Ragnarök is Loki’s masterpiece.
After Odin discovers a series of prophecies leading to the destruction of the Nine Realms, the Norse gods are in a panic. They do everything they can to protect Baldur, Odin’s most beloved son, whose death will start a chain reaction leading to “Ragnarök.” Sensing an opportunity for mischief, the trickster god Loki deceives a blind warrior into killing Baldur with a sprig of mistletoe.
Even still, Ragnarök might still have been prevented. Hel, the death-goddess, offered to free Baldur from her underworld if every creature in the cosmos mourned Baldur. Asgard sent messengers across the Nine Realms, and all wept for Baldur, save one: a giantess named Tokk, who snarled, “Let Hel hold what she has!” After Hel refused to release Baldur, Tokk revealed herself to be Loki himself in disguise. Thus begins Ragnarök.
The Realms were soon plunged into a Great Winter lasting three years with no summers. A great army of giants stormed Asgard, sacking the great city of the gods.
Surtr, a fiery giant from the land of Muspelheim, set Asgard aflame, burning the cities’ great walls and the rainbow bridge Bifrost to rubble.
The fearsome wolf Fenrir ravaged the nine realms. Odin tried to stop him him, but the king was no match for Fenrir’s teeth, and was devoured.
Thor himself battled Jormungand, the mighty Midgard Serpent. After a long and fearsome battle, Thor slayed the great beast, but is left poisoned. He manages to walk nine steps before the poison takes him.
Surtr covered the entire world in fire. Finally, in the midst of all the carnage and death, the waters rose and consumed Yggdrasil, flooding the Nine Realms. As before, creation was submerged in water, bringing quiet and non-existence.
Of course, Thor: Ragnarok will not adapt the mythology strictly. Balder does not exist at all in the MCU yet, and though Asgard has been destroyed multiple times, there has yet to be one truly iconic Ragnarok storyline in the Thor comics. However, several of Thor’s greatest enemies will likely play a part in the MCU Ragnarok.
Surtur is perhaps Thor’s most feared enemy. The fire demon lord of Muspelheim has clashed with Thor multiple times over the years. He’s invaded both Earth & Asgard. He ultimately kills Odin, leaving Thor to ascend to the throne. Surtur’s sword, Twilight, is also a devastatingly powerful source of magic.
It is unlikely that Ragnarok would be adapted without Hela. She is goddess of death, ruler of the realm of the dead, and Loki’s daughter. A power-hungry sorceress, she has often tried to expand her rule to Asgard, Earth, and other realms. She’s one of Thor’s mainstay villains, and one of the most powerful beings in the Norse pantheon.
Hela could play a unique role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thanos, the big bad in The Avengers & Guardians of the Galaxy, is obsessed with an entity called Mistress Death. She’s the anthropomorphization of Death in the Marvel Universe, an ancient cosmic being older than all life. Maybe Hela & Mistress Death could be combined in the Cinematic Universe. It would give Thor: Ragnarok a strong tie-in to Avengers: Infinity War, which will see Thanos as the main villain.
Perhaps the most likely villain in Thor: Ragnarok is the Midgard Serpent. One of Thor’s greatest enemies, he’s a gigantic snake who lives at the bottom of Earth’s oceans. As in the mythological Ragnarök, Thor & the Serpent are destined to kill each other. One prophecy says that Thor will slay the Serpent, but will be only able to take nine steps before the Serpent’s poisons kill him. Such an encounter would give Thor the chance to defend Earth in his final moments, and could make for a truly moving onscreen death.
The word “Ragnarok” has appeared multiple times in the comics. Perhaps the most famous is a 2004 storyline which sees Asgard destroyed and all Asgardians killed except for Thor. He rebuilds Asgard in the space above Oklahoma, and begins resurrecting his fallen comrades. There is also a cyborg clone of Thor named Ragnarok, though it’s unlikely he’ll be involved in the film.
It’s likely that Thor: Ragnarok will only loosely follow the mythological or comic Ragnaröks. Kevin Feige said something very interesting about Thor: Ragnarok: it will begin immediately following Age of Ultron. Anyone paying attention in MCU Phase Two will immediately notice how the timeline has stayed aggressively linear: Iron Man 3 & Thor: The Dark World both happen in 2013, Winter Soldier happens about six months after Thor 2, and Guardians of the Galaxy is set in 2014, also after Thor 2. All four of those films occur over a few days, making their footprints relatively small in the MCU timeline.
The fact that Thor: Ragnarok is set in the aftermath of Age of Ultron yet comes out two years later suggests some interesting implications for not just Thor 3, but for Age of Ultron.
SPOILERS FOR AGE OF ULTRON.
It’s been rumored for awhile that Asgardians would appear in Age of Ultron. This past weekend, Idris Elba confirmed that he appears in the film, sharing a scene with both Chris Hemsworth & Tom Hiddleston. At Marvel’s Phase 3 press conference, they revealed an exclusive scene from Age of Ultron. In it, Stark & Rogers reveal that they have no clue where Thor is, leaving after being shown something by “that Maximoff kid.”
What if Scarlet Witch’s vision reveals to Thor that Loki sits on the throne? What if in the middle of Age of Ultron, Thor rushes back to Asgard, attacks Loki, and is taken prisoner? Perhaps he’s kept on Asgard, maybe even in the same cell that held Loki during The Dark World. More dire, he could be sent to the realms of enemies like Surtur or Hela. One thing is certain: the two year gap between Age of Ultron and Thor: Ragnarok suggest Thor won’t get a happy ending when he teams up with the Avengers next May.
So things look pretty dire for Thor.
But Ragnarök doesn’t end with the world flooding. Eventually the waters recede, revealing new land. Baldur is resurrected, and blesses Lief & Lifthrasir, the new father & mother of humanity. The gods are reborn, life begins again.
Though Kevin Feige says Ragnarök means “the end of all things,” that’s not exactly accurate. The Vikings had a peculiar and quite advanced view of destiny, time, and how they are united. Yggdrasil the World Tree contains the Nine Realms, and is nourished by the “Well of Urd,” or Well of Destiny. However, instead of simply absorbing the waters, Yggdrasil returns them to the Well. The Vikings didn’t believe that time was strictly linear, but rather a loop, that the present returns to the past, perhaps even retroactively changing it. “Destiny” is not a calling, but an inevitability.
In the Comics, Thanos’ six Infinity Gems take the forms of Power, Space, Mind, Reality, Soul & Time. Perhaps in Thor: Ragnarok, the Well of Destiny will appear as the Time Stone?
Ragnarök is a play on ragnarøkkr, meaning literally “The Twilight of the Gods.” Though the sun sets, it shall rise again in the morning. The cycle repeats, and life continues.
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Special thanks to norse-mythology.org.