“Ah, visitors from Midgard! Welcome! Depending which part of that benighted realm you call home, my name is Odin, or Wodin, or MC Þekkr. Tom-ay-to, Tom-ah-to. You, Miss, may call me All-Father, or Daddy. I like it when pretty girls call me that.
Talking of which, are you single? You have a husband! I’m famously unfussy about such details, although I can arrange for you to be a widow, if it would make you feel better about it. No? Your loss. Believe me, I’m a God in every sense."
“Well, to business, then. Despite being the chief deity in the Norse pantheon, the repository of all knowledge and the ultimate guarantor of cosmic harmony, I’ll be your guide to Asgard today. You'd think some other aspect of divinity might spare the time, wouldn’t you. But no. Despite being more ancient than the Big Bang and having the burden of overseeing the doings of every race on Earth and every other world, showing visitors around is my job. Would any of you like your shoes shined while I’m at it? Maybe I could pop down to Earth and wash your car? Or file your taxes? It's my own fault, I should have delegated more when my fellow gods were yet in diapers.”
“Has anyone visited before? I suppose not, you’re all mortals. How’s that working out for you? Such a life-limiting form of existence, I always think. Talking of which, please wear your tour baseball caps at all times. We have a bit of a Harpy infestation at the moment and I’d hate a guest to lose their scalp. Again. So much blood! So many insurance forms!!”
“To make a start to the tour, on our right you’ll see Yggdrasil, which those with only the most rudimentary knowledge of Astrophysics will know as the Tree of Life. Yggdrasil the boundless. Yggdrasil which anchors Heaven to Earth, and among the branches of which one may find the Universe in its entirety! People are sometimes surprised to find it’s a bonsai and a pretty gnarled, old one at that. But you’ll do well to look so healthy when you’re fourteen billion years old. And despite its age, every spring it’s covered with delicate, pastel-pink blossoms that form an infinite number of Mímameiðr apples. Very pretty. Just don’t buy the cider from the gift store if you can’t handle the hangover. Talk about Hammer of The Gods! It’s like being bitten on the brain by the great serpent, Níðhöggr – you really don’t want that. Last time she took a chunk out of my cranium, I commanded a fleet of Danes to cross the Atlantic, dig out a bunch of tunnels on Oak Island, install flood traps, carve mystic rocks and dump them in a swamp. All that to hide my secret treasure from Frigga when she was talking about divorce! What will those TV guys digging the place up do when they find a thousand year old stash of Playdeity Magazines? Stay tuned for Season 42, I guess!"
"If you don’t mind walking on my right only I’m a little deaf on this side, you see. And I traded my left eye for wisdom – not my best deal. If I had my time again I’d keep both eyes and just read a book from time to time, copious reading time being one of the benefits of immortality. Have any of you read the Sagas? You should, great stories, even if they do drone on and on.
“Whoa there, Sleipnir! Damn, it takes eight-legged horses a long time to come to a halt! Well then, I expect this is what you all came to see. This is Valhalla. Spectacular, isn’t it, though I’m not sure that the fairy lights add anything. Don’t be fooled by Disney Princess castle vibe, I had to let my daughter Hela have a hand in the make-over, you know how kids are. Inside it’s all wenching, feasting, fighting, drinking ‘til you puke and then doing it all over again next day. If any of you ever lived in a Freshman Hall of Residence at College then you’ll feel right at home. Go Vikings!"
"A lot of the original design is down to me: the spear-shaft rafters, the shield-wall thatch and so on. No sense wasting gold on architects when you’re all-knowing. I’m afraid that most of the embellishments are down to Hela. You’ll probably see her later. Difficult to miss her, what with her being a half-blue, half-white giant giantess of the dead. Don’t get too close; the half-living, half-decayed thing gives her a …. unique fragrance. And she’s generally with her brother Fenrir, who, you know, still bites. Can’t blame him for that. It’s what wolves do. And before you ask, yes, I was there at both births. But no, I won’t be discussing how I came to father a member of another species. This is Asgard and I’m the All-Father, I have no need to conform to your petty, human morals.”
