Harry Potter Portal to Norse Mythology
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Greek mythology is what typically comes to mind when we think about the mythology influencing the Harry Potter universe. Another mythology has influences as well—Norse mythology. You’ve probably heard of Odin the Allfather or Thor with his mighty hammer. You probably know something about giants and trolls, goblins and dwarfs. How about dragons guarding treasure? If you’ve ever read fantasy books, comic books, or watched fantasy movies, and of course, if you’re familiar with the Marvel Universe, you’ll have heard of all of these people and creatures.
The Norse people were from what we’d now call Scandinavia—Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and also Northern Germany. We might think of them now as “vikings” but that is a narrow term which really only referred to those people who traveled to new lands. Vikings were adventurers and raiders. It was a hard life living in the north in those days so the vikings left their homes to find places to plunder for money or new places to live, because they wanted space or better land. The “vikings” traveled, conquered, and settled many parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland, including the important cities of York in Northern England and Dublin in Ireland. Because they settled and created regular lives in what is now Great Britain, there remains a Norse influence in these countries. The influence of the Norse people and Norse mythology on English culture is still seen in modern books like Harry Potter.
The Norse people had a mythology every bit as sophisticated and full of stories as the Greeks. The Norse had a multitude of gods and goddesses, they had an interesting creation story, and they also told hero stories. One difference between the two is that the Norse gods and goddesses did not interfere in human affairs as much as the Greek gods. Odin (the “king” of the Norse gods) and Freya (the goddess of love and battle) did walk among humans and Odin did interfere with the lives of men, particularly kings or during battles. However, the other gods and goddesses tended to stay in their own world. They got into plenty of trouble on their own with each other! The god Thor liked to fight with the giants and Loki, the trickster god, constantly provoked the other gods, often to disastrous effect. This all happened, though, within their own world of Asgard. Or, as was the case with Thor, in the world of the giants, Jotunheim.
The influence of Norse mythology on the culture and literature of England is seen in tales of dragons, giants, elves, dwarfs, and heroes who search for treasure, which is guarded by dragons of course. In fact, the giants, elves, and dwarfs were all created at the beginning of the world and have their own worlds to live in.