Thor: Legend of Valhalla, Or Mortals Who Talk Too Much

Think less shiny, sparkly, jokey Thor and more portly, grumpy Thor in dark and smoky halls, with goats that definitely don’t scream! This version of Thor is heavy on the mythic-ness; strange and beguiling in its darkened halls and forests where giant wolves or actual giants may suddenly appear.

Røskva and Tjalfe live with their parents on a farm, where life is hard but pleasant and Røskva is very dependent on her older brother to avoid the life set out for her- of fish gutting and clothes washing. Suddenly two strangers and their cart drawn by giant goats rock up and demand hospitality — though they do help by providing the meat! As they dominate the hearth fire, Thor captivates with stories and Loke…Well Loke is up to not good, suggesting, deceiving and getting Tjalfe to do the thing he’s been told not to do — snap one of the goat’s bones. Loke is very well portrayed here — a hooded, smoking, attractive trickster, letting Thor be at the centre of things and yet convincingly misleading and meddling. (Also somehow missing the blame for future events as Thor seems very protective of his brother).

In an incredibly squelchy scene, Thor lobs assembled goat bones into a pit and by the power of his hammer, Mjölnir, the goats are back, ready to pull the cart to Valhalla. Only one of them has a dodgy leg. Furiously Thor calls out the family who’ve hosted him and insists that the culprit come forward. After some hesitation, in the face of such an angry god, Tjalfe confesses and is taken on as Thor’s servant. Only Røskva sneaks away too — desperate to avoid all the fish gutting and preparation.

The Norse gods are, so far, not kind — they work Tjalfe hard in the cart pushing department, endlessly commenting on his slowness and weakness, and are less than thrilled when they find a second mortal! Thor gives the brother and sister to Loke and as they enter the halls of Valhalla, are very firmly told to put up and shut up!

In Valhalla, the gods are unhappy as they fight amongst themselves; Odin boredly playing a game with a disembodied head. No-one will take a stand on how to deal with the escaped wolf Fenrir, and they really need to…because it’s going to grow to monstrous proportions, eat the sun and bring about Ragnarök (or the ending of the world, many natural disasters…and the death of gods). However, Freja telepathically communicates with Røskva, to the point that the girl forgets herself and speaks up. Big mistake, they are thrust into a shed for servants, but get to keep their tongues.

In the mess, they meet Quark (a friendly, curious giant, won by Loke) and the kindly Sif (?) who gives them a job to do…more fish! The children find that serving the gods is smelly rather than glorious as they scrub their floors, pull off their boots and fetch them ale on demand: all the while being barged past and over. Røskva is annoying at this point, having tried to join in on her brother’s dream of serving the gods, she then objects to how they’re being treated and wants to go back to her parents. She also has the classic line that she thought things would be different in Valhalla, but she’s still cooking fish stew and washing clothes. Deep down she envies her brother’s certain purpose and identity — he will take over the farm, be like his father. Who and what is she?

Røskva is fearless when Loke dirties her clean floor — insulting a god as though they’re equals. Rather than servants or even mortals, she feels like they’re being treated like slaves. Unappreciative of her apprenticeship, Røskva wants to head home. Tjalfe probably just wants her to be quiet! Shut back into their messy quarters, Røskva finds a way to open the lock and seeks to escape, with or without her brother. Quark is a willing accomplice, even when they tell him to go away as they’re heading back to a mortal farm. Just as well too, as despite their rejection, he proves a very useful rescuer when Røskva and Tjalfe fail to get the rainbow bridge to work for them.

I’m not sure how they’re going to get back at this point. They find giant wolf tracks (and follow them!) Røskva and Tjalfe bicker, squabble and separate — Tjalfe to head back to Thor, Røskva to her parents and the farm with Quark. Tjalfe may also be resentful of Quark as this point as he’s used to getting all of Røskva’s attention and being the big brother. Somehow, Røskva and Quark managed to survive — they have a very sweet bower curved out of tree branches and moss; Quark is really good at catching and gutting, and cooking fish. Interspersed are Røskva’s dreams of her connections with the natural world, with light and events to come.

Apprehended by an exasperated Thor, who is no fan or respecter of the sweet little bower; all he can ask Røskva is where her brother is. It turns out he’s joined the giants, and so a rescue mission is mounted to get him back. This is where some more traditional elements of the story come in with three contests, (one of which was against giants). Thor dances with death and is apparently defeated — Loke urges Røskva to run and she does — seeking help from Valhalla. Only they still aren’t interested. Freja gives Røskva a cloak and a pep talk, and off she goes.