“Besides, Fenrir's mother had such soft fur and I’m proud of the lad. He’s Fenrir the Mighty, who no chains can hold, even if he is a sucker for a squeaky toy and scratch behind the ear. The salacious details of his conception are really none of your business, are they? Do you wish your crops to wither, the skies above your home to fill with fire, and blood to rain down upon you and your descendants unto the seventh generation? Thought not. Then we’ll just agree that mine is a modern sort of family with room for every one, shall we?”
"Back to the tour. As well as the architecture, I did most of the interior design. Being immortal leaves you with a lot of time on your hands for that sort of thing. The scatter cushions and fragrance-diffusers are Hela’s. For a giantess of the netherworld, she’s really hot on chintzy bric-a-brac and olde worlde knick knacks. But I carved the amber feasting tables personally and I designed the great chairs which Vǫlundr the Smith forged from the breastplates of my enemies. The enormous stuffed dragon behind the dais? I slew her with my bare hands and made an omelette from her eggs. Hela thinks I have no eye for fripperies but I smote all the unicorns we use as table cloths, even if I can’t do the origami needed to make swans from the skins of the foals. Such things are woman’s work. That is why I had Frigga embroider the wall-hangings; this shows my victory at Nordheim, when I crushed the ice-giants into slushies, and this depicts me throwing Jörmungandr, the World Serpent, into the ocean to save you ungrateful mortals from her wicked depredations. What did I get from you in return for risking my neck? I got the worst day of the week named in my honour. You people! I’d lead you into Helheim and leave you there but that Frigga would have me sleeping in the couch again."
"Anyhow, follow me outside again so you can you enjoy the best view of Glasir – the most beautiful of all trees. Stunning, isn’t she? That’s why I had the French doors installed - they just let in so much light and they really bring the outdoors indoors. The touchstone of my philosophy has always been to integrate innovative design with expert execution in order to articulate immersive and resonant experiences for my guests, and to give buildings an identity that stems from the paradoxical effect of surrounding a combination of traditional layering and formality with a sprinkling of the modern. That's why I smear the walls with the blood of mortals who wish to deny me my rightful divinity. You have been warned! But yes, I also designed the pergola – I had it made from the skulls of a thousand Frisian slaves. The variegated foliage of that clematis growing through the eye-sockets adds a touch of contrast between the beauty of life and the ever-lasting torment of unworthy souls condemned to eternity in the underworld, don’t you think?"
"Don’t look now, but here comes Heidrun, grazing the lower limbs of Læraðr. Yes, I know goats are ten a penny in your world but Heidrun is the only goat in Valhalla and her udders run with mead. I came up with that idea too. Mind you, that was the night when I rashly ate some wild mushroom risotto that Loki made. I created a herd of elephants that farted incense same night, and a giraffe that crapped cream cheese, a dog with six cocks and a cube-shaped chicken made of marzipan. You should have heard the fuss it made when it laid square eggs. Frigga wouldn’t let me keep any of them and wouldn’t let me in the house until I came down. It took nearly a week. We really shouldn’t let Loki hang out with Charlie Sheen."
"Well, that’s nearly it for my part of the tour, unless anyone has a question… Hah! Yes, well, you’re hardly the first mortal to ask: “O-man, why the five hundred and forty doors?”
If anyone bought the guide book, it says something about all those doors symbolising the plethora of choices a man must make during his lifetime if he wishes his corpse to be selected from the battlefield, and transported to this wonderful place. But Loki wrote the guidebook and if he was full of any more shit he’d be France. Truth is, there was just this great deal going at Doors-R-Us – I told the manager I wanted some doors and he could either let me have them for free or I’d pay for them with his soul. And, what do you know, a whole container-load arrived next day. I didn’t even have to shell out for shipping."
And here we are at Bilskirnir, my son’s hall. It’s the best. It has fighting and feasting and fu… maidens. All the halls of Valhalla have fighting, feasting and maidens, of course. But only Thor’s has Sudoku!
