How Norse Mythology Influenced the Frankenstein Novel

While writing Frankenstein, Shelley drew inspiration (intentionally or not) from the vast repertoire of Norse Mythology. There are many parallels between the characters found within the novel, notably Frankenstein and his Monster. It could be argued that Frankenstein’s Monster is an adaptation of Loki, the Norse Jötunn god of Mischief, and Frankenstein is an adaptation of Thor, the Norse god of Thunder. Through extensive analysis, it is apparent that the climax of the story is very similar to the events leading to the Ragnarok, the Norse Apocalypse, all the way down to symbolic representations.

Firstly, it is important to understand the general context of the Ragnarok. In this case, a specific part of it is observed: when Thor ventures into Niflheim, an icebound wasteland, home to all the evil creatures conspiring towards the end of the world. Symbolically, Frankenstein resembles Thor as he is associated with lightning, adventurousness (through scientific exploits and breaking boundaries). The Monster, represents Loki, as he is quite similar to a Jötunn (Ice Giants) in terms of physique. His actions also resemble Loki as they are meant to cause chaos and lead to the demise of the Hero (Frankenstein).

Upon reaching the arctic wasteland in pursuit of the Monster, Frankenstein’s means of transportation (Sled-Dogs) fails him. This could be interpreted as a representation of Fenrir, Loki’s wolf son, being the first obstacle in his quest. Frankenstein then finds shelter on an expedition ship, thus conquering the sea, which could be interpreted as Jörmungandr (the Sea-Serpent). Unfortunately, as Jörmungandr’s poison kills Thor after the battle, the frostbite and illness claim Frankenstein.

The Monster, now in his solitude, is punished for his crimes in a similar fashion as Loki. The Norse Trickster God was bound by chains for eternity, where poison is dripped onto his head. His wife is there to collect the poison in a bowl before it damages Loki, but when she leaves to empty said bowl, Loki is left to writhe in pain as the poison drips onto him. Similarly, the Monster is left to writhe in agony as the absence of his wife renders him unable to mitigate the emotional pain caused by eternal loneliness.
Sources:

https://ojs.unbc.ca/index.php/joe/article/download/234/307

http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/loki/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenrir

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B6rmungandr

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loki

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2 thoughts on “How Norse Mythology Influenced the Frankenstein Novel

    1. It is speculative, but the Romantic scholars of the time were well versed with Norse Mythology. It should also be noted that in 1815, a volcano erupted in Indonesia, creating a climate for Europeans much like the Ragnarok in Norse Mythology. The harsh weather conditions (constant rain, cold, and darkness) no doubt created an atmosphere for Gothic Fiction to flourish. Combined with the evidence below, it can be assumed that Shelly did indeed draw at least some inspiration from Norse Mythology.

      Here are some excerpts from the PDF document I had placed in my article’s source list.

      ““Both Mary and Percy Shelley included the book Northern Antiquities on their reading list in 1815, the year before Frankenstein was first written.”” (https://archive.org/details/northernantiqui01grgoog) –> Northern Antiquities book

      (Reference for previous citation)
      “According to the reading list compiled from The Journals of Mary Shelley: 1814-1844, this was on Mary Shelley’s reading list in 1817. Thus, Mary Shelley not only had access to Norse myth, she was immersed in a group of writers and thinkers who were actively exploring its possibilities.”

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