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Behind The Beasts – What Are The Monsters in Blood Rage?

I suppose a better question is not “What are the Monsters in Blood Rage?” but rather “Who are they?”

Let me explain. Recently, I had the delight of listening to the audiobook of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, a book in which he explores the stories of the Norse gods. It ignited an interest, or maybe it was a part of a pre-existing interest, so I decided to read more around the subject. Instantly, certain parts seemed familiar, and I realised where I had come across bits and bobs, here and there. Yes, I had heard of most of the monsters from Blood Rage.

With that in mind, I thought it was time to do something a little bit different. We are mid-way through a series of explorations about Blood Rage that I have done ever since this blog began. Now, as an intermission, it is time to look at what the Monsters are – by which I mean – let’s look at what the monsters really are. Who are they in the mythos? Why are they special? What is it that makes them unique and interesting?

What Are The Monsters In Blood Rage?

Let’s have a look. I kept rephrasing the title, so I realise there are some people who just want to see a list of monsters – here you go if that is the case. This article will only go into the core box set, and not the Kickstarter exclusives or expansion packs – but that should be enough for now. There are nine base monsters – four with large bases and five with small. If I have written an article about them then the link is below.

  1. Dark Elf
  2. Dwarf Chieftain
  3. Valkyrie
  4. Soldier of Hel
  5. Volur Witch
  6. Troll
  7. Sea Serpent
  8. Frost Giant
  9. Fire Giant

Okay, so now that is done (note the subtle upselling there with the hyperlinks – I am truly a marketing genius) we can move onto the stories. Let’s begin at the very beginning and work our way down the list.

Who Are The Monsters In Blood Rage?

The Dark Elf

Dark Elves are common in the conception of modern Norse mythology, and I feel part of this is to do with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Dark Elves appear all the time in the The Mighty Thor comics of old, as well as in the fairly recent Thor 2: Remember Me? I’m Also An Avenger. Christopher Eccleston played Malekith, a Dark Elf, bent on destroying the whole of existence.

That, however, is nothing like the Dark Elves in the original Norse Mythology. In fact, Dark Elves and Dwarves are the same thing in the original tale, as this was from a time where Elves were happy tree folk and not the Legolas swashbucklers we see today. Tolkien did a lot to mess with the original mythos of…well, more or less every mythology to create his own, so we have him to blame for something which is nothing like the original Elf.

Instead, Dark Elves are subterranean dwellers, known as Dökkálfar (I believe it is pronounced “Dook-kaal-far”, but I may be wrong), and although never described as dwarves, it has led scholars to noting that they are probably the same thing. In the Prose Edda, the story of the elves is explored, and another race is introduced called Svartálfar (“Sva-taal-far” maybe?). These translate to mean “Black Elves” and, yes, surprise surprise, scholars also think they could be types of Dwarf instead. Interesting, eh? It completely changes the dynamic of Legolas and Gimli’s relationship in LoTR.

“I never thought I would fight side by side with an Elf.”
“What about side by side with another Dwarf?”
“Legolas, shut up.”

Also, sorry Cool Mini or Not, but your miniature is almost certainly wrong.

The Dwarf Chieftain

Just in case you hadn’t guessed by the explanation of Norse Elves, Dwarves play a large part in Norse Mythology, however, I haven’t actually come across a Dwarf Chief in the assigned texts. If you come across any Dwarf in Norse Mythology, they are the makers of things – from the chains that bind Fenrir, to Sif’s hair after Loki made it fall out, to a scarf that, when unfolded, turns into a freaking big boat. You name it, they can make it, with two specifically cool weapons often taking the frame. Those are, of course, Gungnir (Odin’s spear) and, drum roll please, Mjölnir. Yes, Thor’s hammer was made as part of a contest.

You see, in Norse Mythology, not the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sif is Thor’s wife. After Loki makes her hair fall out (because he thought it would be “totes lols”) Thor threatens to break all of his bones, every single day, until he has fixed her hair. With that in mind, Loki travels to the Dwarves to set a challenge between two sets of brothers. He gets both sets to create three gifts for the gods, and they will be judged. The winner gets fame and glory. The more intelligent set of brothers sense Loki is up to something and also demands his head if they win. To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, this is either to make a knowledge machine from it – or an ink well. One of the two.

So the dwarves present their gifts to the gods, and it is a tie until Mjölnir is presented. All the gods fall in love with it (they get hammered – baddum dum tish) and Loki has to come up with an excuse to keep his head. This is a short version of the story, but I have a lot of monsters to get through, so the brief conclusion is Loki says he said they could have his head, not his neck, and so they just sew his mouth shut.

With that in mind, I like to think the Dwarf Chief is Sindri, the smarter of the two brothers who made Mjölnir because he was not only the finest craftsman, but he was also intelligent and led the creation of the greatest gift the gods ever had.