Resourcefully, Røskva tracks the giant wolf Fenrir and get him on side. She has already impressed Thor by saving the attempted rescue party from a Fenrir attack and literally facing the giant wolf down, fearlessly. Girl and wolf go it alone to save her deluded brother. Her faith revives Thor, who mightily wields his hammer against the giants (having failed in drinking, arm wrestling and dancing without it!) and at the last minute, the other gods turn up too to pitch in. Like Gerda and Kay, Røskva whispers in her brother’s ear, calling him back to this world, and herself.

But escape from the giant Udgårdsloke is not easy — a fire is created at the last moment, trapping Quark. Exasperated by all these lame gods (and lame men) it is Røskva who shows how things should be done, jumping the flames and back again to get Quark out. The others would have left him or faffed about.

Impressed by Røskva’s abilities to get a job done, the gods finally decide that she must be a god and invite her to the table of team god, at Valhalla. Only Røskva says no — as life is fish gutting and clothes washing wherever you are, she wants to be on a farm with her parents, thank you very much. But she has a pep talk for the gods — unite, stop being divided and lame, give mortals something to believe in. Tjalfe takes a stand — he wants to stay, and with Røskva gone, perhaps he has a chance for the empty chair. Freja gives Røskva a necklace to enable her to see Valhalla when she wishes and there is even a hug with Thor who is deeply grateful to this mortal and feels a fatherly affection for her, promising to watch over her.

Inconceivably Røskva’s Valhalla powers now work, and she can access the rainbow bridge outta there. But (and this is never fully explained) Tjalfe joins his sister and there is reconciliation — off they go back to the farm. The film ends in a funny way, with Røskva introducing her parents to Quark, Quark fully pitching into farm life and Røskva being watched over by Thor with a dramatic burst of lighting.

The film’s appeal is really in Fenar Ahmad’s direction and script. It is otherworldly; we slip back to a time of hostile, hard worked landscapes; firelit halls; stories around the fireside, and when anything was possible. When Røskva steps confidently onto the rainbow bridge and falls, grabbed by her brother, who also appears to be slipping — we don’t know how this will end. At another moment Freja floats through the night to take Røskva out to plunge her head into the lake and see what visions she sees of the future — extreme apprenticeship training here! The giant wolf attack is also cleverly done, mostly well rendered and not too CGI-y. Afunny scene is when the gods (and Thor) are trying to work out if Røskva is god-like or not, and just not getting the right answers from her!

Intriguing too the gods are flawed, unkind, disrespectful of their mortal worshippers, self-centred and self-indulgent and not very good at working together until Røskva reminds them who they are and regroups them. At many points I thought why is anyone worshipping these gods? These are not gods' mortals need around! Even Valhalla is messy and dirty!

Fascinatingly the hall is conjured up — the children creep through sleeping bodies to escape and have to distract the gate guards; the gates to Valhalla are enormous (opened by a helpful Freja or Quark on occasion); the rainbow path is truly rainbow like, and light is shown to be important — most tasks are done outside during the day to make the most of it, or people nestle close to firelight in the evenings. Interestingly in Valhalla there seemed to be a huge amount of light in the hall as the gods sat round the table or waited to feast.

A weaker point would be the costuming — everyone seems to be clothed in mud or variations of it. Again, it reinforces the idea that our ancestors were muddy, dirty and unclean. Although people didn’t have inside bathrooms, they would have attempted to wash on some level and to present themselves well, unless they were incredibly without means. If true Viking fashions had been followed (even at a lowlier level), there would have been variations of colour and some accessories, even if wooden rather than metals. But bonus points for the farmer’s wife who does have a head covering! I guess also they are all gods so they can dress how they please! Loke scores highly for best dressed — Sif appears a bit more authentic, although she doesn’t have golden hair — but gold in her hair? Beards lean towards the hipster, but atleast they are there! Not going to mention the giants — they were giant and extraordinary — but also leaned towards the Mad Max school of fashion. No idea why one of them was dressed as a standing bear…

In conclusion, the best part of the movie is Roland Møller’s bemused, somewhat grumpy face as Thor, who softens over the time, and the oft repeated line about Røskva being stubborn as she speaks her mind, again! As a fantasy work it is beautifully crafted and created, truly another world; but really it is Røskva’s film, not Thor’s. She almost steals his thunder and her brother’s too, as it starts off making you think it will be his story!

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Susan Tailby

Susan Tailby

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By Susan Tailby. Appreciator of arts and culture; things I've seen and enjoyed and you might too! Reviews all my own opinion....