Norse mythology and culture have been inspiring our daily lives for over a thousand years (our days of the week, for example, are actually named for the Norse Gods: “Thursday” actually comes from “Thor’s Day”). Pop culture is immersed in Nordic myths. You can see their influence in things Marvel comics and movies, the TV series Vikings, and even anime properties like Fafner, Ah! My Goddess, and Jormungand. No doubt some of you went to go see Thor: The Dark World over the weekend and enjoyed Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.
Loki’s an interesting character—not just in the Marvel universe, but in the actual Norse myths as well. Many accounts depict Loki as having three children with the Giantess Angurboda: the wolf Fenrir, Hel (who acts as host to the dead), and the world serpent Jormungand. Jormungand grew so large that it encompassed all of Midgard (aka “Middle Yard” or “Middle Earth”), the land where humans dwell. It reached such length that it encircled the earth, until it was able to bite its own tail. This is an example of an ouroboros that Fullmetal Alchemist fans will no doubt find familiar. In Old Norse mythology, there are stories of contests and feats of strength and struggles between Thor and Jormungand. In fact, legends said the serpent would wrap its way around Earth until the end of days and the last, great battle at Ragnarok.
Jormungand the anime is hardly a re-telling of Norse Mythology. The series isn’t set in the time of Viking marauders, or ancient Norse Kings, but rather in the brutal modern world or international wars and political intrigue, mercenaries for hire, and weapons dealers that profit off of violence.
Jormungand is full of characters that make the onscreen action utterly gripping. At its core are two characters—Jonah, a child soldier who hates war and has become a mercenary so that he can seek revenge against those who slaughtered his family, and his new boss, international arms dealer Koko Hekmatyar. She may be a weapons dealer in charge of a lethal team of hired guns, but she also believes in peace.
An international arms dealer with a warped plan for world peace? This juxtaposition may seem odd, but the contrast results in complex, realistic characters who exist in the gray area between right and wrong.
So what’s the connection between a centuries-old myth and a modern arms dealer? Well, Koko’s strange plan for the future of war is called “Jormungand,” and as the bullets start flying, there’s definitely a sense that Ragnarok is near. Want to know what her plan is? You can watch subtitled episodes of the show now (click here to watch), or go ahead and pre-order your copy of this action-packed thrill ride from the Producers of Black Lagoon, coming in 2014.
*If you’d like to read Norse Myths where Jormungand is mentioned, check out the Poetic Edda’s Volupsa, as well as the Prose Edda’s Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál.