Ragnarok: the Doom of the Gods
a play in two acts by
Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller
(may be played by ten actors)
The Gods
Odin — Frigge — Loki — Thor
Baldur — Hod — Bragi
Freya — Freyr — Sigyn — Heimdall
The Primals
Chief — Thrym — Builder
Runner — Old Lady — Beggar
The Mortals
Snorri — Helga — Bjorn
Old Man — Thokk
Other Creatures
Seer — Hel — Serpent — Wolf
Stallion — Mare
The Norns
The play was originally produced in an outdoor amphitheatre whose stage was approximately 50 x 50 ft. The setting suggested the ruins of a Viking burial site. High stone megaliths at the sides, along with a ruined Norse temple upstage with a center opening, allowed exits and changes, One large collapsed stone down-center, another stage right, formed platforms. Low stone remnants in the center outlined the ellipse of a ship burial. At one side, near the audience, a trunk.
All Gods were masked in half-masks.
Primals were in various sorts of clownish garb and strange hair, but all were distinguished by wearing red noses.
All Mortals were unmasked except, as the player trio, they played the roles of Gods.
The Seer was a large puppet operated by three actors.
Hel was masked on the back of the head as a beautiful woman, on the front as a grotesque.
The Snake and Wolf were heads on the fists of live actors in black garb.
The Horses were upright actors with head masks and tails.
Live percussion is vital to the production, underscoring hammer throws, fights, moments of surprise, etc. The original production also used a live accordion and mouth harp. Other options are possible. A synthesizer score is available on CD.
© 2005 by Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller. All rights reserved.
For production information, contact WordWorkers, 800-357-6016 or E-mail.
Act One
Drums. Helga enters with Bjorn, directs him to stand at a distance, rummages in a chest of props and masks. She is pregnant. Snorri enters, ignoring Bjorn.
HELGA: This mask, maybe— What about this? For Odin?
She sees him staring.
The lock was broke. I broke it.
SNORRI: That’s Bragi.
HELGA: Who cares?
SNORRI: Last time I played Gods I was fifteen. Played Thor.
HELGA: (handing a mask to Bjorn) Bet you were funny.
SNORRI: Not supposed to be.
HELGA: Who packed this? It’s a mess.
SNORRI: It’s my dad’s. I packed it when he died.
HELGA: I saw your dad play Odin. Scary. He played all the Gods.
SNORRI: And I play tailors and cuckolds and lechers and fools. I didn’t ask to be a play actor. I was born into it. Fate.
HELGA: You don’t believe in the Norns.
SNORRI: Norns don’t care if you believe or not. They just do it to you.
BJORN: (striking a pose) I am Thor!
SNORRI: Louder.
BJORN: (as before) I am Thor!
SNORRI: Horrible. Helga—
HELGA: Snorri—
SNORRI: People don’t want Gods. People want jokes, battles, adultery. “Wife, whose feet do I see under the bed?”
BJORN: (trying again) Thor!
SNORRI: Where’d you find him?
HELGA: Selling fish. Magnus quit, we need somebody. We’ve got two days.
Snorri stares at a mask, brooding.
SNORRI: People think play-acting is fun. It’s not fun, it’s work.
HELGA: Fling horse turds at your actors, they’re gonna quit.
BJORN: What if I play a fishmonger?
SNORRI: (exploding) This isn’t about fish. This is Ragnarok, the death of the Gods, the fall of Asgard, Baldur, Thor, Odin devoured, Yggdrasil ripped out by the roots—
BJORN: Yggdrasil?
HELGA: The World Tree.
BJORN: No fish?
HELGA: (to Snorri) We play Gods because the Earl’s steward asked for “Ragnarok.” He wants to put down the Christ-lovers.
SNORRI: Christ-lovers cracked heads at the Midsummer Fair. They’re fierce.
HELGA: Not so many in Trondheim.
SNORRI: Don’t let’s use these. These were my dad’s. These are Gods.
HELGA: Snorri, we need the money. The baby. Three oras gets us through the winter. Now it’s two days till we play for the Earl, and the Earl wants Gods. Think of the money.
SNORRI: Never enough grief in real life. People need plays.
HELGA: Now Bjorn: you are Thor, the thunder god. You know Thor. You’re wearing this.
Indicating an amulet.
BJORN: That’s for good luck.
HELGA: That’s Thor’s hammer Mjollnir. He protects us.
BJORN: Oh, you mean Thor.
HELGA: So yell it out like you were selling fish.
SNORRI: “I am the All-Father Odin.”
HELGA: “I am Frigge, she of birth and mothering, mother of Odin’s sons.”
BJORN: (hawking) Thor! Thor! Here’s Thor!
HELGA: Thunder. Storms coming early.
BJORN: No fish today.
HELGA: I get so tired.
Snorri touches her.
Here we go. (to Bjorn) So we play all the characters, all the Gods—
SNORRI: We play all the Gods, so we have to say who we are. I’m Odin, I enter first. (to Helga) This is Bragi.
HELGA: Do it!
Music. Gods appear behind.
SNORRI: “I am Odin.”
Music. Gods appear behind. With broad gestures, Snorri mimes the speech as if delivering it.
With my brothers I butchered out the world from Ymir’s vast corpse.
I blew the breath into Mortals.
I pitched my throne on the summit of sight
Yet snagged out one eye at Wisdom’s Well.
I hung crucified on Yggdrasil to learn the runes.
Gather to me, Gods!
HELGA: “I am Frigge, wife to Odin,
Mother of Gods, mother of Baldur and Hod
Midwife to mothers in labor."
Helga kneels, hands upward.
HELGA: Holy Mother bless me in my labor with a daughter. Or a son. Whatever.
SNORRI: Now you.
BJORN: “I am Thor.”
HELGA: Imagine thunder.
Drums. The Players reel. Snorri joins the Gods as Bragi. Bjorn watches, frozen.
ODIN: We gather here to feast our son’s return.
Baldur, the lord of light, beloved of all Nine Realms, returned.
FRIGGE: My son!
HELGA: (to Bjorn) The Shining One.
BALDUR: Eight Realms, Father.
The Vanir, the Light Elves, Dark Elves and Mortals—
IDUN: Mortals! I love to play among the Mortals,
So sweet and so confused.
FREYA: I love them. They’re so clueless.
BALDUR: The Dwarfs and the Primals, whatever you call them,
Strange Ones, Elementals—
THOR: Goons.
BALDUR: My light will not pierce the Realm of Hel.
The dead no longer see me.
ODIN: No matter.
BALDUR: No matter.
FRIGGE: Beloved son—
BALDUR: I see joy in all creation.
IDUN: Your light brings joy to all creation—
FREYA: And love that enflames all hearts—
BALDUR: Freya, she of the wonder of love—
FREYA: Love dancing in light.
With a gesture, Bragi evokes a song from the Gods. Baldur and Freya dance.
ALL: Nine Realms nine
Nine Realms nine
Alfheim, Vanaheim, Jotunheim
Home from the journey—
Asgard, Midgard, Svartalfheim
Home from the journey
Nine Realms nine
Niflheim Nidvellir and Hel—
Suddenly Baldur halts.
FREYA: Baldur?
BALDUR: Dreams.
FRIGGE: Dreams?
FREYA: Dreams of delight?
BALDUR: Pandemonium.
ODIN: Speak the dreams.
BALDUR: I never dream, never.
I made my journey to escape the dreams
Yet they pursue me.
FRIGGE: What do you see?
BALDUR: No image stays.
They flash between my fingers like tiny fish.
Where is my brother Hod?
FRIGGE: In his corner. He craves the dark.
HELGA: (to Bjorn) Hod is blind.
BALDUR: I become a doorway.
Splintered mountains, ragged sky, the plains ablaze.
I see birds rise up like one great hand of blackness,
Clouds chase the moon across the night
Jaws wide.
The stones of Asgard stand yellow
As rows of broken teeth.
I see flame, water, hurricane, rock—
ODIN: The Elementals!
FRIGGE: Primal Ones?
GODS: Strange Ones.
THOR: Freaks.
No fear but what has a skull to be smashed.
No threat from dreams. Squash’em under your thumb.
BJORN: (rehearsing) Thor!
HELGA: Louder. Speak like a God. Gods sound ancient.
Helga dons a mask, joins the Gods as Freyr.
ODIN: Hear me, Gods. These are foreshadowings.
Long years we battled our kin the Vanir,
Ravaged both realms of the Gods.
At last, bled out, made peace
And welcomed Freya and Freyr among us to seal it.
ALL: The wonder of love.
ODIN: One gasp of peace. Now specters rise
A thousand suns on the far horizon
At the bridge between frost and fire:
The Primal Ones whose fires our walls shut out
When our walls stood strong.