And here’s the man himself. Thor, my boy, why don’t you show our guests around. I have an appointment with a wallpaper manufacturer and then Sigrun said she’d see me at noon. You know that girl does physio now? Magic hands, she has. Soothes my thousand war wounds as though they’d never happened and she does extras!
Are you sure no one needs a selfie before I go? Only $5? I’ll throw in an autograph in runic script for a dollar fifty… Money’s been kind of tight round here since everyone took to worshipping some skinny Jew who nailed himself to a tree. And you know who he got that idea from!
"So, I’m like, the God of Thunder and all. But thunder’s, like, my least favourite bang, know what I’m saying. All the ladies of Valhalla admire Thor’s helmet. Some of the menfolk too! Even the livestock. You can’t blame them, I’m like a Greek God. Or so said this Professor of Comparative Theology who visited last week. He said something about me serving the same function as Zeus within the mortal realm, and then something about Zeus have a more exulted status within the Olympian Pantheon than I do in Asgard. That was when I smote him with Mjölnir, my mighty war-hammer. I use him as a coaster now. I guess his university will have to train someone else to compare stuff."
"Anyhow, welcome to Bilskirnir, my pad. Pretty neat, no? Help yourself to a kebab – no charge. Sæhrímnir, the boar gets cooked every evening and, like, regenerates magically overnight. He’s another of the animals Dad invented during his Lost Weekend phase. I love Pops, and all, but that guy needs to lay off for a while. You can't stay all-knowing forever if you keep frying your brain with a diet of acid and meth."
"No, seriously, go ahead, take some. Sæhrímnir’s delicious and his ham is, like, Kosher and Halal because it turns out that Pops was God all along. And, like, what kind of God would ban bacon? Not me, I’m not a monster, except in the sack."
"Okay, so any of you young men want to try to wield Mjölnir? Go ahead, try. Hah, you see, ladies? They can’t do it. Only I can. That is why I have such well-defined and perfectly oiled biceps. You want to squeeze them? Go ahead, you know you do. Squeeze whatever you like."
"People get the wrong impression about what Mjölnir’s for. They think I’m always battling Frost Giants and breaking up mountains with it. But I’m not like that. Sure, I’ll use it to break the unbreakable chains that confine maidens within the halls of the ogres. You know, if the maidens are pretty and there are no re-runs of Seinfeld to watch. But, mostly I just use Mjölnir to keep the moles down on the lawn, and sometimes to clear the queue ahead of me at Walmart - mostly old ladies looking for vouchers to save them a buck fifty on cat-food. It’s also handy for opening anything that comes in a child-proof container."
"I see you’re also admiring Megingjǫrð, my war-belt. Very sexy, yes. Almost as sexy as my waist. I got it on eBay, would you believe. You can get anything there providing you’re happy to wait a month for it to be shipped from Shanghai. See these iron gloves? Also eBay. My staff though, Gríðarvölr… I had to get this baby from Amazon. Mail-order, not the rainforest. Needs must – they’d sold out everywhere else - normally I wouldn’t give Jeff Bezos a wooden nickel. If that dude gets any more powerful I’ll have to worship him."
"Anyway, you’ll be wanting to know more about me. Of course, you will. I can confirm that I’m single - except when Sif, my wife, is listening. I’m eight feet two inches. And you ladies know how important an extra two inches can be. Am I right? My guns? 32 inches! And I have a 48-inch waist. But there’s not an ounce fat in there, girls. Seriously, take a feel. Rock hard, huh? You don't only have to feel there. Thor’s all about being rock hard.”
"What do I like in a woman? I'm looking for a lady on a higher spiritual plane than the average, one who’s in touch with the cosmos and at home with herself. I've realised that, as a deity, for me to be happy I'll need a woman with education, with style, with a good sense of humour, blonde hair, tits like two hippos in a pillow-case and a capacious fufu - Thor is stacked like a God! Besides the ladies, my interests include hanging with my boys, chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool, shooting some b-ball outside of the mortal realm in which my honed bod would sag and decay like... like yours. Mostly I just like kicking back and fishing for Jörmungandr. There’s something kinda restful about sitting on a riverbank, enjoying nature and pulling the heads off world-serpents."
