The Place Where Gods Were Born

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“I see it now. This was the place where gods were born.”

Those were my boyfriend’s first words after several minutes of stunned silence. In truth, his words reflected my own feelings: we were traversing a place not meant for mortals. We were looking upon a landscape built for characters far more ancient and far more eternal. A place that had hammered them from stone and ice, forged them from the frozen sea into legend. The birthplace of old gods — of Loki and Thor and Odin.

We were driving through the mountainous region of northern Norway on our way to the city of Tromsø. Slushy rain fell lightly upon the roadside and the gray sky hung low with clouds. Mountains loomed next to us as we continued our climb — ancient mountains standing surreal in the mist, pale peaks plastered with snow and rock, blue-gray shadows hovering around them in the stormy afternoon light.

After a while, the road dipped and curved, swinging around ledges dripping with thick, blue icicles that reached like teeth for the ground. Beyond us was a panorama of arctic water spreading out serenely into the horizon of snowy, cold sky. Below us, it stretched like a mirror beneath the mountains, calm and glassy and still.

Even now, writing this in retrospect, it is hard to imagine that I was truly there, looking upon this with my own eyes. Add the Aurora Borealis into the equation — skylights of green and red and white — and then imagine the creative inspiration in the hands of the people of old. Imagine a place so marvelous, so beautiful, so powerful that only the characterization of gods manage to do it justice.

I often say that place is an important concept in the creation of one’s characters. Characters, after all, must represent the heart of it. Characters tend to carry the places they’ve been with them, just as we do in our own lives. No matter where they go, the places define them, complete them, give them their identities. But it’s worth mentioning that places become characters in their own right — carriers of their own personalities, identities, successes, failures, and legends. One could say, then, that places embody their characters or their people rather than the people embodying the place. An interesting dichotomy, to say the least.

While we made our way through the area, stopping every now and then to stare at the scenery, I pondered these questions. And even after we had left, the mountains still weighed heavily on my mind. I wondered what makes a place memorable. What makes a place worth writing about? What is it about a place that burdens its people with carrying the majesty of it? Why do we write stories specifically for the place?

I don’t know that I found answers to those questions. In reality, I can only speculate. But when I look back at all the places I’ve been or even the places I’ve read about in novels, there is always something about them that makes them special. They have seen a lifetime of transition — many lifetimes of transition — and they hold, at the very least, a fragment of every person who has passed within their limits.

So I wonder, beyond the birth of gods and dwarves, what other stories linger in the aftermath of those arctic waters and glacial mountain remnants? What stories, if I had the ability to listen, could that place tell me? Even now, I struggle to find the correct words, the correct sentences of explanation. Even now, that world of this particular history is too powerful for me to describe in accurate detail. But I try. I try just as the creators of Norse mythology tried. I try the way all writers try: to harness and immortalize the strength of places and their effects upon us. To evoke imagery and to draw inspiration and, ultimately, to tell a story worth remembering.

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What places have inspired you? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

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9 thoughts on “The Place Where Gods Were Born

  1. Great post! This part of Norway is on my bucket list, I’ve visited Oslo before, did not get to see much beautifulness. Kerala, India shall be ingrained in my memory forever. Enchanting. Lush green rainforests, tea plantations, back waters, mountains… I only hope I will be lucky enough to return. At the time it was monsoon season and we were trekking, we often complained, wondering why they called the place God’s country. I needed a few days to adjust. Would not change the experience for anything.

    • Thanks for sharing your story! I love the correlation with my own post: God’s country. But I suppose all countries have their gods; it’s just a matter of knowing where to look for them. Just talking about it makes me think of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

      I’ve always wanted to go to India — especially beyond the big cities. It’s on my bucket list, for sure. I imagine that trekking through monsoon season was quite the memorable experience for you. Even when we have those experiences that cause us to gripe a bit, I think that most times we wouldn’t change them. They always seem to teach us something worthwhile. Sounds like you’d do it all over again, if you could!

      I’d like to return to Norway during the summer and trek through the fjords. I’m always drawn to winter wandering, for whatever reason, but I’d like to see the country in a different light.

      Hopefully you’ll get to return soon and fill this portion of your bucket list! 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Place Where Gods Were Born | The Sarcastic Muse
  3. This was wonderful to read. You made me wish I could be at that magical place, and experience it with my own senses. Some of us are blessed to have such magical environments around them. 🙂

    • Thanks! It was quite magical. I’m sure it’ll pop up in my writing somehow. I’m sure you have magical places near you, too. 🙂

  4. VERY thought provoking post. I don’t think this is so much a chick-or-the-egg question. I believe you nailed it that it can be BOTH — characters embody their place and SOME places are so unique that they’re like characters themselves. I can’t wait to keep pondering on this. Thanks!

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment! It’s been a question I’ve pondered for quite a while now. I can think of a lot of places like this — the unique places that have managed to become characters themselves. New Orleans always springs to mind first, for some reason. It just has so much character.

      Regardless, I have always found that the most memorable stories are those that have a strong sense of place. It gives all the other elements of the story something to build off of. Something solid and cohesive. I try to keep this in mind in my own writing.

      Thanks again for the comment!

  5. My first trip outside of the United States happened to occur on my honeymoon. My wife and I found ourselves on a 5 hour flight from Orlando to Los Angeles followed by a 9 hour flight from Los Angeles to Tahiti. Our final destination was found on the island of Bora Bora. Nestled in a horizon overwater bungalow with fish swimming below us as witnessed through the glass table in our living area, this is a time and place that will forever be ingrained in my memory. It is an addictive feeling when the spirit of a location gets beneath your skin and you just want more. More of that location and more of anything that gives you the same feeling. I guess it is summed up in the term ‘wanderlust’. Every time I visit Epcot over at Disney (which is quite often), I love walking around World Showcase just to get a sniff of other cultures and what they have to offer. Norway is one of my favorites. I would love to visit there someday and your beautiful portrayal through images and words has nudged it further forward. Thanks for sharing and best wishes for an inspired day 😉

    • Thank you for sharing your story! To be able to look through a glass table at an entire world swimming beneath you must have been quite surreal. In my head, I see it almost as looking through a portal. It sounds like it was a fantastic experience.

      Wanderlust is indeed an appropriate term. The feeling to follow the heart of the journey — whatever and wherever that heart may be. Every place has something to teach us. A story to tell. I guess we go out wandering in search of those stories, just as we may go out wandering in search of ourselves.

      I highly recommend Norway. Or Lapland in Finland. We were technically staying in Lapland, but we took a day trip up to the sea. There is a special term in Finnish for Lapland’s fall colors. Apparently it’s another one of those must-see wonders. Either way, thanks for commenting, and best wishes for your future travels. I’m sure you will find your way to Norway some day. 🙂

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