My blind eye sees into dreams. My son dreams of the Primal Ones.
FRIGGE: The Strange Ones? Why should they harm us?
Strange Ones, Primals, care nothing of us
Except when you steal their magic or their women.
THOR: They’re sneaky that way. I’ve killed two or three. They resent it.
FREYA: Allfather’s theft, Gunnlod’s passion—
FREYR: The foam of Kvasir’s blood—
THOR: Your lust for Gerd—
FREYR: The slaying of Geirrod, Gyalp and Greip—
THOR: I slew their bitches, yes.
IDUN: Two eyes of Thiazi among the stars—
FREYA: The theft of Hymir’s cauldron—
FRIGGE: And the goddess of love girdles Hyndla in fire.
ODIN: We slew their father Ymir,
Formed of his flesh a world to lay our hands on.
Claimed the prayers of Mortals, who offer us up their wealth
While the Strange Ones live naked, frigid, raw.
How could they not hate us to the death?
THOR: War till the end of time. Bragi!
Bragi invokes a song from the Gods.
ALL: The wind blows heavy in Jotunheim
War till the end of time
Feel the push of it, feel the gust
Feel the heat of it, feel the thrust
The wind blows heavy in Jotunheim
War till the end—
IDUN: Apples! Time for apples!
Taste my apples and be young!
She tosses imaginary apples to the Gods. They fall to eating.
BALDUR: Father—
ODIN: Wait. We must be renewed.
HELGA: (to Bjorn) Idun gives apples to the Gods, so they never die. They’re always young.
BJORN: Can I have one?
HELGA: They’re fake.
BJORN: I never sold fake fish.
BALDUR: From your high seat, Father, you see Nine Realms.
What do you see in Jotunheim? I saw no evil.
ODIN: My vision is blurred.
FRIGGE: Since you lost your eye. That would do it.
BALDUR: Yet I have walked among them, Father, and they love me.
They seem to be as the wind and the sea, the fire, the earth
Rich in magic, yet no more threat than the tide
Which drowns those only who defy it.
ODIN: I know they hate us.
FRIGGE: Your son has dreams of yellow teeth
So you trumpet war?
ODIN: You see only the babies born,
Not the demons they grow into.
I see the savage worlds I shaped—
FRIGGE: Your own face in the mirror.
ODIN: I must journey. To find the truth.
FRIGGE: No! I pay no mind when you leave my bed
To go off sporting in every realm,
The females of Elves, Dwarfs, Primals,
Mortals or swine.
But I scorn your quest for Truth.
You gouge out an eye for keener sight.
Is blindness vision? Is Truth
The crafting of better lies to live by?
Are the cries of our son no more than a frail excuse
To gather the dust of the road?
ODIN: No quelling the demons once they root in the eyes.
When we suck at the breast do we suck in shadows?
Well then I ask Thor to journey there
To that land of chaos, to know the threat.
THOR: I will.
BALDUR: Thor is quick-tempered, Father.
I mean no disrespect, but I ask that others go.
Loki, silent until now, comes forward.
LOKI: Well said.
As Thor’s companion I offer myself.
I know the ways of the Strange Ones.
Their blood is in me.
ODIN: Loki speaks. Blood brother.
LOKI: Strangely so. The stream, the eddies, the tangles.
We have shared many sunsets.
THOR: Dare I trust him?
FREYR: Half-breed.
IDUN: Trickster.
ODIN: You must. Go, my brother in blood.
FRIGGE: With speed.
FREYA: With love.
BALDUR: With love.
IDUN: With apples. Bragi!
Bragi invokes a song, departing.
ALL: Love is an apple
Whose tang keeps us young
Apples in blossom
On wings of a song.
Trust in the magic
The flow of the stream
Love is the stream is the stream
Always young—
The Gods are gone. Loki and Thor remain, frozen. Snorri removes his mask. Bjorn is dumbfounded.
BJORN: That was— You did that— How do you— There’s just the two of you— All those Gods— Thor, was that me? How do you do that?
SNORRI: Acting is a craft.
Off. Music. Thor and Loki begin a journey, striding in place across many terrains.
LOKI: On the road again, my friend.
THOR: Friend!
LOKI: Angry still?
Have I not served the Gods?
Did I not save Idun with her apples from Thiazi’s clutch
Preserving the Gods from a withering death?
THOR: When you betrayed her into his hands.
LOKI: Did I not move the Dwarfs to spin
For your beloved Sif a mane of golden hair?
THOR: After you came to her asleep and shaved her bald.
Your idea of friendship is
You do respond to death threats.
LOKI: Did I not bring gifts to the Gods:
For Odin his Gungnir and Draupner,
For Freyr his vessel Skidbladnir.
For you your hammer Mjollnir, which never fails to kill?
Without your hammer would you know yourself?
THOR: I know myself. No trust in sharp wits.
LOKI: In Jotunheim we’ll need sharp wits.
THOR: And Mjollnir.
LOKI: Wait. We’re here to spy. Only to spy.
THOR: Hold on. Mortals. Praying to me.
Looking downward, he winds up, makes motion of flinging hammer.
Catches it on its return. Sees Loki looking at him:
They ask me favors, I do favors.
LOKI: Why bother with Mortals?
THOR: They love me. I feel responsibility.
Try to do some good in the world.
Primals waddle in, grotesque clowns with red noses. They see Thor and Loki, speak with unison gestures.
ALL: Look. Funny. Ho ho ho.
THOR: What do they say?
LOKI: They say, “We greet you, mighty ones.”
Chief speaks, echoed by the others.
CHIEF: Welcome, small fry. Come eat. You want kiddie meals?
LOKI: (to Thor) “Welcome to our feast.”
THOR: I’m starved.
ALL: Oh. Starved. Cute.
THOR: I’ll have some drink.
ALL: He drink. He big drunk huh? Ho ho.
CHIEF: Start feast with games. Play game, li’l nippers? Drink up?
LOKI: (to Thor) Drinking contest. Tradition of hospitality. Challenge guests to prove themselves.
CHIEF: We drink.
THOR: Drink you under the table, blubber-guts.
ALL: Blubber-guts. Ho ho.
CHIEF: Mark. Set. Go.
They drink. Primals upend their drinking horns, belch. Chief signals touchdown.
Thor continues, unable to drain his goblet. Gasping:
THOR: I’ll do it.
Drinks. Gasps. Collapses.
ALL: Blubber-guts!
THOR: What they say?
LOKI: “Nice try.”
My friend isn’t thirsty. We’ll try my skill. Foot race.
CHIEF: Foot race. We got fast runner. Hot foot.
ALL: Zoom.
Runner appears, fat, limping and wheezing.
CHIEF: Run to mountain. Pluck holly. Run back. Go fast.
ALL: Zappo.
LOKI: The speed of an arrow.
CHIEF: Mark. Set. Go.
Loki starts off. Instantly, Runner raises arms, holding sprig of holly.
THOR: They’re cheating. I’ll choose. Wrestling.
I’ll take on your champ.
Lay my hands on something solid.
ALL: Oh boy. Big rumble. Wowser.
THOR: Bring on your big fellow. Bring on your whopper. Bring me on your colossus.
A doddering Old Lady appears.
CHIEF: She the champ. Tough cookie.
LOKI: (to Thor) Control yourself.
CHIEF: Mark. Set. Go.
Thor lunges at the Old Lady, runs into her arm, falls flat. Grabs her arm to throw her over his shoulder, slowly collapses under its weight. Squeezing her in a bear hug, she coughs, sends him reeling. He gets an arm lock around her neck, they twist about, and he winds up strangling himself to the point of collapse.
ALL: Ho ho ho ho ho.
CHIEF: He want milk and cookies? Build up muscle?
THOR: What’d he say?
LOKI: He calls it a draw.
We have much travel ahead. Thanks for your hospitality.
ALL: (vehemently) Bye bye.
Primals waddle off. Thor and Loki start on the road again.
THOR: I don’t know who I am.
LOKI: We need to face hard truths.
THOR: Truth is a helluva lot harder than it used to be.
Beggar appears in a wheelchair. Like the Primals, he is red-nosed.
BEGGAR: Spare change?
LOKI: Piss off.
BEGGAR: Spare change, my friends? Plug that hole in your heart?
THOR: We’re Gods, idiot! Gods don’t have hearts! We have hammers!
LOKI: Easy—
BEGGAR: It’s you!
THOR: Me? Who?
BEGGAR: Word travels fast.
He guffaws.
((I bet he needs to pee! I bet he needs it real bad!))
LOKI: What do you speak of?
