God of War, discovering the manuscripts that inspired Santa Monica Studio

God of War, discovering the manuscripts that inspired Santa Monica Studio

God of War

Over the past few months we have focused a lot on the characters, events and traditions behind the phantasmagoric reconstruction of Norse mythology in the new God of War saga. During our ruminations, we have often referred to two fundamental texts for the understanding and study of this mythological branch, the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, but without ever dwelling too much on the subject, deserving of a separate analysis. function ready (fn) {if (document.readyState! = 'loading') {fn ()} else {document.addEventListener ('DOMContentLoaded', fn)}} ready (function () {window.addEventListener ('message', function (event) {let target_origin = 'https://aff.netaddiction.it'; if (event.origin! == target_origin) return; if (typeof event.data == "object" && event.data.hasOwnProperty ( "type") && event.data.type == "embaff") {let embed_id = event.data.embed_id; if (embed_id == '992') {document.querySelector ('#_ aff_embed_992'). setAttribute ('height ', event.data.embed_size);}}}, false);}) We have read them, we have analyzed them, studied what was on the web, but it didn't seem enough. So, we took a direct flight to Reykjavík with the intention of going to see these priceless sources firsthand and let those in contact with them all day tell us what it means to pass on this kind of knowledge.

Well, the time has come to discover the manuscripts that inspired Santa Monica Studio for God of War, as well as, over the centuries, dozens of other authors, from Tolkien on down.

A smattering of history

God of War: the poetic Edda preserved at the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavík The sources concerning Nordic myths and legends are not innumerable, quite the contrary. Most of the knowledge at our disposal derives mainly from two writings: the prose Edda, signed by Snorri Sturluson around 1220, and the poetic Edda, of which the author (or authors) and dating back, is unknown. more or less, to 1270. The dates of their "publication" highlight a very particular historical context: that of medieval Iceland. Yes, because, contrary to what one might think, the only written sources that have come down to us all come from an Icelandic and not a Scandinavian-continental context. One wonders why this strange concentrate of literary tradition is no longer spread equally throughout the former Norse territory.

Gísli Sigurðsson, researcher and professor at the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavík, told us that Iceland , born as an outpost, is the region of Viking possessions that has most managed to become independent and, thanks to the great weight given to trade, to very quickly include ideas, customs and traditions from different parts of the known world, especially Anglo-Saxons.

God of War: Árni Magnússon, the scholar to whom the Research Institute is dedicated where the most important manuscripts on the Norse tradition are kept Thus, Christianity took root in a much more sudden and radical way than in other Nordic territories and, with it, also the urge to translate one's knowledge and traditions into written form. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that this literary thrust almost corresponds to a contemporary fashion. In fact, in all probability, these writings, especially the poems sung by scalds and bards, were commissioned by prominent figures of the local social scene, driven by the voices and testimonies coming from English lands, where this practice denoted a certain prestige.

Thus, works such as the two Eddas were born, but also several written sagas (for the most part lost or extremely fragmentary), at a time when, we recall, reading was not common practice and movable type printing was far from being invented. However, this did not prevent many from creating their own "edition", transcribing the texts in different shapes, sizes and contexts.

God of War: the so-called "Edda oblongata", an illustrated version that owes its name to the its unusual elongated shape At the institute we had the opportunity to see three versions of the two Eddas: one was the most complete and ancient, devoid of visual frills, mostly made for educational purposes, while the other two could be defined as "illustrated". What we have seen are just some of the examples of what has become a real trend, driven mainly (even in the moments when printing and publishing began to bring literature to the level of everyone, or almost) by the lack of enough money to own your own copy, a custom that continued until the early twentieth century.

The poetic Edda

God of War: the poetic Edda, a collection of poems mythological and heroic The poetic Edda is a collection of Nordic poems of oral origin, reported in written form only towards the end of the 13th century. One of the best preserved manuscripts is the one we had the honor of seeing live, sent to the King of Denmark in the 17th century and returned to Iceland in 1971. This version contains the twenty-nine canonical songs that make up the Edda (the most famous is the Vǫluspá, or "The prophecy of the Seer"), with also a gap of several pages, whose content can be partially reconstructed only by comparison with other writings of the period.

Given the simple layout, without frills or ornaments of any kind, it is conceivable that this edition was made mainly for the study of these texts, so much so that it is also very scrupulously indexed. In fact, the manuscript is divided into two distinct parts: the first contains the mythological poems, while the second the heroic poems (comparable with those of the German Nibelungenlied).

