Odin for Hire by Luke Mizzi
Odin watched as actor Anthony Hopkins, portraying Odin himself, donned with golden plates of armour and right eye covered, screamed at the dashing Chris Hemsworth with theatrical ferocity. Behind Odin, in a cage carved out of ash tree, were two ravens; Huginn and Muninn, thought and memory. The former had its head underneath its right wing, and the other stared blankly at the surface wall upon which the cage hung. The birds were seemingly lifeless, their caws a remnant echo only in their owner’s eardrums.
All around the couch upon which Odin lay, his belly protruding out, imploding and exploding with every breath, were horns and flasks dripping with mead. His only eye glared at the pixels of a television set with a self-contained drama. His rough, veined, hands which once held the spear Gumnir with such confidence and skull shattering might, now rested dead – one on a remote control and the other on the armrest. He observed the movie keenly.
The impostors on the screen faced off in an Asgard far different from the one he remembered, for his ancient realm of gods and glory was merely an urbanized 21st century metropolis representation with the slightest hint of Viking in its ornaments. He couldn’t quite articulate how he felt about the blockbuster interpretation of his beloved home surging with electrical innovation and flying longboats; technologies so far removed from the consciousness of archaic Norse men. But it kept him fed in a time when deities such as he were either lost to the sands of time, or else hired and moulded by agents and artists alike, foaming at the mouth for old mythic reference.
Creativity, it seemed, was running dry.
It was no longer enough to praise the Muses for divine inspiration. Polyhymnia would no longer deliver epic poetry and Melpomene ceased to make man tremble in tragic fear. Film makers and authors now turned to the other impulses, mere archetypes in the driest sense of the word, and employed them in their literature and multi-millionaire stop motions. Hercules, for instance, was now a sensational hit, a cheerful ginger with cartoonish aesthetic and at times even part of a new pantheon altogether in a collection of comic books. But his presence was enough.
That is all they ever wanted when they came to them for borrowing. Sometimes gods like him, such as Hercules and all the others were rented temporarily, striking a slight mythical recognition from the audience. On the best days, which were hard to come by, that is how their new followers found them. But more often than not, they were torn out of the minds of their peoples and the grandeur of their temples. And suddenly they were in Hollywood. Some were squished between the pages of books and tomes whilst others found their stature not in worshipped icons but in plastic figurines that young children could toss around, which further deconstructed their identity.
Odin had had enough of the two actors screaming at each other and he turned off the television. Hopkins was banishing Thor to Midgard, taking away his hammer and grunting at his son’s brother Loki.
‘But was Loki actually my son?’ he wondered. A sting threatened to burn his mind as he reached toward his temple and rubbed it, grasping at some memory of his brethren. The ruffle of feathers behind him was ignored. All he could envisage was an actor with jet black hair whose name was not Odinson, but Hiddleston. In Odin’s mind, his son Thor always spoke in American accents and had golden hair streaming down onto a red cape. And yet that memory of Thor was juxtaposed with another 2D version of him laid out onto paper. There were too many Thors in Odin’s head.
Odin himself was not himself anymore. He was a multitude of actors and a multitude of voices, all reaching towards him through their art form. Some wanted to speak like him whilst others wanted to paint him with words. His migraine worsened with every failed grasp at some pure, untainted memory. The birds were now cawing ferociously at each other. Odin couldn’t tell the voices apart – which voice actually belonged to him and not some stranger? Which of his thoughts was genuine and not the catchphrases of a character caught in a speech bubble? Odin’s face twitched and his one eye blinked with tearful force as the cage rattled and the birds screamed…
A pair of gentle hands lay on his shoulders and an exterior voice whispered comforting poetry. As his sight cleared and the voices subsided to his unconscious, he could make out the entirety of what was his trusted manager and companion, Vor. Her flushed cheeks and reddish hair, cut off at her shoulders, comforted him. One of her miniature hands reached for a cloth with which she proceeded to daintily clean his ancient face of sweat.
‘We can’t have you looking like this when he shows up’ Vor was saying. She was well dressed, in mortal fashion no less. She wasn’t a remembered one and therefore demand for her was scarce, almost non-existent. She enjoyed a clear unitary mind and because of that could negotiate for the old god’s hiring into media. They planned to meet a new artist today – an inspiring author with keen interest in the old Prose and Poetic Eddas and the elusive Norse canon.
Vor took Odin by the armpit and yanked upwards in order to help him stand up. Together they walked into the kitchen and he sat down with a golden can of beer in front of him. As Vor tended to the now calming ravens, a faint but repetitive knock caressed the door of their little apartment.
‘Mr Grim,’ said the hoarse voice of a young lad reeking of cigarettes. The man went to shake his hands but was promptly directed away by the charming Vor who captured the ginger bearded well-suited youth’s attention. The meeting was a bore, as usual, were but all the while Odin kept his mind focused on the voices within his head. They were starting to get louder when a question was directed at him;
‘How would you like to be represented, Mr Grim?’ the young man asked. The question dazzled him and took him off guard. The artists interested in hiring Odin’s presence were usually very direct and already had an image in mind for him. He remembered how one had brought a list of names he had researched about him and laid them on the table, attempting to confirm their authenticity. That day, Odin had been quite impressed. Another day however a vaguely inspired writer wanted to brand him into a parody of himself – a joke to Asgard’s name. Vor had calmed his thunderous temper because Odin needed representation in one form or another. If it meant he was to be dressed up in costumes more ridiculous than he had seen Loki appear in, then so be it.
This man however opened up a new avenue for the old deity. The question could be answered in so many ways, but Odin had only one answer in mind…
‘Hang me again’ he responded. The young man’s eyebrows shot up at that response as Vor choked on her hot beverage.