Before reading this article please beware, there will be many major spoilers for God of War and small spoilers from Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice within.
I finished the new God of War the other day. It was really good! It wasn’t ’10/10 BEST GAME EVER!’ good, but it was very compelling nonetheless. A strong core gameplay loop, combat that had real weight and – whilst it lacked the emotional heft promised by many – it had a superbly plotted story at the heart of it. Sony Santa Monica skilfully inverted the classic narrative of Norse mythology to fit within the God Of War universe. The fearsome giants of myth were now the gentle and unwitting victims of their oppressors.
The flawed and yet – usually – heroic Norse gods were painted as the masters of a totalitarian regime, a bunch of psychos prepared to inflict murder, torture and even genocide to maintain their rule. In many ways this version makes a lot of sense when the original myths are viewed from an opposing perspective. After all, Thor kills thousands of giants across the Poetic Edda and Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda and many of them are struck down for little to no reason other than the fact they are giants. He even kills a random innocent dwarf by kicking him into the burning effigy that was previously Baldur to make himself feel better!
In case you didn’t get the message the first time, there’s spoilers after this point!
This new reversed mythology therefore makes complete sense. And it continues to make sense up to, and including, the culminating twist that Atreus – Kratos’ son – is Loki. No mention of Loki had been made up until this point in the game and now the reason for his exclusion is clear; the god of mischief’s journey has only just begun. There were clues peppered throughout Father and Son’s quest, we learn that Atreus’ mother was a giantess, her name was Fey and that is short for Laufey – Loki’s mother in Norse mythology. The fact that Atreus and Loki are one and the same means that there are lots of fun things found within the original myths which Cory Barlog and the team at Sony Santa Monica could include in the next God of War.
The most interesting of these actually revolve around Loki’s children. As with all ancient gods, Loki is a thoroughly eccentric and enthusiastic lover who sires a host of loin spawn over his lifetime. Several of his children are ‘regular’ gods but it’s the children he has with the giantess Angrboða that are the most intriguing.
First off, there’s the young girl who has half of her face rotten and decayed to the bone; Hel. Those of you who played Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice will be familiar with this character, as she made an appearance in the culmination of Ninja Theory’s modern classic. Hel appropriately rules over Hel. Unlike Christianity’s Hell, people aren’t sent to Hel to be punished, rather, it’s more like a holding area. Everyone who doesn’t die awesomely in battle, and so doesn’t get a free pass to Valhalla, has to go there instead. We know from playing God of War that Hel already exists. The question is, has it already found its ruler or are we still waiting for her arrival?
Secondly. we have Fenrir or Fenris. A wolf who becomes so giant that he will ultimately consume everything – or, at least, he’ll try. Come Ragnarök, Fenrir will place his lower jaw against the ground and his upper jaw against the sky and then start running around chomping – like a giant fuzzy combine harvester. He’ll be the one who kills off Odin before finally falling to the blade of one of Odin’s sons.
Interestingly, it is Fenrir who was responsible for biting off Tyr’s hand. Though with Tyr already dead in God of War’s twist on mythology it will be unlikely that this occurs in the videogame story without some timey-wimey – I actually suspect they might, but hold that thought for now. How did Fenrir come to bite off Tyr’s hand I hear you ask?* That’s because Odin, in one of his many visions, had decided that Fenrir was a big bad wolf and needed to be imprisoned. The gods sold this to Fenrir as a challenge – they would wrap the wolf in magical chains and he, in order to prove his strength, would have to break free.
On the first two attempts the gods were unsuccessful, on each occasion Fenrir snapped his bonds with ease. But on the third attempt the gods wanted to tie him up with a chain forged by dwarves. It was very light and very thin for a chain, so Fenrir was instantly suspicious of the gods intentions. As collateral he demanded that one of the god’s put their hand in his mouth whilst he was tied up, should he be unable to break free of the bonds he would instead break free the god’s hand from god’s arm. Only Tyr was brave enough to place his five little finger sausages within the giant wolf’s salivating maw. To cut a long story short – far too late for that I know – Fenrir couldn’t escape and chewed off Tyr’s hand.
I think that Tyr’s self sacrifice in the original myth is the reason why the devleoper’s gave him such a noble character in GOW. He was willing to sacrifice his own appendages in order to save others.
Anyway, after that long ramble, we return to Lok’s third child; Jormungand. Yes, that’s Jormungand the world serpent. When Kratos and Atreus first meet the giant snake, he states that Atreus is familiar to him. That makes sense as Atreus is – if we follow Norse Mythology – Jormungand’s father. Mimir (the talking head and the one who demanded Odin cut out one of his own eyes to receive great knowledge of the nine realms) later informs the duo that time is a bit wibbly-wobbly and events often loop around.
Indeed the very idea of Norse Mythology is that it is a circle – Ragnorak is not the end as Odin feared, rather it is a new beginning. This leads me to believe that within God of War canon Atreus is indeed the father of Jormungand, it’s just that he hasn’t sired a world spanning serpent, giant wolf, and zombie girl from his love lumps quite yet.
That, if I’m right in my suspicions, is what we can look forward to occurring in God of War Part II, or whatever they end up calling the eighth main game in the franchise. After all, Kratos and Atreus will need an army – bolstered with Loki’s children – in order to finally do battle with this pantheon of gods. This will be God of War’s Ragnorak and we’ll have to wait until Part III for that bad boy.
What do you think? Has Adrian been spending too long trying to find all of Odin’s invisible Ravens and lost his mind or does he have a point? Let us know in the comments below.
*The only way this will work is if you ask the question really, really loudly. Go ahead. I’m sure none of your family/friends/work colleagues will judge you for doing so.