BEGGAR: He’s drinking with the Funny Ones.
LOKI: The Funny Ones. Are you a Funny One?
BEGGAR: Half and half. My dad was a Funny One, my mom was a duck.
LOKI: Why do you laugh?
BEGGAR: Well they sure fooled you. They’re Funny Ones.
He thought he was drinking beer, he was drinking the ocean. Drank it half up.
Whole new cities up from the sea. Jerusalem, Calcutta, Omaha Nebraska.
Drinking up the ocean! I bet he needs to pee!
THOR: I thought that was rotten beer.
LOKI: My foot race?
BEGGAR: You thought it was a runner, but the runner was Thought.
No way to outrun Thought. Nothing faster than Thought. Thought’s there soon as you think it.
Oh they’re Funny Ones.
THOR: That damned old lady?
BEGGAR: Old Age. Can’t beat Old Age. Not even a God.
Oh but you scared’em. You did. Scared’em good.
You drank half the ocean. You flew like an arrow. Survived the Old Lady’s claw.
They’ll be watching for you.
Laughs madly
LOKI: Well kill him.
Thor kills the Beggar.
That wasn’t necessary.
THOR: They’ll laugh. They’ll laugh us out of Asgard. “Thor wrestles old ladies! And they beat him!”
LOKI: Let’s put our trust in fear.
THOR: Fear? They’ll laugh their asses off.
LOKI: Fear may do much. Consider:
Truth is our friend.
We speak only what we have seen.
The Strange Ones, Behemoths, Leviathans,
Appetites insatiable, gargantuan yet swift as light, whose weakest creature conquers Thor.
Is this cause for mockery or deadly fear?
Our message is only what we have seen. That truly are they called
The Fierce Ones.
THOR: We say what we saw.
LOKI: We do.
THOR: That’s honest.
LOKI: Eyewitness to Truth. No time for doubt.
THOR: For war.
They stride off. The dead Beggar turns around to us.
BEGGAR: We’re Funny Ones. Oh yeh. Oh yeh.
He wheels off. Odin enters, signals an invocation. Norns swoop in with wild cries, then into frozen pose.
URD: When shall we three meet again?
In thunder lightning or in rain?
SKULD: How about Thursday morning?
VERDANDI: This week is bad for me. Next Tuesday?
They cackle, cavort, freeze.
ODIN: I conjure you—
NORNS: We know that.
They cackle, freeze.
ODIN: Hear me, Norns—
NORNS: We are the Norns!
They scream, cavort wildly, freeze.
ODIN: You shape each life.
What’s past, what’s here, what comes.
We pitched the sky from ancient Ymir’s skull.
Now I am one stray thought rambling in its hollow.
I walk the dry roads,
My blind eye wide, my good eye blurred by sun,
No will but the whim of the wind.
All life is sweet about me, slick with sunlight,
Yet I see only the smear of dreams,
The shadows of mad confusion set to strike us.
Say what they portend.
URD: Hot spell.
SKULD: Clearing off.
VERDANDI: Partly cloudy, chance of showers.
ODIN: What of the Strange Ones, the Fierce Ones, the Primals?
URD: They storm the Rainbow Bridge,
The dead pour out the gates—
NORNS: Or not.
SKULD: Heimdall trumpets,
Yggdrasil burns,
The Wolf attacks—
NORNS: Or not.
VERDANDI: The serpent squirms,
The fire guffaws,
The Nine Worlds bellow—
NORNS: Whatever.
URD: We make up the stories. We don’t make’em happen.
NORNS: You do that.
SKULD: For deeper knowledge, ask Odin.
NORNS: He sees the Nine Realms.
He drinks from the bottomless Well.
He reads the Runes.
He knows.
ODIN: I am Odin.
NORNS: Oh dear.
They slink away.
ODIN: He sees the Nine Realms.
He drinks from the bottomless Well.
He reads the Runes.
He knows.
Baldur appears with Hod.
BALDUR: Father?
ODIN: No time now.
Speak to your mother.
Walk in the sun.
Baldur goes out, leading Hod.
Twin sons. The son of light, and the dark.
My eyes to the future. Which sees sharper?
Is it wisdom to spend an eye for wisdom,
Seek sightless insight?
I beg wisdom as the newborn gropes for the breast,
Whatever follows the suckling of it
Or the meaning in the milk.
Idun appears, dancing.
Suddenly I’m old.
IDUN: My apples bring youth.
ODIN: And ignorance?
IDUN: Yes.
He takes one, revives, pursues Idun off. Players appear.
SNORRI: Now they build the wall. (to Bjorn) The Gods’ last war, the walls of Asgard are rubble—
BJORN: Asgard?
SNORRI: The realm of the Gods, dammit. We said that.
So Thor and Loki, the spies, the contests, the wrestling, the old lady, remember that? Got that?
So they tell Odin about the Strange Ones—
BJORN: Fierce Ones.
SNORRI: You got it. So the Gods are scared shitless, so they have to rebuild their walls—
HELGA: I don’t like those lines. What he says about the baby. “Whatever follows the suckling.” What does that mean? “Whatever follows.”
SNORRI: It’s poetry.
HELGA: But we’re having a baby. Now it’s all about war. Your Odin, I almost didn’t know it was you. And then Loki and Bragi, it was all a blur.
SNORRI: I get inspired.
BJORN: I had a baby once. My wife did. For a while.
He shrugs.
SNORRI: Let’s get to work.
HELGA: Do we have Heimdall guarding the Rainbow Bridge?
SNORRI: I can’t play everybody.
They don costumes, join the entering Gods.
ODIN: Hear me, Gods.
From Thor and Loki, we know at last the deadly threat of the Strange Ones—
THOR: Fierce Ones—
LOKI: Evil Ones.
ODIN: We must rebuild the walls of Asgard,
Walls to repel their assault.
THOR: I can’t build. I can kill. Let’s kill.
ODIN: We stand as beacons of light.
We kill only as needed.
THOR: It’s needed a lot.
ODIN: Blood blurs vision.
FREYA: But love has sharp eyes.
Bragi invokes song from the Gods.
GODS: Love sees true
Love is ever renewing
Love love love love love—
Freya approaches Odin.
FREYA: Once you would see me.
Now you barely know my name.
ODIN: Your name is Freya, the wonder of love—
FRIGGE: He knows your name.
There’s a time and a place. Keep it private.
FREYA: Must we then keep breathing private? Hold our heartbeats
Until we lock the doors?
ODIN: The question is walls. We must build the walls.
He cuts off the song. Freya retreats. Builder appears.
BUILDER: I can build your walls.
Surprise from the Gods.
ODIN: Who speaks?
BUILDER: I come to build your walls.
ODIN: How do you know of our walls?
BUILDER: Word gets around.
I build walls that stand forever.
ODIN: How do we know your skills?
BUILDER: I’m telling you.
ODIN: Your price?
BUILDER: What price for walls that shut out death?
Well it’s a trade-off. Take a tomato, you wanta breed it for a longer shelf life, but it’s a trade-off, you lose your flavor.
I claim the Sun, the Moon, and the goddess Freya.
BUILDER: Then build it yourself.
Build it of love songs. Build it of wind.
Build it of wisdom, promises, nightmares, babble—
But when you sleep, keep your eyes wide open.
They look at Freya.
FREYA: Is it come to this?
You would barter me for a wall.
Imagine then a world without love.
I am she who weaves the webbing between us
Whose fruit spews syrup
Who sucks forth the seeds of generation.
So now life’s renewal is squandered
For a masonry of fear.
Never feel the stroke of a lover?
The lips of a nursing child?
Then eat your fill of apples, cling to youth.
Youth without love. Eternal.
BALDUR: And the Moon and Sun?
What’s life without light?
Do we cower behind our wall in blackness?
LOKI: Let’s think.
Gestures to Builder, who withdraws.
FREYA: Consider your gonads
Which I might shrivel upon command.
My powers match Thor’s hammer.
LOKI: Consider.
Suppose we bargain for a deadline which cannot be met.
He will build the vast bulk of the walls, then forfeit the prize.
We place the final stone and live secure.
FREYA: If I am lost—
LOKI: I wager my life and my gonads.
The Builder returns.
ODIN: The wall must be finished in six months’ time.
BUILDER: Eighteen.
ODIN: Six.
BUILDER: Agreed.
ODIN: You must have no help.
BUILDER: Only my horse Svadilfari.
ODIN: Agreed.
BUILDER: Agreed.
ODIN: Begin.
He bounds off. The Gods watch.
ODIN: He harnesses his horse—
LOKI: Svadilfari—
GODS: Svadilfari, to move the stones.
THOR: We’ll have our wall.
