Long before I began reading comic book stories, I came across a book at my local library in my home town of Birmingham. The book was called ‘Heroes of Asgard’. Unlike now, back then I knew nothing about mythology – I was aware of the Greek myths but viewed those simply as stories. I began reading the book that told the story of Odin’s first appearance and his eventually leadership of the pantheon of Gods that reside in Asgard and Odin’s ‘Air Throne’ where from this Seat, he Odin, ‘The All-Father’ viewed the goings on across the ‘Nine Worlds’. This was some time back in the Mid-1970s. I never finished the book but not so long after, I came across a comic book story about Thor and wished I had finished reading that book. I never came across that book again, though years later I bought a book called the ‘Norse Myths’ so all was not lost. All this came to pass as I watched the movie trailer, whose link can be found below.
Watching the trailer of the forthcoming film ‘Thor’ based on the Marvel Comic’s character, I realised how familiar a story that film is. I have nothing more than a film trailer that was possibly shown at a comic book convention. All I know that the film will be an interesting couple of hours entertainment.
From the trailer, it seems that our Hero’s actions has set off a chain of events that will or has undone the past actions and sacrifices his father Odin (played by Sir Anthony Hopkins,) has made to bring about peace and maintenance of that peace across the Nine Worlds. Odin is not pleased, not pleased at all. And having your son call you ‘… an old man and a fool’ doesn’t help matters, especially when you are older, wiser and all-knowing – After all you did sacrifice your right eye to obtain greater knowledge. No matter, your son thinks he knows better, which he doesn’t. He has insulted you in your own throne room, before the entire court, you have to do something and you do. Firstly you strip him of your name, your father’s name – His heritage. You quickly follow this up by divesting him of his power (watch the hammer Mjolnir fall from his hand). And finally holding that Hammer – You Odin, cast out your first-born son out of (the Norse Heaven) Asgard to parts known to you – Earth, Mjolnir cast out and placed like Excalibur in stone for the one who is worthy enough to wield it.
And so our hero is cast out of paradise, without his name, heritage, divested of his power. That which was given/bestowed on him, has been taken away. He now has to learn the lesson of humility on the road back to regaining all that he has lost.
In the original Marvel Comic’s origin story of Thor, this was not the first time he had to be taught a lesson by his father due to his headstrong nature. And due to this he had to learn his lesson by being someone else. Initially this was as the Germanic heroes ‘Sigmund’ and ‘Siegfried’. Lessons well learned as on each heroes’ death he regained his memories, powers and heritage. It would be many centuries before he would need to be taught a lesson again. On becoming a headstrong warrior, Odin decided it was time for Thor to learn the lesson of Humility. So he divested him of his powers and memory, transforming him into the disabled (lame,) Donald Blake, Medical Student, sending him to Earth. It is later revealed that Odin created the persona of Blake years before and then transferred Thor’s persona there. This was the way Thor would learn humility.
For years Thor remained in the form of Donald Blake, eventually completing his medical studies and becoming a doctor then an excellent surgeon. At some point, Odin puts a thought into Donald Blake’s mind about taking a vacation/holiday to Norway. While in Norway, he makes his way to a cave, the place of his birth, where in an emergency, he finds the transformed Mjolnir as a wooden cane. Striking this cane against a wall Blake is transformed into Thor, who then deals with the matter at hand. Thor and Blake would share an existence for some time, one continuing his medical practice while the other dealt with matters of protecting humanity from all forms of evil until Odin requests Thor’s return to Asgard, something Thor does from time to time.
This is not the scenario that will be played out in next year’s film. Thor is Thor but without his power or heritage. It would seem the one thing that Thor has is that which he has earned – His skill in unarmed combat, that as a fighter. In order to regain his Hammer, he tracks Mjolnir down to a location that is controlled and run by S.H.I.E.L.D (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement Logistics Division,) a Government Agency who are dealing with the emerging superhuman element. Thor unarmed, quickly and easily takes down some of the most highly trained military personnel on the Planet single-handedly. On finding Mjolnir, like the mythical Arthur, he attempts to remove the Hammer from the Stone it was cast in. No one is more surprised and disappointed than Thor when he is unable to lift, let alone remove the Hammer from its setting. Here our Hero learns (I would guess the first of many,) a lesson in humility. Odin when placing enchantments on the Hammer, placed probably the most potent of all the enchantments which was:-
‘Whoever Holds This Hammer,
‘ If he be Worthy,
‘Shall Possess The Power of Thor’.
No one was more worthy than Thor himself. Now he finds that even he is not worthy to hold that which is his or rather was his. There is nothing more humiliating than learning that you can no longer possess that which was once yours. So the questions now facing our Hero are: ‘How can I regain that which was once mine? How do I become once more that which I was? How do become worthy again?’ We hear our Hero say that for the first time he is lost. He does not know what to do.