"The real reason that Pops passed you over to me is that we need to head off to Fólkvangr now. It’s on the tour but it’s the one part of Asgard Pops doesn’t really approve of. You guys may never have heard of the place but half the glorious dead go there. So, I don’t really know why it’s so little known."
"Since you ask, it works like this; you guys are all going to Helgard when you die. It's not really your fault. You just don’t get into Asgard proper unless you die in battle. No exceptions for being good at crochet or for getting a lifetime award for service to the cupcake industry. The Valkyries may stretch a point and accept the souls of the dead from a Friday night pub-fight in the back-streets of Glasgow, but, those girls have standards. They’re not just some astral Uber service for the recently departed."
"Anyhow, Helgard probably isn’t as bad as they say. It's not like it's Belgium or something. I’ve heard being sent to Helgard is like spending eternity in a dentist’s waiting room with toothache in every part of your body and only one edition of last year’s National Geographic to pass the time. And not one of the editions with ethnic booty shots in. Oh, and there’s pan-pipe music that can’t be switched off, and which you can hear even when you tear off your own ears. So, more like Peru than like Belgium."
"Still, maybe you’ll pull your finger out and manage to get yourself killed doing something heroic – fighting a sea-monster, slaughtering your neighbours, ravishing un-comely nuns, that sort of thing. If so, happy days, my friends. A Valkyrie will swoop in and pick you up - not in a sexy way. Valkyries don’t do sexy time. Take it from me, I have the scars. Perhaps you like to see them after the tour?"
"On your journey to Asgard one of those chicks will judge you silently. Half the Valkyries’ charges come here, to Valhalla. Maybe even to Bilskirnir, if you’re very lucky. The rest go to Fólkvangr. There’s still, you know, feasting and gambling and mead and all that. Just no maidens. Guys who go to Fólkvangr aren’t into chicks, if you take my meaning. They’re all left-handers, you know. They bat for the other side. Every last one a virtuoso of the pink oboe. It's why Pops won't go. You know how homophobic old people can be."
"Still, we're all modern folks here, right? We're not living in caves and banging rocks together - though, if you want rocks, Thor has two that may be of interest! No? Fine, let’s sail the stone ship to see Fólkvangr for ourselves – no need to panic boys. The slain souls of Fólkvangr will have no interest in your scrawny asses with your ripped, hipster jeans and organic linen shirts. They’re too busy getting themselves ploughed by real heroes. Just make sure you call the manager Freja not Freya. Freya is Pop’s pet name for Frigga. There’s some history there. Three millennia of history. Probably best to call her Lady of the Slain, or just tell her how beautiful she is. She’s kind of vain. I can’t stand vain people, personally, they distract mortals from gazing at my pecs."
“I am Freja, Lady of the Slain. But you may call me Mardöll, the sea-brightener; Skjálf, shaker of souls, or Thrungvar bearer of Heaven's breasts, or Grúnvol, wearer of the silkiest G-strings. Except you, sir, with the goatee. You may call me any time, you'll find my number in every stall in the Gents' bathrooms. Gorgeous, am I not? The merest glimpse of my own reflection makes my nipples harder than Thor's hammer. But, then, I am a goddess, what did you expect? Bingo wings and cellulite? Even Fólkvangr's residents cannot keep their eyes off me and they're all queerer than a pink $3 bill. "
"This is my hall, Sessrúmnir. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay, feel free to make use of the facilities. The hot tub is very popular with many of my boys – fed by volcanic springs direct from Helgard, no less. And don’t worry, it has a very efficient filter! If you’re going to let your little girl use those swings, madam, can I suggest that you rub them down with a wet wipe first? Some of the guys were using them earlier and they may still be a little slippery with... they may still be very slippery. Don’t want her flying off the seat and into the geyser - unless we're all up for some baby soup!"