ODIN: Thanks be to Loki.
FRIGGE: First frost of winter.
GODS: He’s halfway done.
ODIN: Impossible.
THOR: That horse is a beast.
LOKI: Svadilfari.
FRIGGE: Ice is melting.
GODS: Three quarters of the way.
FREYA: Remember—
FRIGGE: First bud of spring.
GODS: Last day. Last hour.
LOKI: Back soon.
Loki bounds off.
BALDUR: The sun climbs high to the solstice.
One last stone for the archway.
FRIGGE: Svadilfari draws the final stone.
ODIN: Impossible.
THOR: Some horse.
Two horse-headed dancers—Loki as a prancing mare, pursued by a plodding stallion—appear. Builder enters, raging.
BUILDER: Whose mare is that? Catch that mare! It’s a mare in heat! My stallion takes off! There’s one stone left!
THOR: You’ve lost.
BUILDER: Cheats! One stone to set in the archway!
ODIN: The prize is forfeit.
BUILDER: Then I destroy your wall!
THOR: He’s one of the Evil Ones!
Thor kills him. Silence.
ODIN: We shall set the last stone.
Not with his skill, but enough to shut out death.
FRIGGE: Thanks be to the mare.
FREYR: Thanks be to the heat of love
That tickled Svadilfari.
Departing, the Gods sing “Love Sees True.” Freya alone, musing:
FREYA: It was Loki. Shape-shifter Loki.
Pursued by a stallion. Imagine...
The Gods depart. Snorri and Helga remove their masks. Bjorn, who played the Builder, rises.
HELGA: That was good, Bjorn. That was very good.
SNORRI: Very true to life.
BJORN: I never died before.
SNORRI: Well you’re going to die again. Every time we do the play you die. At the end everyone dies.
BJORN: You didn’t tell me that.
SNORRI: You sell fish. The fish all died. Gasping for air! Slit up the belly! Bashed in the head!
BJORN: Well I’m sorry!
HELGA: Snorri—
SNORRI: Death is true to life.
Helga hands around bread and a wineskin. Snorri goes into his true character: the born comedian.
HELGA: You think you’re making a joke. It wasn’t so funny at Uppsala.
SNORRI: They said we brought the plague. You could die from watching us pretend to die.
HELGA: You took it as a compliment.
SNORRI: They were set to burn us up. Burn us at the stake.
BJORN: I saw that once.
SNORRI: I said, “If our crime is pretending to die, then let us pretend to get punished.” They didn’t like that.
HELGA: Thanks be to the soldiers of the Earl our lord protector.
BJORN: And Thor.
SNORRI: Don’t worry about dying. It gets easier all the time.
My dad. I saw my dad die about a thousand times. I believed it every time. But then when he really died, he made these weird faces. It looked fake.
Suddenly, Helga explodes.
HELGA: Every story we tell is death, death, death. I’ve got life inside me. What stories do we tell about that?
HELGA: Birth.
BJORN: I never heard any stories where babies just got born. Where a woman just has a baby?
HELGA: Why shouldn’t there be? Why shouldn’t the bard sing the nine months of the baby being born? The work it takes? The blood! If it’s blood that makes it all heroic, then what about that blood? Why don’t they sing about that?
SNORRI: Well they don’t. No reason. They just don’t. That’s crazy. Everybody gets born, there’s nothing special in that. It’s the killing that makes the story.
She glares at him, goes out.
BJORN: Do I get to be Thor again?
SNORRI: “Now bursts upon the throng of Gods the wrath of Thor!”
Bjorn is confused but jumps up on a stone.
SNORRI: “My hammer!”
BJORN: My hammer!
Drums. Players scatter. Thor enters. Gods appear.
THOR: My hammer! Lost! Lost! Lost!
LOKI: Where is it lost? Think!
THOR: It’s lost. I don’t know where. If I knew where, it wouldn’t be lost.
I’d kill you right now if I had my hammer. But I don’t. It’s lost.
BALDUR: Father.
ODIN: My son?
BALDUR: Father, my dreams. I have dreamed this dream. Thor’s hammer.
ODIN: What came of it?
BALDUR: A blur.
HOD: Brother, you see in the daytime, but nothing dark. I see the shapes of night.
Look with my eyes.
ODIN: Hod, let your brother live in light.
Yourself bear the curse of your blindness.
HOD: Your missing eye.
ODIN: We must retrieve Thor’s hammer.
Without it, no safety, no security, no defense.
FRIGGE: Our son has a dream. We shiver.
Our spies bring back stories. We shake.
We build our walls. We arm. We kill,
Then huddle in fear, grasping one mighty bludgeon
And another, another, another,
Clutching eggshells.
LOKI: We must find the hammer.
Freya, lend me your hawks-robe.
ODIN: Where do you fly?
LOKI: To Jotunheim, to the Cursed Ones.
THOR: They took it. It has to be them. They’re afraid I’ll kill’em. They’re right.
Gods disappear. Loki flies, lands, scans the audience.
LOKI: Now we know it’s here.
Can’t smuggle it past Security.
Give it up, no questions asked.
Substantial reward.
There’s guilt in your eyes.
Don’t look so pure.
You own it without knowing it.
You’ve bought Thor’s hammer,
You’ve paid billions, billions, billions.
You hammer down whole nations.
Give us that hammer!
Thrym appears.
THRYM: They’re looking. Looking for seashells, lotsa good stuff.
LOKI: I come from the Gods, from Asgard.
THRYM: The Gods in Asgard.
Hey, the Gods in Asgard.
You come from the Gods in Asgard, I bet.
I know that cause you told me.
LOKI: I seek Thor’s hammer.
THRYM: And he needs that hammer too. Can’t bash our brains out.
That’s a problem. Cause we’re so evil.
Good thing I swiped it.
My name is Thrym. That’s a name. Call me that.
LOKI: Give me Thor’s hammer.
THRYM: It’s under the ground. Cause I put it there.
I’d get it but I can’t. Unless I do.
So you ask, “What do you want for that hammer?”
Cause I know the answer to that. Freya.
LOKI: Freya?
THRYM: You guessed it. No fooling you. You got it.
Need her to help me out.
Make little Thryms and have fun doing it.
LOKI: I will take the message.
THRYM: Lots of little Thryms!
Make’em faster than he can smash’em.
Oh boy!
Loki flies to Asgard. Gods assemble.
THOR: What news?
LOKI: Thrym in Jotunheim has your hammer.
For it, he asks Freya as his bride.
THOR: Freya, dress yourself in bridal linen.
FRIGGE: They all want her, let’s give her to them.
Let them stand in line.
They’ll be so busy they’ll leave us be.
THOR: Not just for us.
Who do they pray to, the Mortals?
See the temples, the groves: who do they invoke?
The Gods of Love? Wisdom? Song?
They invoke Thor. Protector.
They squat in a world where force is god,
Where the hammer rules.
What else lets them sleep at night?
Only force brings peace.
FREYA: And will love be made hammer to hammer?
Will hammers bear little hammers,
And thunder drown newborns’ cries?
Then give me in trade.
Let lovers make love by hammer blows
And pregnancies bud from spatters of blood.
LOKI: Consider.
We must give them a bride.
Then let us give them one who has never known man.
THOR: (laughing) There is no such goddess!
LOKI: Thor.
Dress Thor in bridal linen, adorned with Freya’s jewels.
I bring him as bride to Thrym,
Whose wedding gift shall be Thor’s hammer, and then—
THOR: (collaring Loki) I, in bridal linen?
LOKI: For the sake of all Gods
HOD: Oh let me have sight for only one minute
To see the blushing bride!
Thor roars, starts to hurl his hammer at Hod, then realizes he has no hammer. Laughter.
LOKI: And I will be your lady’s maid.
Thor stomps out enraged. Loki follows. Gods disappear.
BALDUR: The bride’s hammer raised.
I’ve seen it...
They depart, linked in brotherhood. Thrym drags in Thor’s hammer. Behind him, two Primals kneel with a cloth, forming a banquet table.
THRYM: Here she comes! I got her!
I got possession. Possession, possession, possession!
Of gold and cattle and swine with silver tusks
And armies and slaves and oil wells and my very own symphony orchestra
And now I got her. Now I got love.
I got it. It’s mine and nobody else’s.
I got her and grab her little butt and nobody gets that butt but me.
Thrym and Thrym and Thrym Thrym Thrym!
Which is me.
Thor appears, dressed as a bride; Loki in a veil. Thrym is ardent, Loki restrains him
LOKI: Let us feast the bride.
They sit. Thor eats ravenously.
THOR: Ox! Pig! Salmon! Mead! Ox! Pig! More!
