Monday, March 3, 2014

Archetypes Happen

Last night I watched “Thor: The Dark World.” Not bad, although I missed the banter-driven humor of the “The Avengers,” or even the first (2011) Thor movie. The story is engaging, and as we have come to expect, the effects are excellent. It was worth the five bucks I paid to stream it.
The story is comic book simple. Evil Elves set out to destroy the Universe; Thor and company must stop them. The elves, we learn midway through the film, come from a dark scary world called Svartalfheim.
I just about fell off my chair when I saw that. Svartalfheim?
Six years ago I began work on an alternate history novel with the working title “The Elements of Magic.” It is about, among other things, a race of evil humanoid creatures who call themselves “elves,” and who claim to be from a world called Swartlehymn.
I remember typing the word Swartlehymn the first time. I was looking for a word that sounded somewhat Germanic and a little bit silly. A word that was fun to say, and easy to mispronounce. I first typed Swarthammer, but that sounded too British, so I went with Swartlehymn. It was, so far as I knew, a nonsense word with no literary or historical reference. It was my word, and for the past few years I’ve been working on this book, building the elvish world known as Swartlehymn.
I now find that Svartalfheim is the anglicanization of Svart√°lfaheimr, the dwelling of the Svalt√°lfr, a race of dark elves mentioned in the Prose Edda. The Marvel Comics version of Thor features the “Dark Elves.”
I have not read a Thor comic since the 1960s. And aside from bumping into a few pop culture references, I am unfamiliar with Norse mythology. But somehow I came up with the word Swartlehymn, and used it to describe a world populated by evil elves. 
It’s Magic.

2 comments:

Daughter Number Three said...

Wasn't Svartalfheim in a Jim Butcher/Harry Dresden short story (the one in the Dangerous Women collection) or maybe one of the recent novels, too?

Pete Hautman said...

Could be--I think I read part of a Harry Dresden novel once, and I saw one episode of the TV show...