The Valkyrie

Valkyries, and the rides thereof, are big things in Norse Mythology. Unlike with certain Dwarves or Elves, there are several remaining stories about the Valkyries, and, in a way, they are the most suited monsters within Blood Rage to be a part of the mythology.

Valkyries are warrior women, who ride across the battlefields of the old Norse myths, in order to collect the souls of the worthy to take them to Valhalla. This makes them a kind of Grim Reaper/Royal Mail (or DPS if you are in North America) cross over. Once they have arrived at Valhalla with the souls, Valkyries act like the meet-and-greet to ensure they are comfortable.

This means that, these warrior women are well placed within Blood Rage as it is all about sending brave warriors to Valhalla. If you want to be uber-thematic then you can use them with a Loki strategy to gain points, taking your own souls there.

The Soldier of Hel

In Norse Mythology, Loki has a whole host of weird kids. Three, the ones born of Asgard, are relatively normal until one gets gutted to bind his father’s hands pre-Ragnarok. That is a really gruesome story for another time. Instead, let’s talk of his other three kids, bore to him by Angrboda the giantess, as they are proof the gene pools between giants and gods aren’t meant to be mixed.

Loki has three children, two boys and a girl, from Angrboda. One is a snake, and keeps growing to become the serpent Jörmungandr, known to us now as a symbol Ouroboros. He is the snake that wraps around the world. For the record, I will come back to this later as I am pretty sure Jörmungandr is the inspiration behind the Sea Serpent.

The second child is a puppy when born, but he grows to become Fenrir – the mighty monster wolf of Norse Mythology. The Kickstarter to Blood Rage had Fenrir as a model.

Finally, Loki’s third child, the daughter, has the ability to look like the most beautiful woman alive from one side, but look at her from the other side and she looks like a corpse. She is half dead, yet really down to Earth. Odin asks her “Child, are you alive or dead?” to which she replies “I am only me.”

That daughter is, of course, Hel. She is then given a choice of where she wants to go. She can stay with the gods, or she can have her own realm where she would be worshipped as a queen by those who die in unworthy ways (death by old age, in child birth, of illness etc.). She replies she would like the latter very much because, and I paraphrase:

“The gods all look down on me like I am dead, and the dead all look up at me like I am a god.”

Marvel were really mean about Hel. Of all of the gods of Asgard, she comes across as one of the few who is not a complete tool.

So Hel goes off and runs the dead. When Ragnarok starts, however, she sides with her father against the gods, and the army of the dead become his to command. This is all because Loki was tortured by the gods, for killing Baldr. It’s a whole long story, again probably for another post, but for now that is the story of the Soldier of Hel. Nifty, eh?

The Volur Witch

Witches are commonplace in a lot of mythologies. We see them appear as seers in Ancient Greece to the three witches making Scotch at the start of Macbeth. Limiting it to one is pretty difficult, as, like with the Soldier of Hel, there were loads of them. The difference is, Volur Witches (better known as Volva in their singular form) were not witches in the traditional sense. They were not Halloween style, but instead they were seers – and they didn’t just exist in Norse Mythology either. They existed in real life.

Yes, the Volva were in Midgard, realm of man, better known as Earth.

The model for the Blood Rage monster miniature is holding a knife and this would have been unusual for the Volva. They were known, almost exclusively, to carry wands, and I could only find one reference to a reference to a reference in which a Volur Witch actually uses a knife for anything. It’s in the Viking ballad of Eric the Red, where a Volva eats a plate using a spoon and knife. I can’t find a name.

Either way, Volur Witches were known for practicing all kinds of magic, being both respected and feared in real life.

The Troll

The Troll is one of my all time favourite monsters in Blood Rage. He is at least within my top nine, expansions not included.

There are a few stories that incorporate Trolls within the mythos of the Norse gods (absolutely bloody loads to be precise); however, I like to believe that the precise Troll within Blood Rage is not any old troll. Instead, I believe, or like to believe, that the Troll is Thrym.

Before we get onto Thrym in more detail, let’s first explore Trolls. Some are like humans or gods to look at, others are huge or giant. Either way, they are considered similar to the three basic forms of giants – mountain, fire, and frost – within Norse Mythology. Sometimes they are called the Jötunn as a collective of creatures, being distinctly different to the gods, but similar enough to make their lives difficult.

Thrym is a king amongst troll, giant things and is particularly known for being vile. He steals Thor’s hammer (who, to my knowledge, just wakes up one day only for it to not be on his bedside table) to try and ransom it back for Freya’s hand in marriage.

Oddly, Thor, our hero, is totally fine with this notion, wanting Mjornr back above all things, but, needless to say, Freya is less impressed.

It comes to pass that Loki and Thor disguise themselves, with Thor dressed in a bridal gown, only for Thrym to fall for their trick, until the moment he hands the hammer back. Thor then does a good job removing his head from his shoulders.

It is easy to see why so many people like the story as a stand up Norse myth, as well as easy to see why I like to think of the troll in the game being Thrym. He has a big hammer. That’s enough.