THRYM: That’s a big old appetite.
LOKI: Freya so fiercely yearns for her lord’s embrace
That she has gone hungry for eight full days.
THRYM: Poor baby. Here comes one fat old kiss from her sweetie.
He raises Thor’s veil, reels back.
THRYM: She got red eyes.
LOKI: Freya so fiercely yearns for her lord’s embrace
That she has gone sleepless for eight full nights.
THRYM: Poor baby, I give her good rooty-toot.
He grimaces lasciviously. Thor roars. Thrym reels back.
LOKI: Freya so fiercely yearns for her lord’s embrace
That she cries like a tigress forlorn.
THRYM: We’ll shut her up. Bring the bridal gift.
Lay Mjollnir in her lap. And then me.
The hammer is dragged to Thor. In slow motion he slays the Primals, then hammers Thrym into the ground.
THOR: I got my hammer! I got my hammer! I got my hammer!
He looks at Loki.
Laugh once and I’ll kill you.
Thor off. Loki turns, freezes in place.
Snorri, who played Thrym, sits up. Helga and Bjorn appear.
SNORRI: How was that?
HELGA: It’ll do.
BJORN: I like Loki. He’s funny.
SNORRI: They catch him, they torture him, then comes Ragnarok, the doom of the Gods. Lotsa laughs.
BJORN: That’s what happens?
HELGA: What they say is going to happen.
SNORRI: It happened. It’s already happened. That’s the way they tell it. It happened.
BJORN: If it happened, then why do we worship the Gods if they’re already dead?
SNORRI: Because we’re stupid!
BJORN: But he just saved all the Gods. He did all these good things.
SNORRI: There’s a good side. There’s a bad side. Depends on the mask.
Loki shifts posture, then disappears. Players go out. Odin appears. He summons Loki, who appears, distant.
ODIN: Join me, brother.
We are bound by blood oath ages past memory.
At least I may trust your deceit.
Frigge appears.
My beloved wife.
My most trusted friend and my most treacherous.
Between you, perhaps, the path of truth.
FRIGGE: You seldom ask counsel of me.
Well I advise that you do as you always do.
Take your long journey.
Seduce the females, bring home trinkets,
Kvasir’s mead or some epileptic Goddess
To nuzzle you sweetly as the night comes on.
Your blood brother speaks of creatures
Fierce beyond imagining. Believe him
And leave me to curse whatever the future brings.
LOKI: Mothers with fishhooks in their wombs.
Is this a day for discord?
May we rather preserve the light of your son
Than stumble in night and fog and fire.
FRIGGE: His words befuddle you. You think you mistrust him,
Yet you guzzle his chatter like poisoned mead.
LOKI: Then ignore me.
ODIN: Speak.
LOKI: We are walled, we are armed,
Yet is any measure too drastic or too trivial
To guard us from fate’s mad clowning?
ODIN: What do you propose?
LOKI: No matter.
ODIN: Speak.
LOKI: I have brought gifts to Asgard.
Thor’s hammer, the walls that guard us.
Odin’s own spear, your arm ring that gives forth gold,
And Sleipnir, your eight-legged steed
Sired by the stallion out of my very body.
And what reward? Suspicion, abuse:
Loki the trickster, you call me, Loki the sly.
But what God refuses my bounty?
Should I offer more gifts to Asgard
To be spat upon?
ODIN: What gifts?
LOKI: My children by Angrboda.
I offer their service.
FRIGGE: Angrboda. Her name is Sorrow-Bearer.
LOKI: Every mother’s name is Sorrow-Bearer.
FRIGGE: Every mother is not of the Fierce Ones,
Nor bears a snake, a wolf, and a rotted fetus.
LOKI: Yet they will answer our need
As weapons against the Evil Ones.
Our world is not as it was before.
ODIN: Show your children.
LOKI: Jormungand.
Distant tableau: figures hold a writhing snake.
FRIGGE: It will grow.
ODIN: Then let it infest the sea surrounding us,
Spitting its venom
To guard us from the Evil Ones.
LOKI: So be it. Fenris.
Distant tableau: figures hold a snarling wolf cub.
FRIGGE: He will grow.
ODIN: Then let him be chained at our gate,
Gnashing steel teeth
To guard us from the Evil Ones.
LOKI: So be it. Hel.
Distant tableau: a beautiful woman.
FRIGGE: She will show another face.
Hel turns: hideously disfigured.
ODIN: Then let her reign in Niflheim,
Receiving endless legions of dead
From warfare with the Evil Ones.
LOKI: So let it be.
My liege, blood brother, my brother in bloodshed,
My gratitude.
ODIN: (to Frigge) You would speak. Then speak.
FRIGGE: So let it be.
Guardianship of the light is entrusted
To hammers, monsters, shadow.
That is the way of it then
In this world-not-as-it-was-before.
And so, my lord, it would be foolish waste
To let brave warriors rot with Hel.
We must not squander the dead.
Look to Midgard.
Shall Mortals live out their days in labor
And spend their death in darkness?
Let them make war.
Let sons of mortal mothers live lives of worth,
Die to enrich their kings and cry our glory.
I speak as a mother—
LOKI: Strange words to come from a mother’s lips.
FRIGGE: An echo.
I speak the words I hear in the wind.
The sperm that floods my womb
Begets the fruit I bear.
My daughters,
Who ages past ages bring forth springtime:
I name you now the Valkyries,
Choosers of the Dead.
To Valhalla, the Hall of the Slain, you bring the heroes.
Let the unworthy cluster with Hel
While in Valhalla these warriors wage perpetual war.
By day they die, by night they drink and mend.
And so they prepare for Ragnarok,
Streaming forth from five hundred gates to stall the tide.
Centuries long, they wait to seize the day.
LOKI: An odd reward for virtue, to be slain and slain again.
ODIN: We must honor the prophecies:
Murder must not enter Asgard.
FRIGGE: The killing of Mortals by Mortals is not murder.
They expect to die.
ODIN: Let it be so.
I strain to see what’s near at hand.
What looms on the blind side—
LOKI: Reap the harvest then.
Your arm ring Draupnir sheds eight rings of gold on every ninth night.
Fling these rings into Midgard,
Spurs to war, to multiply our legions.
Odin casts the rings. All watch as they descend.
FRIGGE: Now I mother Death.
Odin and Frigge turn away. Loki looks downward to Midgard.
LOKI: Mortals are the Runes.
What their bodies spell out will resound among the Gods.
A God is only a creature obsessed,
A monster of love, of light, of thunder—all madness.
Myself, the god of maggots, purging the rotted flesh,
Or of dentists, probing the tooth’s decay.
I am the water crept into the rocks that, freezing, cracks mountains.
Unmaker for what must be unmade.
I frolic.
He removes his mask, wears a new face. Departs.
ODIN: No talk of nightmares. Let Bragi bring us cheer.
Gods assemble. Bragi signals a song.
GODS: In spring—
They stop dead. Pause. Bragi tries again.
In spring—
They stop dead. Bragi tries again. At last they sing a merry song, but frozen, joyless.
In spring we sing
In the morning we’re young
In the dawning the blossoming
Rainbows of song—
Baldur falls to his knees, clings to Odin.
BALDUR: Father... The dreams... The bride’s hammer...
ODIN: The bride’s hammer raised.
First sign in the runes.
BALDUR: What then, father?
ODIN: Death, my son.
He embraces Baldur. Drumbeat. They depart. Helga unmasks, comes forward.
HELGA: This play is “The Play of Ragnarok,” with the exploits of Thor, the death of Baldur, and all that follows.
Presented by grace of our Lord Protector the Earl of Trondheim.
We offer an interval for your refreshment and relief.
Enjoy the wares of our vendors.
IDUN: And apples. They work if you truly believe. If you don’t, they’re still nutritious.
They cost a dollar unless you’re a God and show ID.
HELGA: Yet beware the Norns.
They lurk in the later hours.
She starts to break down. Idun takes her by the hand, leads her out.
Act Two
Drumbeat. Trio enter, start putting on new costumes. In distance, Baldur appears with Hod. Trio become aware of them.
BJORN: That blind guy is scary. You better change that.
SNORRI: No changing Gods. Gods don’t change. That’s why they’re Gods.
BJORN: But like if that guy’s dream doesn’t mean what it means. Like I dreamed I was a fish in a net. But I wasn’t.
SNORRI: We tell the stories the Norns cook up. You can’t change the story.
SNORRI: Go sell fish! Ask a halibut if he wasn’t really caught. Entertain him while he’s frying.
HELGA: Easy—
BJORN: How bout more funny stuff?
