Over the past century, mythology, fables, and cultural tales have gained interest in Hollywood. These adapted titles include clash of titans, MCU Thor, oh brother where are you, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and many more. A common feature in many adaptations is the presence of Greek or Roman culture, that is, in which mythological characters are shown, where the film takes place and what cultural signifiers are included in the story. These Greek mythological stories have been adapted historically, comically, dramatically, and repeatedly for decades.
The rise of Norse mythology in Hollywood creations shows a change in that trend. The creation and reception of A24 midsummerThe History Channel and Amazon’s vikingsand Universal the northerner demonstrate a growing demand for shows that include tales from Nordic cultures. That desire for Norse tales, coupled with the addition of modern themes and Adam Price’s innovative writing, is what fueled Netflix. ragnarok be an international success.
from netflix ragnarok is a fantasy coming-of-age show that tells the story of Norse gods reborn. The show is set in the fictional small seaside town of Edda. The city and its people are facing increasing industrial pollution from Jutul Industries, as well as rapid melting of glaciers due to climate change. Throughout the story, the key characters of Edda are revealed to be Norse gods reborn, fulfilling their destiny to return to Edda, face other gods and giants (Jötnar), and fight in the events of Ragnarok (the mythological apocalypse). Thor, Loki, Odin, Wenche, the Jötnar, Tyr and Freya, among other mythological figures, appear in the series.
Ragnarok Real Life Themes
Much of the plot of the first season revolves around Magne (David Stakston) and his friend, Iseult (Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin), who uncover a massive conspiracy in Edda. The Jutul family and their corporation have been constantly poisoning the water through poorly disposed contaminated waste inside a melting glacier. Iseult became a Nancy Drew-esque character, chronicling her finds online and tracking the shrinking glacier with her father, Erik (Odd-Magnus Williamson).
For Adam Price, this was an important storyline to include in the show. It ties directly into the antagonistic antics of the Jutuls and gives Magne something to fight for. In addition to his narrative purpose, Price detailed to Still Watching Netflix why he included this storyline in his show:
“There is a very important issue in Ragnarok which is the environmental issue. We thought that it was a very interesting topic to include not only because it is a very modern element in all our lives. So all these discussions that they’re actually having in Ragnarok are very much discussions that I’m having in the private scene myself.”
In addition to environmental issues, ragnarok grapple with ideas of what is Really Nordic. The characters, and by extension their literary archetypes, have been represented throughout Norwegian culture for centuries, eventually expanding to the global platform. ragnarok stands at the intersection of old world mythology and the modern age, showing the timelessness of the tales while also demonstrating why they would need to be adapted to fit today’s society. While adapting the tales for the 21st century, the show also adapted older definitions of what it means to be Norwegian.
While the themes of being the only person of color in a predominantly white school, neighborhood or town are not unique to this show, these themes have a different weight behind them in modern Norwegian society. There has been a persistent discourse on Norwegian/Nordic identity that often revolves around meticulous details, carefully worded definitions, and a clear delineation between ethnicity and nationality. A widespread belief in much of Norway was that if one is not ethnically Norwegian, meaning Norwegian descent, they cannot define themselves as Norwegian even after immigration. This idea of ’Norwegian’ and ‘foreigner’ has impacted the representation of Nordic film and television, as well as the national identity. Therefore, the selection of Norwegian actors of color in Ragnarok was deliberate and of great significance.
The show’s production team offered feedback on Norwegian identity with the choice of Tani Dibasey for ragnarok season 1, followed by Danu Sunth for ragnarok season 2. On Netflix the making of ragnarokDibasey explained why the casting of him and other actors of color was important within the realm of Norwegian representation:
“Being able to represent diversity and a different ethnicity is really important. Especially on a show like this that tries to show that Norwegian culture can be many things.”
The need for a universal hero
Price explained much of his inspiration behind making ragnarok on netflix the making of ragnarok.
“There are a lot of people today, at least young people, who think that the world is big and scary and on the verge of an apocalypse. So I imagine that people in this world need something to put their faith in. There is a necessity for a hero’s story. And in our little world of Edda, a hero appears.”
It’s important to recognize that Price used the term hero to describe the main character Magne, not god. Granted, Magne is the god of thunder reborn and a fated protector, but as a character, he’s a nobody, an outcast, or even an underdog. He is thrust into a new, unknown, intimidating and sometimes dangerous life in the Edda. For most of the show, he is completely alone. With no support from family, no friends to speak of, and no knowledge of how to navigate this new terrain. In this characterization, Price illustrates why the audience should offer his sympathy to Magne. Eventually, however, the characterization changes.
His character arc becomes one of a hero. Magne often faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles throughout the series, and Price doesn’t shy away from the confusion that comes with those moments. Rather than a traditional “Hero’s Journey” in storytelling, one in which the hero trains, learns lessons, and ultimately builds to defeat his enemy, Price created a fractured hero that is divided equally between Magne and Thor. Magne is simultaneously ill-prepared for a fight. Y called by a higher power to protect.
Half of him is a champion of violence as a means to an end…while the rest of him carefully questions the consequences that come with his actions. This internal turmoil depicted within Magne shows the conflict brewing between the godThor and the human, great. By having this duality in Magne (and many of the other characters within the set), Price took advantage of both god and hero characteristics rather than having to choose just one for Magne.
This is what makes the show universally appealing. For some, it’s a nostalgic retelling of familiar Norse tales, or at least archetypes of culturally significant stories. For others, it is the story of a hero and his opponents, assimilating ragnarok to the superheroes of Marvel, the rebels of Star Warsand even The odyssey. Adam Price used a unique methodology to write the Norse Gods Reborn, and in doing so, made ragnarok accessible and attractive worldwide.
season one and two of ragnarok are available to stream on Netflix. Production on season 3 was recently completed in mid-2022 and is likely to premiere in the first quarter of 2023.