsessed I was with the game from the beginning.

Anyway, I got the game in December 2011. I took a history class on Medieval Europe spring semester of 2012. During that time, magic happened:

This project began out of my love for my newest video game obsession and my passion for a Medieval History course I was taking. I had pulled myself away from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim just hours before my classes began, right after I had achieved the title of Thane in a Skyrim city. My professor that day discussed Thanes in Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and my interest was piqued. After doing some preliminary research, I found that Skyrim held many parallels to Norse culture and mythology. To my surprise, I found a lengthy list of sagas discussing elves, dragons, and even magic. It seemed that my surface comparison had much more to it than “these things are in Skyrim and they are also in Norse Mythology.” So began my simple method of research: I would play Skyrim or read the Prima Official Game Guide and take different concepts from them and then reference John Lindow’s Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. After finding a surface parallel, I would take the references Lindow made and look in different Eddas and sagas for detailed equivalents between Skyrim and Norse Literature. Some of my comparisons got so deep that I had to stop researching so I could look at other parallels.

For this comparative analysis, I examined numerous primary sources. The first group of sources I used were the two Eddas: The Poetic Edda and The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson. The Poetic Edda is a series of poems by unknown authors, first compiled in the 12th century. Scholars estimate that the original poems were written between 850 and 1000.[1] The document is fragmented and disjointed at best, but it provides one of the earliest looks into pre-Christian Scandinavian mythology and that is why it was relied on heavily for this project.

Snorri Sturluson wrote The Prose Edda in the 13th century and intended it as a textbook of poetics as well as a reinterpretation of all the writings on the Old Norse gods and heroes. Sturluson, an Icelandic poet, politician, and historian, examined different longstanding poems and oral traditions from Norse and Icelandic culture and compiled them to re-write the stories of the old. His bias throughout the Edda is clear: Sturluson was a Christian writing about his ancestors’ pagan beliefs; however, he tells the stories without an overshadowing air of judgment or pedantry.

The Eddas were my go-to manuals on the mythology and lore of the Norse, but the Sagas written in Iceland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were where I completed a more detailed analysis on many of the creatures and concepts presented in Lindow’s book and Skyrim. The sagas I used were (in order of reliance):

  • The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki. The saga tells the story of  a king in sixth century Denmark. It discusses his ancestors and his rule with many references to the lore of the time. Odin, the all-father of the Norse pantheon, is mentioned many times in his interactions with Hrolf and his family. Magic and elves are also prevalent in this saga; the final battle is of Hrolf against his half-elf sister and her magical bestial army.
  • Heimskringla: A History of the Norse Kings. Penned by Sturluson, this saga’s stories span from the ninth to the twelfth century. It begins with the mythical prehistory of the kings of Norway.
  • Eyrbyggja Saga. Written in the thirteenth century, this saga focuses on the people and culture of the (then newly) invaded Iceland.[3]
  • The Laxdœla Saga tells the story of a love triangle between three residents of the Breiðafjörður area of Iceland after its invasion by the Norse.[4] The saga’s contents date back to the late ninth through the early eleventh centuries.
  • The Saga of the Volsungs is an extremely well known saga from Iceland in the late thirteenth century. The section I used the most was the tale of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer, which can be traced back to oral traditions in the ninth and tenth centuries.
  • Grettis Saga. Tells the story of Grettir, a hero/outlaw in Iceland, after his expulsion from Norway.[5]
  • Egil’s Saga. Dating back to the ninth century, this family saga describes Norse Berserk warriors in great detail.[6]
  • Haraldskvaedi. An epic poem from the ninth century [7] Its remaining manuscripts are fragmented, but the poem is the conversation between a Valkyrie and a raven and it discusses many concepts and people from Norse lore.

To be fair, that bulleted list was 3 pages in my paper.

I had to be much more creative in finding sources for Skyrim and its internal lore. Actual interviews with game designers and programmers (on the historical subject) were scant and therefore I relied mostly on the game itself or the Prima Official Game Guide. The creators of Skyrim wrote over 800 (amazing!) books for the player to discover and read.[8]

The amalgam of primary sources from Iceland and Norway and Skyrim’s inherent lore created what I consider the biggest homework assignment I have ever attempted. I am still not satisfied with the depth of my comparisons, though I have described some of them in detail for this project. If I were able to read Old Norse or Icelandic, my research would not have been as difficult, as finding free and accessible translations of the sagas led me to a number of not-quite reliable websites, and as such I needed to triple-check many of the translations.  As it stands, I only hope that the depth of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s relationship to Norse mythology can be inferred from the information I present.

Additionally, I hope my readers don’t get bored with me but my Skyrim research has now become a hobby and I love to share my Skyrim love with the world.

*not really

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