SNORRI: These are Gods. There’s nothing funny about Gods. They’ll kill you as soon as look at you. (to Helga) What?
HELGA: There has to be something left. It all crashes down, there still has to be something left.
SNORRI: You mean some hope at the end? Like it’s the end of the world but look on the bright side?
BJORN: Who stays alive? Does anybody stay alive?
SNORRI: One of Thor’s sons is alive, and they say Baldur and Hod come back. That’s it.
BJORN: What about us?
SNORRI: We’re not in it.
HELGA: You sure about that?
Percussion. The Trio become the Norns. Sudden movement from Baldur.
BALDUR: Darkness!
HOD: Where?
The Norns circle Baldur & Hod.
URD: Yesterday three car bombs claimed the lives of more than fifty civilians including—
SKULD: Over thirty percent of the adult population infected with HIV, with prospects of—
VERDANDI: A new study predicting catastrophic climate change leading to—
TRIO: More?
They halt. Silence. Begin again.
URD: Mass extinctions of species in the Amazon expected to exceed—
SKULD: Extensive evidence of genocide in the Sudan extending to—
VERDANDI: As many as one million child sex slaves with an average life expectancy of twenty-eight years or—
TRIO: More?
They halt. Silence. Begin again.
URD: Fire in the South, fire in the forests, fire in the—
SKULD: Ice moving down from the North, ice in the veins, ice in the—
VERDANDI: Great mist going up from the face of the Earth in the—
TRIO: Evening and morning of the Last Days!
SKULD: More?
BALDUR: No more!
Baldur collapses.
URD: Too bad. It gets better after that.
Norns scatter to the periphery. Hod holds Baldur in his arms. Odin enters.
ODIN: I am the all-wise Odin. Or the smell of him.
Wise, wise to himself, the wise guy.
I perch on the peak of Nine Realms, see fog.
Crucify myself to myself on the sacred tree.
My ravens scout the world for truth and bring me clatter—
For what? To know the Runes.
Scribbles of puzzlement, shards of turmoil, slivers of truth.
No wiser than the slave who digs a potato, says,
“That’s a potato,” and goes on digging.
The grey wolf glares at the sun.
Urd, Verdandi and Skuld!
Prophesy Ragnarok.
Norns point to the audience.
NORNS: Read the Runes.
ODIN: Those are Mortals. Specks of salt.
NORNS: By their capers they spell the fates of Gods.
Why else were they created?
ODIN: We shaped them as slaves to worship us.
NORNS: The slave rules the master.
ODIN: They roll their imbecile eyes,
Croak out their madness,
Teach their children to lie, to lie, to lie, and believe it.
Their words embroider their shrouds.
One gold ring and they set their world at war.
NORNS: Valhalla teems.
ODIN: Then we are invincible.
NORNS: That’s nice.
Norns disappear. Odin stands alone. Frigge joins him.
ODIN: I must journey to unriddle Baldur’s dream.
FRIGGE: Where is the riddler to solve the riddle unspoken?
ODIN: In the realm of the dead.
FRIGGE: You have your yammering ravens.
You have your lookout seat.
You have the wise man’s severed head.
You have your Runes.
When will your vision be sharp enough
To see both sides of your nose?
ODIN: When I have challenged Hel.
I ride to her gates, to speak with a prophetess long dead
Whom I knew when her lips were full.
FRIGGE: May your journey suffer no lack of sluts whose lips are full.
I bear no jealousy. I too have found sport.
I call you only to your pledge as father
To preserve the breath of our son.
Fortune go with you, my love.
Odin departs. Hod holds Baldur.
HOD: Brother, you enter my dark.
Is there room for us both?
The Players approach Baldur.
HELGA: We could tell him stories. We all need better dreams.
SNORRI: He knows all the stories already. He’s a God.
HELGA: Stories of a world to bring our baby into. What makes this world? What makes me pregnant?
HELGA: We both loved your father. We saw him live, bring the Gods alive. Now they’re dying.
SNORRI: “The Theft of Idun’s Apples.” Remember that?
HELGA: Odin and Loki are cooking meat. The eagle snatches the meat. Loki grabs the eagle. The eagle grabs Loki, makes him help capture Idun.
SNORRI: The Gods have no apples. They start to get old. They threaten Loki. He saves Idun. They have their apples again. They’re young.
BJORN: I like apples.
Before Baldur, they play the story in mime. In the distance, a prophetic Seer appears to Odin.
ODIN: I come to the gates of Hel,
Daughter of Loki, mistress of death.
A tumulus gapes.
SEER: Who is he that intrudes on Hel?
Who calls me up from frozen time?
Who breaks the silence of death?
ODIN: A wanderer. I ask your secrets.
Why are Hel’s halls hung with gold,
Her chambers with shining rings?
SEER: Our mead is brewed for Baldur,
Our chambers hung with gold.
Ask me no more, no more.
ODIN: More.
Who shall slay Baldur?
Who will strike life from Odin’s beloved son?
SEER: The blind aims true,
Frail twig tears flesh.
The bleeding god, the mistletoe.
Ask me no more, no more.
ODIN: More.
What horrors follow his bleeding,
The Nine Realms robbed of light?
SEER: Nine Realms shiver
Yggdrasil shudders, falls
The crack of rocks
The gush of blood
Fetters break
Death runs free
Day of axe, day of wolf
Day of sleet, day of steel
Loki’s brood
Fire breath
Odin swallowed
Earth split
Sky burnt
Ask me no more.
ODIN: More.
What word Odin whispers in the ear of his son
As Baldur burns on the pyre?
SEER: None know what you speak in the ear of your son.
None knows but you.
Odin, be gone, till Loki rips his bonds.
I speak no more of Ragnarok.
My lips are dry.
He reaches to her. She disappears. The Trio finish their play and bow before Baldur. He is unresponsive.
BJORN: See, they have their apples. They’re young.
Baldur goes out, assisted by Hod.
SNORRI: He just walked out. This could’ve been our big break.
Helga hugs him. Drums.
HELGA: Odin comes home.
The actors arrange themselves for rehearsal. Behind, Odin, Frigge, and Baldur play out the scene in mime.
HELGA: (as Frigge) Odin, you are home.
SNORRI: (as Odin) I am home.
HELGA: All is well.
HELGA: Behold our son Baldur.
Bjorn steps forth as Thor.
SNORRI: Baldur!
He changes posture.
FRIGGE: Odin, you return.
ODIN: I return.
FRIGGE: Our son will not die.
BJORN: I won’t?
SNORRI: Shut up. (as Odin) What do you tell me, wife?
HELGA: I too have journeyed, borne by the wind
Through all the Living Realms.
All share love for Baldur’s light.
He lights the sun, the gleam in a lover’s eyes, the up-reaching trees, the mountain springs, every shape that calls Earth its mother, all.
The Players pause, as if sensing the Gods, then continue.
SNORRI: And so?
FRIGGE: All beings, alive or lifeless, have sworn an oath.
That none will harm him.
No rock nor steel will strike him down,
Not drowned by wave nor seized in the tempest’s claw.
Even beasts of the night love the starlight’s glimmer.
Even the Strange Ones love him.
All have pledged.
The Realms are united in love.
SNORRI: This is hopeful.
HELGA: (to Bjorn) Say “Father, be happy.”
BJORN: “Father be happy.”
SNORRI: Quick change.
The Players exit rapidly. Music. Odin, Frigge and Baldur embrace.
ODIN: Then all may be well, no matter the dreaming.
Gods appear. Bragi leads a song.
GODS: No matter the dreaming
No matter the dreams
Our hearts fill with hope
Our light is undimmed...
Loki speaks to us.
LOKI: I ask: Have I not been bountiful?
A job needs doing, I do it.
Virtue too in the undoing,
Like water’s wisdom, dissolving all.
Now the undoing begins.
The seeds of death take root
In the fragrant dung of fear.
He dons a cloak, approaches Frigge as an old woman.
FRIGGE: What would you have, old woman?
LOKI: O holy mother, is it true as I hear
That your beauteous son is free from fear?
FRIGGE: It is true.
LOKI: As a mother myself I know your joy
To keep him safe whom the fates would destroy.
LOKI: Though my babes are not as fine as yours,
Yet they are mine and my love outpours
To keep them clear of the world’s sad wars.
But truly, all things of Earth have sworn?
Earth, sea and sky? Things born and unborn,
Highborn, lowborn, freeborn and baseborn,
Lovelorn, careworn—
LOKI: Except...
Well I know Gods are perfect in their housekeeping, not like Mortals, cause for me there’s always one little corner I didn’t sweep, one little spool I didn’t put back in its place—
Because of the Norns. The Norns.
