Raiders of the Forbidden Valley
Chapter 8: Myths and Legends
Manhattan, three days later
"I must say Indy, you seem to have had a hectic time in Glasgow. This Qwam Sung Ho chap seems to be somewhat dangerous." Marcus Brody sat looking at his old friend with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes; he took a sip of tea "What interests me is the reasons why a Chinese crimelord would be interested in Norse mythology? It seems to be a bit of a paradox. I mean there are certain parallels that can be drawn between cultural mythology including Taoism and the Norse mythology. But that doesn't explain why he would put so much credence in the world tree legend." Marcus laid his teacup onto a saucer and looked at Indy. A troubled expression crossing his face, an expression that Indy knew well.
"What's wrong Marcus?"
"Nothing at all Indy . . . it's just" Marcus trailed off and took another sip of his tea.
Indy knew this look. Marcus was a worrier, at least when it came to him. For years he had been a surrogate father to Indy and it was a relationship that in many ways was stronger than the relationship that he'd had with his own father. When Indy and Henry had been totally alienated from each other it had been Marcus who had been the only line of contact between both men. Until the early 1920's Marcus had been known to go off on adventurous quests that would have been daunting to most men, Indy included. But that had stopped. Almost overnight Marcus Brody had changed from adventurer to bookish scholar and for years Indy had wondered why. It was only a long time after that he had guessed the reason for his sudden retirement. Marcus had given it up so that he could always be a stable father figure for Indy. Eventually Marcus seemed to settle into his newfound role, but at times Indy knew that he would have loved to go after the things that had instead fallen at Indy's feet. It got to the stage that when Marcus accompanied Indy on the mission to rescue his father and find the Holy Grail, that he was lacking in confidence and although at he was nothing less than brave, he was something of a hindrance on more than one occasion. This quest had been a failure on some levels but a raging success on others. Indy and Henry had been reunited and although at times they still struggled to get on with each other the relationship was . . . tolerable. Sallah had got some camels for his brother-in-law and Marcus had regained some of his old adventurous spirit.
Still, when it came to Indy he could still be an old woman.
"Marcus, I don't know what tangible thing these Chinese are after but I doubt that the world tree exists. However they have killed a number of people and kidnapped Susan here in their efforts to get hold of these!" Indy brought out a soft cotton bag and emptied the runes out onto the table. Marcus looked at them and furrowed his brows. "Indy, what do you know about Norse mythology?"
"It never was my strong point, Marcus." Indy answered.
"That's what worries me. You seem to know an awful lot about various components of the mythology without knowing it . . . I'm really making no sense am I?" Marcus looked at Indy and Susan who both shook their heads "Well, you talk about having seen three women in your last vision. What were they called?"
"The Norn!" Indy took a sip of his coffee.
"Now, in Norse mythology the Norns are three women who bathe the roots of the world tree daily in an effort to repair the damage done by Nidhoggr. The great serpent who gnaws and bites at the roots each day. The Norns are almost exactly the same as the Greek fates. Three sisters who know the destiny and fate of each man. They also crop up regularly in English mythology as the Wyrd. Three witches who control destiny . . . or at least shape men's destiny!" Marcus looked at his guests.
"The witches in Macbeth?" Susan ventured.
"Yes, precisely! The witches were Shakespeare's representation of the Wyrd. These women are a trinity. An old wizened crone, a mother figure and a virtuous and pure virginal maiden. They are a representation of the Earth mother . . . or at least that's what some scholars suppose."
"Marcus, how would a Greek concept like the fates become part of Norwegian mythology?" Susan asked.
"Oh, it's not unusual my dear" Marcus smiled "There are many parallels that can be draw between the ancient Greek and ancient Norse mythologies. Asgard, the Norse home of the gods is very much like Mount Olympus. Odin is like Zeus; Thor is like Apollo and so on. There are a number of half formed myths about a race of travellers from the south who explored the North and called themselves the Sons of Apollo but I tend to think that the similarities in ancient religions is a testament to the constants in any civilisations development. The sun, moon, stars, weather, geological forces and so on and so forth. However, it does worry me that this Qwam Sung Ho is so interested in these Norse legends."
"Why?" Indy looked levelly at his friend. "I mean the Norsemen travelled far and wide in their time. There isn't any real evidence that they reached China but that doesn't make it an impossibility. So, perhaps they did bring with them some potion that promoted longevity and the Chinese alchemists may have refined this process. I mean we've seen that it's possible . . . haven't we?" Indy's last comment was loaded with meaning and Marcus looked at him. Susan sensed something pass between the men and decided not to delve into this subject.
"That was different Indy. That was the power of Christ. Immortality is not an achievable goal!" Marcus looked at his friend. "Even the immortality of the Grail had it's terms and conditions. This Qwam Sung Ho chap is on an empty search."
"Marcus, he's aged about seventy years in the past eleven years!"
"Indy, there are more than a few medical conditions that could account for such an apparently rapid aging process . . ." Marcus looked at his friend.
"I'm sorry for interrupting, Indy, Dr. Brody. We know that, for whatever reasons, Qwam Sung Ho is determined to get a hold of these Runes. The important thing is that he seems to believe in this mythical tree. Perhaps if Indy and I knew a little more about the actual myths then we can try to figure out his reasons." Susan sensed that a debate was about to develop and she was too anxious to sit through one. Marcus looked at her and smiled warmly.