The Sea Serpent

We’ve already gone into some of the story about Jörmungandr, the great Sea Serpent who wraps himself around the world – son of Loki, brother to Fenrir and Hel. He was taken by Thor and Tyr back to Asgard where Odin decided what to do with each of them when they were kids. Jörmungandr is one of very few Sea Serpents mentioned in Norse Mythology, so I’m fairly certain on this one; so, let’s go into a few additional details about this Ouroboros.

There are three primary stories that involve Jörmungandr that I have come across over the past few days of being addicted to Norse mythology. The first involves Odin. After Thor and Tyr went to the realm of giants to retrieve the three children of Loki and Angrboda, Odin wondered what to do with Jörmungandr, the serpent, so, without consulting Loki it has to be said, he released Jörmungandr into the water of the sea, where he continued to grow until he had wrapped himself around the world.

Later on, Thor and Loki (most of the stories involve those two), travel into the heart of Giant Country where they come across a giant clan who wanted to test them. Secretly, they were tricky giants (I believe the mystic troll from the expansion could be based on this story actually). They masked every challenge they could, getting Thor’s serving boy to race against thought itself, getting Loki to eat in a contest against, what was effectively, a black hole, and getting Thor to lift up a cat that was really the Midgard Serpent in disguise.

Another time, two giants offered to hold a feast for all the gods, but only if the gods could get a kettle/cauldron big enough to brew all the mead for the gods to drink. Liking his booze, Thor went to see Hymir, who was very hospitable to Thor, only to scare him into borrowing the cauldron. When they went fishing, Hymir caught two whales, which he was really happy with. Thor, feeling like he should prove himself, rowed them further out to sea, where he cast a line looking specifically for Jörmungandr. He catches the serpent, and so, with Hymir absolutely bricking himself, the giant cuts the fishing line. Jörmungandr is free.

Finally, during Ragnarok, Jörmungandr unravels himself from the world, pulling the first couple of miles of his body onto the land. It is here that Thor kills him, once and for all. Likewise, in that final showdown, Jörmungandr bites Thor, who walks nine paces before dropping dead. Thus is the end of the Sea Serpent and the god of Thunder.

The Frost Giant

In recent years, Frost Giants are the best known of the villains of Asgard, namely due to Marvel and the Avengers movies. The Marvel Universe and Cinematic Universe have thrust Frost Giants into the limelight with their White Walker-esque monsters of Jötunheimr.

The Frost Giants, in Norse Mythology however, are not completely evil. No, they tend not to get on with the gods of Asgard, but they are not purely bad. They are as much a part of the ecosystem as the gods are, and they play a vital role in Norse Myths, along with the other Jötunn. Fire Giants are another part of that ecosystem, and both would often interact with the gods in positive and negative ways. Some would even have children with the gods, such as with Loki and Angrboda.

The Frost Giants, as a race though, are not as prominent as the Fire Giants (or Mountain Giants or Trolls) in Norse mythology, something Marvel seem to have a bit upside down. One of the most prominent Frost Giants is Bergelmir, who managed to survive when Odin killed the original giant, Ymir to forge the land. Bergelmir, and his wife, were the only Frost Giants to survive, so it is between them that they managed to propagate the race.

I’m not sure Bergelmir is the person the Frost Giant in Blood Rage is based on, but it’s a nice idea if that is the case. It would make him a legacy within the game.

The Fire Giant

Finally, Fire Giants are one of the most spoken about types of giant within Nordic mythology, and there is one in particular that I believe the Blood Rage miniature is based on. I believe that our masked demon in Blood Rage, the most impressive of all the models, is based on Surtr, the Fire Giant, ruler of Muspellheim and wielder of a flaming sword.

A fair amount is known of Surtr, and he is always depicted as an enemy of the gods of Asgard. For those who haven’t seen Thor: Ragnarok yet, then I won’t divulge any spoilers in that, but suffice is to say he is in the film. Only there he is known as Surtur, having grown an extra “u” in his name.

Most notably though, Surtr is seen as a doomsday type figure. He is one of the big beings who will come forth when Ragnarok begins (which is very in keeping with Blood Rage). He will fight, of all the gods, Freyr, on the battlefield.

Then, the time that was, will end.

Wow, this has been a long article, filled with all kinds of stories. I really hope you have enjoyed reading it, whether that has been the whole thing or whether it has been just been parts of the article here and there.

What Are The Monsters In Blood Rage?

So “What are the Monsters in Blood Rage?” – well, this is where we draw a profound answer. The monsters in Blood Rage are a part of a long line of retellings. They are the passing on of myth, from one mouth to another, and they are the result of a legacy of a story telling tradition. Who are they? They are beasts and bad guys, guys and gods, dwarves and demons. They are our past and, if the stories are right, our future.

Let me know what you think of Norse Myth in the comments below. Is it something you are interested in, or do you prefer other types of myth? Let me know what your thoughts are, as well as any comments you may have to do with monsters or mythologies themselves.

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