If you do it too perfect you’re caught in the story they weave. They’ve got you. So leave one little tuck in the bedsheet untucked, and screw it up for the Norns.
But you, oh my, you’ve done it perfect, you’ve made them all swear, except—
FRIGGE: Except the mistletoe. One growth of mistletoe.
Young, spindly, rootless.
What harm could it do?
Only mistletoe.
Loki cries out, voiceless.
LOKI: A flight of jaybirds.
Ignore their words.
Who knows what they say?
They’ve flown away.
Holy mother, you bring us much joy
To take such care of your bright-faced boy.
Frigge joins Baldur. Loki withdraws, removes the disguise. To us:
You guess the rest.
If this were Midgard, where Mortals skulk,
The cleverest of them, not out of malice but simply boredom,
Might take this wisp of a plant, twist it into a shaft—
Miming the action:
A slender, delicate shaft
As sleek as light, as lethal as history.
And then, as Mortals do with their gadgets,
He might place it where it is deadliest:
In the hands of the blind.
Odin and Frigge stand watching as Thor, Freya, Idun, Freyr and Bragi circle Baldur joyously. Hod stands at one side.
FRIGGE: All beings united in light.
Shine, my son. We are past the dark times.
BALDUR: Now we can be the creatures our mothers knew us to be.
In our newborn eyes, nothing but light.
ODIN: No darkness, Hod, make way.
FREYA: I’m tossing a pebble at you, my love. Tell me if you feel it.
BRAGI: Feel this?
IDUN: I’ll hit you with an apple!
BALDUR: It feels like rain.
FRIGGE: Prove it on him.
FREYR: My sword.
BALDUR: Strike.
FRIGGE: My son has conquered death.
Let there be only life.
All in the circle hurl things at him. He laughs, inviting new missiles.
Thor confronts him. Baldur invites his throw. Thor is reluctant, then prepares, throws his hammer. All cry out. Baldur is unfazed.
All cheer. They continue their slow, joyous dance around Baldur. Loki approaches Hod.
LOKI: Why not join the sport?
HOD: You know well enough. No eyes.
LOKI: Celebrate his triumph, feel his light.
Let me guide you.
Bend this bow. Send forth a dart. Bring joy.
The arrow is aimed, released. Baldur falls dead.
Shock. Frigge embraces the fallen Baldur. The male gods strike Hod dead. All freeze in grief. Loki adjusts the tableau.
A bit more...
Do I taste guilt? Envy, perhaps.
Yet also love. Call it that. He was truly good.
My gall is for those who basked in his light.
Sweet syrup on rotten meat.
Across the seas they speak of a Christ, a creature like Baldur, a god of light.
And that god too was killed, eaten and excreted without a second thought.
The Christ-lovers say He died for their sins. I say no.
These Gods die because we need them dead.
ODIN: How do I grieve? I have lost my son. Tell me how to grieve.
GODS: Death has entered Asgard.
Odin lifts his son. Echo of a whisper as he speaks a word in his ear.
Bragi begins a chant of grief. The tableau breaks. Others join the chant.
ALL: We grieve the hearts of the living
We grieve the dead—
Hel appears.
HEL: I come for the God snuffed out.
My realm is set to swallow him.
FRIGGE: He is my son.
HEL: None forestalls necessity.
Starve Death, choke Life.
FRIGGE: He is mine.
HEL: Then at your breast he rots.
ODIN: Baldur belongs to the Living Realms, beloved of all.
The Strange Ones gather to grieve him, the Dwarfs, the Elves, the Mortals, all.
They cover the mountainsides, grieving the vanished light.
In his face every soul sees blessing.
Look on his face. Even you will see it.
Hel looks on Baldur’s face.
HEL: I may spare him if he lives in every heart,
If tears in a flood sweep him free from Hel.
If one is found who does not weep
Then I must have him.
Drums. Gods move as if searching all realms.
GODS: From the realm of the Mortals, they cry.
From the realm of the Dwarfs, they cry.
From the realm of the Wood Elves, Mountain Elves, River Elves, they cry for Baldur.
From the realm of the Strange Ones, they cry.
From the realm of the Gods—
All look at Loki.
LOKI: They look at me.
I, who have fathered, mothered monsters.
How could I grieve, how could I weep, how could I mourn his dazzling light?
In memory of the child I was, ten thousand years foregone.
In memory of some womb that spewed me out.
The remembered spit of my copulations, male to female, female, male.
In loving remembrance of light.
He weeps.
GODS: All cry—
HEL: Except—
THOKK: Thokk.
Thokk appears: an old woman.
Oh yeh. I was a woman once.
My son. I’m sorry. My son died in 1066. He died in 1630. He died in 1863. He died in 1915. I’m sorry.
He died in 1942. He died in 1951. He died in 1966. He died in 1992. He died in 2003, and four, and five and six, and he goes on dying, dying.
Sorry. All my tears are gone. Got no more.
I don’t wish death on another soul, but I’m emptied out.
No half-gallon bottle of grief at the grief store.
I look at his face. Very handsome.
Baldur rises into Hel’s embrace. Her cloak covers him. Hod also rises into her cloak. They go out. Gods off, leaving Bjorn, Snorri, and Helga.
HELGA: Same old stuff. Death death death.
SNORRI: It’s a story. We tell stories. They pay us, we eat, our baby lives, all right?
Bjorn sobs. They look at him.
BJORN: My wife Gerd, she had this funny-looking nose. She got the plague. And the baby. That was it.
HELGA: People need to laugh. Otherwise how do you stand it? How do you give birth if you think your baby’s never gonna laugh?
SNORRI: Millions do.
HELGA: They never say about a god of laughing. One that just laughs. (to Snorri) I’m afraid.
SNORRI: Next scene.
The Gods gather in council. Separate, Loki approaches an Old Man.
LOKI: Tell me, old man, what the Gods are speaking in their cups.
OLD MAN: None speak. They grieve our loss of light.
ALL: No sun no shadow
No flame no flicker no light...
LOKI: I shall bring them cheer.
OLD MAN: They’ll wipe your face off with it.
LOKI: Nothing but wisdom falls from my lip.
OLD MAN: Don’t you have any heart? Are you some kind of worm, without a heart?
LOKI: The heart is savage, the heart is pure will—
I am the heart of this world whose blood I drive.
Time to stop twittering now.
What is beginning must begin. What comes will come.
One pebble wakes the avalanche.
Way past time.
Two minutes before you die.
ODIN: I hear the trickster. Where?
Loki comes before the Gods.
LOKI: From a long journey. I thirst.
ODIN: Make room for the Wolf’s father, the Serpent’s sire, begetter of Hel.
FRIGGE: And the mum of an eight-legged horse.
LOKI: Why so sullen? Remember, Odin,
Our blood-brotherhood. Smile.
BRAGI: You are not invited.
LOKI: I don’t mind.
BRAGI: I would sooner sing your praise in your absence.
LOKI: Well save your warbling.
You sing of great battles, yet shy when arrows are shot.
BRAGI: If we were not sitting here in the hall of peace
My blade would cleave your head.
LOKI: It’s sitting down that checks your valor?
What prevents your standing up?
IDUN: Bragi. Do not let Loki provoke you. Think of our children.
LOKI: Think of your children, Bragi, all sired by different Gods
Since you have trouble with standing up.
ODIN: Loki, you are mad to abuse Idun.
By her gifts we live.
LOKI: Insightful Odin! Knowing more of women than of wisdom.
Too much strain on your one good eye.
ODIN: Knowing more than he who lived eight winters under the earth,
Bore monsters there and gave them suck.
LOKI: While you let Mortals bear your monstrous spawn
And gave them stones to suck.
FREYA: You are envious, Loki.
Odin knows all that was or is or is to be.
LOKI: Except the sum of your lovers, Freya, for that is infinite.
With Gods, with Dwarfs, and wild boars in the bog.
FREYR: Yes, with all except the God who cannot love.
LOKI: And yet I came to you in your dream as you lay with your brother.
FREYR: Noble a Goddess who gives herself to love,
But shameful a God who gives birth to babies.
LOKI: For Gymer’s daughter, Freyr, you traded your sword.
When Muspell’s sons over Mirkwood blaze
What mighty rod will you wield?
HEIMDALL: You’re drunk, Loki. Go home
Or we’ll knot you to a rock with the guts of your son.
LOKI: And you will do it.
But, good Heimdall, better the guts of my baby
Sired on your wife as all night, with wet bottom,
You guarded the Rainbow Bridge.
Yet stay awake to guard the Gods against their nightmares,
Soon to come.
FRIGGE: Loki, you speak the Gods’ failings, yes.
We all have much to forgive.