God of War: Jakob Sigurðsson's manuscript, containing the two Eddas, as well as several original illustrations. Many others have been drawn from this "first accredited version" of the poetic Edda over the centuries. Professor Sigurðsson showed us, for example, an 18th century manuscript written by an Icelandic farmer, Jakob Sigurðsson, containing a large amount of hand-drawn images. The presence of different names within the previous binding made it possible to follow the path of this volume over the centuries, which concluded its journey to Canada towards the end of the 19th century, only to return to Icelandic territory at the end of the Millennium. . Inside, in addition to the poetic Edda, there is also the Prosastic Edda of Sturluson, together with a whole series of elements with an encyclopedic character that could be useful to the farmer Jakob to manage his farm in the east of Iceland. br>

The Edda in prose

God of War: Thor's fishing for Jormungandr Of a totally different character is the Edda in prose, written around 1220 by Snorri Sturluson, a historian and politician, as well as a prominent figure in the Icelandic social landscape of the thirteenth century. To push Sturluson to compose this text was probably the desire to explain in a simple and immediate way the meaning hidden behind the poems with which he grew up. He was one of the first to put forward the idea, following the Evemeric principle, that the deities of these tales were actually warriors and kings who, over time, took on a divine aura in the eyes of the people.

L 'Edda in prose is divided into four parts: a prologue (where Sturluson puts forward the hypothesis of the provenance of the Æsir from Troy), the Gylfaginning (Gylfi's Deception), the Skáldskaparmál (Dialogue on poetic art) and the Háttatal (Treatise of metrics). Snorri's work was undoubtedly one of the main sources of study and research concerning Norse mythology, given the relative simplicity with which the author has chosen to reproduce the famous oral songs of the skalds in prose form, almost certainly with a intent that we could define pedagogical.

God of War and the dilemma of adaptation

God of War: how important is it to stick to the source? As much as we like to dig into history, we must also go back to the present to see what implications are created in our sector, the videogame one, when it finds itself having to deal with a wide and stratified cultural heritage like the Norse one. br>
God of War has always been a videogame saga that has aroused love and indignation for the way in which one approaches mythologies, the Greek one before, the Nordic one now. The idea of ​​a killer of gods who spectacularly tears apart half a Hellenic pantheon has exalted many, but equally fervent, disappointed (if not really furious) by the lack of adherence to the literary and historical sources from which these characters emerge. The new God of War saga has exacerbated these resentments, as Santa Monica has implemented a truly colossal process of adaptation and writing, almost to create an alternative mythology. The gods who inhabit the game are practically the opposite of those told by Snorri and the skalds. Just take Baldur as an example, a sort of Norse Christ in mythology (the Christological references are so many as to have led some scholars to believe that it is an addition that took place after the conversion to Christianity of the Icelandic territories), transformed by Santa Monica into main antagonist of the first chapter of the new saga.

God of War: Baldur is the opposite of his mythological counterpart When an enthusiast, a scholar or a researcher is in contact with such a radical remodeling of his object of interest, it is normal to feel a certain sense of estrangement, not being able to immediately connect one's knowledge to what is shown on the screen. Yet such a process is perhaps even more interesting than a perfect conversion of the original source. This is because it gives new life to such knowledge, creates a new world starting from it, building on solid and recognized foundations (more than ever in recent years), capable of fueling interest in one's work. The player finds there a reminiscence, a fragment of memory that initiates a "nostalgic" recognition process, linked to echoes of the past that have settled in the form of fond memory, resulting from a powerful link with other iterations of those characters, of those places, of those events. Familiarity is the driving force of jovial sensory experimentation, which pushes each of us to react differently to what surrounds us and affects us.

Professor Sigurðsson pointed out (indeed, reminded us) of a very obvious as it is fundamental: these myths, these legends, were invented by farmers, storytellers, ordinary people frightened by the world around them, eager to explain the apparently most inexplicable phenomena, from the sun that rises every day to the water that flows from the mountains. They are creations of the mind, born individually and then united in common beliefs, traditions, rites. But before institutionalization, everyone shaped their beliefs according to their needs, telling a different version of the stories they had heard from a traveler or anyone.

God of War: finding your own interpretation is the best way to pay homage to the source What we find written today, black and white, is just one of the many interpretations of those myths, of those stories. Many others existed and have been forgotten over time, buried together with those who created them, perhaps blindly believing in their vision of that magical and formidable world, where death is only a passage, a transition, a rebirth. There can be no right or wrong version of a myth because we ourselves define how much value to attribute to this or that other source. We are not in the presence of a work of genius, born from the mind of a single living being through a selfish process of displaying, but of a collective construct, shaped by the union of different points of view on the world. It is from here that the individual selfish works of man spring, propulsion of the mind to the shaping of a concept considered relevant by its author. Snorri's Edda is, but so are the other written testimonies, contracted, fragmentary versions of a much larger and more stratified collective history. But at the base of this Apollonian structure we find nothing more than ingredients; ingredients of human perception. It is up to the individual to unite them to find their own truth; your own Valhalla.

We hope you enjoy this special dedicated to the discovery of the manuscripts that inspired God of War. For us it was an honor to be able to see live and so closely the fundamental testimonies that have contributed to the construction of a complex civil society like the contemporary one. God of War Ragnarok will be out very soon, on November 9th, but we still have a few journeys into the mythology to take before we get our hands on the new Santa Monica Studio title. In the meantime, we look forward to seeing you in the comments.

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