"Of course my dear. What would you like to know?"
"My brother was of the opinion that he had unleashed Ragnarok. What is this? I know that it's something bad but I don't really know why he would have been so afraid."
"Ragnarok is the Norse mythology of the end of the cosmos. It is the Doom of the Gods and is recorded in the Edda. This is the most authoritative source of Norse mythology and like the Bible it is in two books. The first is a collection of thirty-four Icelandic poems that have been interspersed with much newer prose written in between the ninth and twelfth centuries. The second book was written around 1220 AD by an Icelandic poet called Snorri Sturkson and is thought to have served as a template for would be Skalds."
"Marcus, what are Skalds?" Susan asked.
"Oh, forgive me. I do tend to get a little carried away with this. Skalds were the poets who told epic tales to members of the Norwegian courts. Sturkson was one of the most celebrated of these men. Now the Gotterdamung or Ragnarok myths is contained within a song called the Volspura. The whole concept of Ragnarok is much like ancient Norse life, very harsh and unforgiving!" Marcus poured another cup of tea from the China teapot. He took a sip; Indy recognized this as a way that his friend paused to gather his thoughts. "The world will be plunged into an unforgiving three year long winter called "The Fimbulvtr." This will be hard and without any respite. The harsh conditions will eventually cause friends and family to turn against each other. After this period of three years the stars will wink out and the wolves Skoll and Hati will devour the sun and moon respectively. The world will be plunged into absolute darkness."
Marcus dabbed his lips with a napkin and looked levelly at Susan and Indy.
"However, this is only going to be the beginnings of our troubles if Ragnarok comes. The entire world will be caught in the grip of enormous geological upheavals. Earthquakes will shake the nine worlds and will be of such force that they will break the bonds of Fenris, the terrible wolf and his father Loki!"
"I'm sorry for interrupting again Marcus, but who's Loki?" Susan asked.
"Ah, Loki is a major player in the pantheon of Norse deities. He is known by many names such as the trickster, the sly one and the sky traveller. Loki is very like the trickster gods of the North American mythologies, handsome and friendly of appearance but malicious and cruel of nature. In the early Norse myths Loki is a nuisance, a relentless practical joker. However as time went on, Loki's actions became more and more evil and this culminated with him causing the death of Balder, the god of light. He did this by tricking Balder's blind brother, Hod, into throwing a dart made of mistletoe at his brother knowing that the plant would kill Balder. The Aesir decided that this was an action that could not go unpunished so Loki was chained to three massive boulders under a poisonous serpent, which would drip venom onto his head. Now, Loki's wife Sigyn who had been loyal to him throughout all of his evil actions stood beside her bound husband catching the serpent's venom in a bowl, thus saving him from pain. However, occasionally, she would have to empty the bowl and the poison would fall onto Loki's head for a short while and Loki's writhing would cause earthquakes. He is very much like the Christian concept of Satan, in fact his fate is reminiscent of Satan's fate in the Book of Revelations." Marcus paused and looked into his empty teacup. "Anyway, Loki will be freed by the earthquakes that herald the start of Ragnarok and he will lead an army of the dead into battle, soldiers supplied to him by his daughter, Hel. Loki's firstborn, the Midgard serpent Jormungand, will sense his father's release and struggle to make his way towards land. The sheer size of this serpent will cause the seas to churn violently and the ensuing tidal waves will kill thousands. Jormungand's every breath will pollute the sky and his venom will ruin the soil, making it barren and useless. The waves will free the ship, Nagflar, and it's crew of Giants from an icy prison. The captain of Nagflir is Hymir a fierce warrior giant and he will set sail for Vigrid, the plain on which the final battle will take place. The fire giants lead by Surt will come from the South and Surt's sword, which is as bright as the sun, will scorch the earth. Fenris will gallop forth, his howls signifying the end of everything. During the final battle, in which everyone will play a role, Thor and Jormungand will kill each other in battle. Loki will battle Heimdall and again, both will die. Fenris will devour Odin after a climactic struggle. This battle will rage until Surt will throw fire everywhere - killing man, dwarf and god indiscriminately. His flames will touch Ygdrassil and an inferno will devour the tree. The fire spreading to it's root and destroying the nine worlds. Once these are gone the Earth will fall into a black and poisonous sea. Every living thing will die!" Marcus looked at his small audience. "Cheerful people these Norse poets."
Indy looked at Marcus.
"Marcus, why would I be having these . . . visions? When I opened up the attaché case at first I was convinced that there was a snake inside. I almost wrecked a hotel because of this hallucination!"
"Loki is the trickster god of Norse mythology. He could quite easily be equated with the legends of Coyote. A god who is sometimes benign but also sometimes malevolent. Perhaps it was Loki's influence that caused you to see the snake."
"What about my visions of Ygrdrassil and the Norns? Those don't seem to have been hallucinations."
"Indy, I don't know what is causing these visions. Listen, will you leave the runes with me for a while? I will examine them and try to work out what's going on. I'll track down Hume for you as well. I'm owed some favours by some members of the faculty at Humes University. A lot of strange requests have come my way from the Miskatonic. Research into pre-Sumerian culture and that sort of thing. Give me a few hours, Indy."
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: Hannibal King
Created: June 21, 1999
Last modified: October 4, 1999