LOKI: As your husband forgave you for screwing his brothers.
As you forgave your blind son Hod for killing Baldur.
FRIGGE: Baldur—
LOKI: As you forgive me what befell?
My fashioning the arrow of mistletoe?
My sending your son to Hel?
LOKI: As I recall.
FRIGGE: Baldur—
LOKI: He’s not here.
If he were here I would sing his praise.
Alas, he’s belly-up.
All freeze.
ODIN: The mountains tremble. It will be Thor returning.
He will smite the mocker.
Thor enters.
LOKI: So! The Son of Earth is here!
Do you long for your lusty bridegroom?
THOR: Silence! Mjollnir will shut your mouth.
I’ll throw you down the sewage pits.
LOKI: Why do you rage? Save it to battle with Fenris
When he swallows Odin one gulp.
THOR: Silence! Mjollnir will shut your mouth.
I’ll feed you to the pigs.
LOKI: Why do you rage? Save it to wrestle the Serpent
As he spits your death in your face.
THOR: Silence! Mjollnir will shut your mouth.
I’ll send you to snuggle with Hel.
LOKI: I have cracked my jokes, babbled my babble, croaked my croaks.
I leave the last feast of Asgard.
Flames play over the future.
Already they singe the sky.
He flees. Thor flings his hammer. It kills the Old Man.
The Gods pursue Loki. Frigge, Idun, and Freya observe the pursuit: a series of tableaux.
IDUN: There he is. He runs. He flies.
FREYA: He flees to Midgard. Earth shuns him.
FRIGGE: Rock and rubble. He starves. He finds a stream.
He crafts a net to catch fish.
IDUN: He hears them coming. He burns the net in the fire, becomes a fish, dives into the stream.
FREYA: They see the pattern of ash.
THOR: A net for catching fish. Let’s catch us a fish.
FRIGGE: They craft the net. He escapes the net.
They sink it deeper. He leaps. He’s caught.
Loki is captured. Slow movement into final pose. Idun opens a newspaper, reads.
IDUN: Sources report the accused was apprehended and held in an undisclosed location, tied to a rock by the guts of his son.
Allegations of torture were unconfirmed.
Sigyn, veiled, enters the tableau.
FREYA: Someone loves him.
IDUN: Allegations of torture were unconfirmed.
She looks up, confused.
LOKI: Bring it on. Get the bad guy. Make him pee his pants.
ALL: Take a viper, hang it over his face, drooling down.
His lady holds a bowl to guard his face, but it fills, it fills, and when she goes to empty it, the venom sears his eyes.
Loki opens his mouth to scream. The Gods scream. Earth shakes under them.
LOKI: Oh bring it on.
ALL: He screams, he squirms, he shivers,
Earth shudders, the mountains quake—
LOKI: And a fun time is had by all.
He opens his mouth. Gods scream, the quake more violent.
Bring it on.
ALL: What comes when you torture a God and the spasms pass to the Earth we’re born from and start the contractions?—
The mountains crack and the Primals crown.
The avalanche upward across the Rainbow Bridge—
LOKI: You bring it upon yourselves.
He freezes in a scream.
FRIGGE: So it begins. His frenzies induce the labor.
The venom fills the rivers of Midgard where Mortals drink.
In the mounds of dead, Odin reads the coming of Ragnarok.
Odin traces out the forms of the letters in the audience. Reacts. She embraces him. Drums. All freeze, focused on Heimdall, who carries a trumpet.
HEIMDALL: Heimdall. Watchman.
Story is, I was born of nine mothers. Don’t ask me how.
I never played this thing. They said, “When you see’em coming, blow.” I don’t dare practice.
But how does it start? You think with the missiles flying? That’s not how.
Clock rings an hour early. He gets out of bed, relieves himself, shaves, flight suit, breakfast, smoke.
She packs her kids’ lunch bags, drives’em to school, heads for the office, types up the orders.
President ties his necktie, pats his hair.
She emails her mom. “Don’t worry, I’m safe. What you saw on TV was across the Bay.”
Storm starts with one little fart. Week later, the hurricane, and I try to toot this damn trumpet.
He blows, without effect. Tries again. Horn. Heimdall looks about, confused. Helga breaks out of her character. Snorri holds her.
HELGA: I won’t play this again. Too many times. My baby hears it.
SNORRI: It’s not a story now. It plays itself. It’s real.
He opens an umbrella. They crouch beneath it. The Gods converge into a counter-clockwise circle, chanting.
ALL: Winter, and brother kills brother.
Winter, and women go dry.
Winter, winter, then fire.
The rooster crows in Jotunheim.
The rooster crows in Asgard.
The rooster crows in Hel.
They wake.
The fetters break. The wolf runs free.
Day of sword, day of spear, day of spike, spur, sickle, and steel.
Day of whirlwind, tempest, twister, squall.
Day of ax, day of rage, day of death death death—
Day of death—
One by one they come into the center. The circle reverses, expands, envelops.
HEIMDALL: Vigilance.
I see the attack. I sound the alarm.
My enemy Loki leads the charge.
We clash. We die embraced.
LOKI: I break my shackles, charge up the Rainbow,
Die in the luscious clutch of the trumpeter’s riffs.
Call me evil?
You prefer the rule of blind professors of wisdom? Smashers of skulls? Those who make songs about it?
Evil? Are your bowels evil for reducing it all to excrement?
IDUN: Apples? I have apples. Who wants apples?
Remember how good they taste?
THOR: The Serpent looms. I face him.
I kill him, I kill him, I kill him, he will not die
And I kill him till he’s limp as a snot-rag.
He spits his curse in my eyes.
Tastes like shit.
Stride nine paces off.
Sky goes black.
BRAGI: Black sky, no moon,
They’ve swallowed all the songs.
FREYR: And Freyr shall contend without a sword with Surt, the ravening fire.
I gave my sword for the Strange One who entranced me.
Curst be love that leads to ravening fire.
FREYA: Blest be fire, and blest be life.
Blest be fire, and blest be life.
Blest be fire, and blest be life.
Remember me, Mortals, remember.
Remember my kiss.
BJORN: I don’t know who I am. Who am I supposed to be? I’m getting killed without any good lines.
IDUN: Make a song, Bragi. We need a song.
No apples, but a song.
Bragi? Please?
BJORN: Fresh fish! Codfish, sturgeon, scorpion fish! Eels, herring, salmon!
Big fish, little fish, bluefish, blackfish, yellowfish, greenfish, redfish! Fish! Fish!
ODIN: The word I spoke in the ear of my dying son—
The word—
FRIGGE: Live. Be. Breathe. Endure. Survive. Prevail.
ODIN: Can’t remember—
FRIGGE: Let the word be known.
To the Earth our mother who speaks the wind.
ODIN: The fetters break and the Wolf runs free.
I contend against the Wolf
He swallows my sight in
Madness madness madness madness madness—
ALL: Yggdrasil burns.
Skies go black.
Stars fall.
All freeze, then bow their heads slowly in grief, move into the distance.
Helga and Snorri are left. They look out from under the umbrella.
SNORRI: Hello?
SNORRI: What’s there?
HELGA: All gone. Mist.
SNORRI: Let there be light.
HELGA: I see trees.
SNORRI: Snapshots. Something somebody took on a nice summer day. To remember.
HELGA: What are snapshots?
SNORRI: I dunno. What day is it?
HELGA: Relative to what?
SNORRI: Is that blood?
HELGA: They gonna pay us?
SNORRI: I’m really not ok at all. (Laughs) Not a great day.
HELGA: Where’s Bjorn?
SNORRI: Back selling fish?
HELGA: If there’s fish. The baby kicked.
SNORRI: He’s a puncher.
HELGA: She’s a dancer.
SNORRI: Twins.
HELGA: I just need to cry—
She cries.
Ok, I’m done with that.
SNORRI: What’s that?
HELGA: The World Tree. Yggdrasil. That’s what’s left.
SNORRI: Plant it.
He finds a cracked pot. Helga plants the branch in it. Figures appear in distance.
GODS: They see coming a second time
The earth from the ocean green...
HELGA: There’s gotta be, some time...
GODS: Waterfall flows, eagles fly,
New gods meet on Idavoll...
HELGA: Maybe new gods—
SNORRI: Are we ready for that?
GODS: Find in the grass gold markers of an ancient game,
Wonder how it was played...
HELGA: Grass...
GODS: Grass grows, fruit ripens,
Baldur and Hod, the brothers, will live again...
HELGA: We live again...
SNORRI: Well there’s time. No shows for a while.
Sit here and watch it grow.
GODS: Darkness, great darkness dissolves.
Darkness dissolves in the dawn.
Music into curtain call.