And his problems are growing exponentially. We see Odin, his Father on his deathbed. We see his Mother Frigga pass on the line of succession to his adopted Brother Loki (who we know is of evil intent). We get the impression that dark forces are on the move now Odin has gone, probably in league with Loki. And the one person who has any chance of stopping any of the above was despite his training, was (to his father’s everlasting disappointment,) not ready to assume the line of succession. And to compound the above problems in Asgard and possibly the Nine Worlds, the One Great Hope is learning lessons in humility on Midgard (Earth,) and until he does he is not worthy to reclaim his power and make things right. Ending of the trailer suggests that somehow he manages the feat, learns some important lessons along the way and does regain all that was his and more.
The story as put across in the trailer holds many classic elements in stories of men inheriting power. This power could be a kingdom, an empire, or large company, multi-national corporation even. What tends to happen is the prince, the heir apparent, will undergo an education and training in many skills and tactics before they are deemed able to succeed their father. This training will take years and will involve being away from the centre of things, the court, seat of power, learning, commanding a legion or being in military service to the ruler of some friendly power. The Thor movie trailer would suggest that Thor (over a period of millennia,) had done all these things but there was something still missing. Lessons not learnt. We see the disappointment on Odin’s Face when he says ‘Maybe I was a fool to think you were ready,’ before he casts his Son out from before him. Maybe he saw that his time was near and knowing the potential his Son has, is deeply disappointed that despite his training and heritage he has not attained that which one needs to be a king.
I remember reading General Akogun’s speech to the Prince from the Novella and Play ‘Oroonoko’ when he discovers the heir apparent foolishly dancing at the behest of the other young warriors, who on seeing the arrival of the General at the military training grounds (in the Forest of Demons,) desert Oroonoko without warning him of General Akogun’s arrival. On discovering the General’s presence there watching him making a fool of himself, the Prince then tries to evade responsibility for his actions by blaming the other young warriors by saying they made him do it. The General was not impressed on discovering the heir apparent behaving so foolishly but even less impressed when he the Prince tried to evade responsibility by blaming others for his actions. General Akogun then goes on to tell the Story of the Five Fingers, where first finger is hungry, the second is broke, the third suggests stealing some mangoes, while the forth says go and steal he will keep watch. The fifth says ‘I will stand apart’. The lesson of that story was that ‘Each finger had a choice, Each finger made a choice, No one forces you to do a thing’. General Akogun tells his charge that while he has proved himself as a warrior in battle, that is not enough. To be a king that and more is required.
As with Thor we can surmised that he is a mighty and skilful warrior and soldier where it matters. But to hold his father’s position he going to need that skill and much more if he going to be half the ruler or rather an even greater ruler than his father is or was. To succeed Odin, he would be expected to take Asgard to even greater heights. His Father did all the grunt work, fought many battles, subdue many forces throughout the Nine Worlds – Prevented and kept the advent of Ragnarok (Twilight of the Gods – The Norse Apocalypse) at bay. The hard work had been done. Asgard has achieved a greatness that has seen the Nine Worlds at peace. Now all that is threatened.
Like Alexander the Great he (Thor,) would have to take what he inherited from his father and take it to new heights, creating an even greater empire than the one his Father Odin has ruled over.
It could be that the scene where we see Odin on his deathbed is a ruse on the part of the old God-King. He has been known to see the coming of certain things and by feigning his death he sees this as the only way of teaching his Sons important lessons. His eldest he has disinherited and cast out in the hope that he will once more and finally find that which is important and learns some hard lessons along the way, namely who he (Thor,) is, what that means, entails and the responsibilities that come with that. His adopted son (Loki,) he allows to take on the reins of power and the line of succession thereby once and for all revealing his (Loki’s) true evil and destructive nature along with his alliance with long despatched evil forces that are once more on the rise now that Odin’s death has spread beyond the hallowed halls of Asgard, out into the Nine Worlds.
The above is all speculation and conjecture on my part but the trailer did have many threads running through it, mainly the responsibility that comes with holding and wielding great power in the classical sense. When the movie is released in cinemas next year, none of this may come to pass and what we are treated to is two hours of non-cerebral summer blockbuster action. However with someone of Kenneth Branagh’s pedigree as an Actor and Director directing the movie, I like to think Thor will be a deep and thoughtfully produced action movie that will contain some of the elements I have discussed, namely about the nature of power and the responsibilities that come with that. And also the consequences of not adhering to those principles and the high cost that comes with not learning those lessons about power, leadership, responsibility, wisdom, knowledge and the understanding of the humility that comes with learning what all of the above entails and means.
Again I would like to think that Odin in all his all-knowing, all-seeing way and cunning is not dead but feigning death to bring all the players (sons, friends and foes alike,) into play, where he can effectively deal with them once and for all. And regain his first born and heir, a lot more knowledgeable and wiser for his experiences. We shall see in May 2011.