"You like the chariot? Half a dozen more payments and it's mine. Or so the bank’s been saying for the last century or so. Eco-friendly too. Can’t get more Carbon-neutral than cat power and there’s no need for air-con when you live so close to Bifrost – that’s the rainbow bridge that connects us to Midgard. My boys do so love a rainbow."
"You’re probably wondering about the feathered cloak too. It lets me fly. Not that I couldn't fly anyway - I am a goddess after all. But swirling the cloak before I take off just adds some pizzaz and there's no place in Asgard that values pizzaz more than Fólkvangr, that's for sure. I tell everyone it's made of falcon feathers but the truth is that Tuesday night is drag-night in Sessrúmnir - feather boas as far as the eye can see. I just sweep up what's on the floor after they all belt out It’s Raining Men - you could stuff a pillow case every week. Truth be told, most nights are drag-night in Fólkvangr but it’s half-price on mead and cocktails on Tuesdays, making every hour Happy Hour. Except karaoke hour. Anyone happy during karaoke hour needs their head examining. With an axe."
"You're all very quiet today. Don't worry, I know what you're thinking. You’ve been listening to that gossip, Loki, haven’t you? You don’t want to believe anything that stunted little liar tells you."
“Freja’s a slut! Freja slept with every elf in Himinbjörg!”
"Well, what of it? I have a thing for pointy ears, okay? And those guys have the cutest little boots. Besides, you guys saw Odin ride Sleipnir, right? I bet he told you Sleipnir was sired by the great stallion, Svaðilfari, too. They say he was a hundred hands at the front fetlock and a big boy in every other respect too. Well, that's no lie but I bet Odin didn't tell you who Sleipnir's mother was.. Loki! Oh yeah. That guy’s no stranger to Sunday’s Sausage Soire in the Liberace suite, I can tell you. The only reason he doesn't sleep with elves is because ogres are better endowed."
"We get so little publicity here in Fólkvangr, I'm guessing you never heard of us before you got here. It's like we're something to be ashamed of. Such an eighth century attitude. Well, let me tell you that our motto is Say it once, say it loud. we're out and we're proud! If you can't be out when you're dead there's something wrong with you - as well as being dead, that it is. If you die in battle you deserve an eternity that you can live with. If you're one of nature's square pegs, you wouldn't want to spend your life surrounded by round holes like those macho knuckle-draggers in Bilskirnir. The Valkyries have gaydar the way the French have garlic-breath, they can sense who to take there and who to bring here, even without checking your search history to look for a Grindr subscription.
"So, if you never heard of us before, now you know what we are. I bet you're itching to look round. I get it! It makes sense that visitors are often a little curious about what goes on here. But let me tell you, we have no time for the merely curious in Sessrúmnir. All my boys are fully committed to the lifestyle. We’re all friends! No one goes to the bathroom alone and everyone shares the amyl nitrate fairly but when Cher hits the system, you better get down on the dance floor and wiggle your tush unless you want to spend the rest of the evening on your knees in Glory Row!"
"Anyhow, make yourself at home and don’t be nervous. If one of the fellas wants to buy you a drink, that doesn’t mean he’s about to whisk you down to the dungeon to lock you in the pillory and massage your prostate. He has thousands of muscly Vikings from throughout history who’d volunteer for that at the drop of a horny helmet. He’ll just want to know the latest news. IsBritney's free yet? How long is Lady Gaga's beard these days? Has The Donald’s finally made his way out of the closet? that kind of thing."
So, off you go. Just be back at the coach stop for three o’clock. Baldr will be here to take you back to Breiðablik and that guy doesn’t like to wait. Also, don’t make fun of his name, he’s really sensitive about his hairline. You’ll love, Breiðablik, everyone does. Honestly, the scented soaps in the gift store there make the eternity it takes to check-out worthwhile – and I really mean eternity. Just keep your eye out for fire giants. Those guys are always trying to sneak through the turnstiles from Múspellsheimr and there’ll be Ragnarök to pay if Odin finds out they got in without paying.