Kaldheim; Behind the Myths

Welcome back to Master of Magics everyone, and our first MTG article of the new year. We hope you have enjoyed the festive break and have managed to have fun and stay safe. I’ve been taking the opportunity to eat way too much chocolate and plan out my next couple of Commander decks, which I’ll probably be sharing with you all in the near future. Today though I wanted to look ahead to Magic’s next Standard legal set, since its one a lot of us have been looking forward to for a while.

You see, Wizards of the Coast have a habit of really going to town with their “Inspired” by real world mythology set. Both Theros and Amonkhet were great looks at what Greek and Egyptian themed sets could look like, and many were wondering when we would move on to a Norse/Viking themed one. After all, Norse mythology comes second only to Greek in terms of how much it is studied in the modern day, and it has inspired so many other works from comics to games like God of War.

So, when I heard we were finally getting such a set in the form of Kaldheim, you can imagine how excited I was. Not only because we get a whole bunch of sweet new cards to play with, but because I get to dust of my history hat and over analyse the cultural and mythical inspirations behind all those new cards. As any of you who follow my content will know, I am a big fan of myths and legends. In particular, I love it when Wizards of the Coast dive into flavour of a set and show off what they can do with card design.

Now as of the writing of this article we only have a handful of cards previewed (no leaks here) but already there is more flavour on these cards than a stack of BBQ ribs. So today I wanted to look at a couple of the new Legendary Creatures and show you some of the real-world inspiration behind them, to show you just why I’m so excited about Kaldheim. So let’s not waste any more time and get stuck in.

Sarulf, Realm Eater

Let’s start off with an easy one, and look at our new Legendary Wolf in Sarulf, Realm Eater. Even someone with only a passing understanding of Norse mythology (or anyone who saw Thor; Ragnarök) will know that this card was inspired by the giant wolf Fenrir. But the story of Fenrir is even more interesting than Marvel would have you believe.

Fenrir was the offspring of the giantess Angrboða and Loki (don’t ask me how Loki and a giantess could have a giant wolf as a child, Norse mythology is just weird like that). A creature of immense size and power, it was foretold that he would be the one to kill the king of the gods, Odin, during the events of Ragnarök. Seeking a way to prevent this from coming to pass, the gods came up with a plan to bind Fenrir so he could bring them no harm.

They constructed three fetters (a type of leg cuffs) and tried to trick Fenrir into wearing them as a test of his strength. However, each time they tried he would break free of his bonds. It wasn’t until the third one that Fenrir began to become suspicious of the god’s motives, and he would only agree to wearing them if one of the assembled gods placed their hand in his jaws. If he could break free, all would be well. But if the gods had tricked him, then one of them would pay for their deceit with flesh.

None of the gods wished to do so. None that is except Tyr, who placed his right arm in the monstrous wolfs jaw. When Fenrir realised he had been tricked, he bit off Tyr’s arm in retaliation. Still, the dead was done and Fenrir was bound. All this would appear to be for not however, as in the prophesied end of world, Fenrir would escape his bindings and consume Odin in the final battle, before been slain by Odin’s son Víðarr.

Will Sarulf have a similar fate to that of Fenrir during the event of Kaldheim? A guess we will have to wait and see.

Toski, Bearer of Secrets

Sarulf isn’t the only Legendary creature we have seen coming out of Kaldheim however, as we have finally been given a leader for one of the best tribes in all of Magic. That’s right, we are finally getting a black boarder Squirrel Legendary in the form of Toski, Bearer of Secrets. But what does a Squirrel have to do with Norse mythology I hear you ask? Well let me tell you the tale of Ratatoskr, the Squirrel that wants to end the world.

You heard me right. This little rodent wants to destroy the tree of life Yggdrasil (according to some scholars). But let’s wide back a bit before we get to that.

Ratatoskr is told as been a messenger of sorts, who carries messages along Yggdrasil, the tree of life. Mostly he would carry messages between a wise eagle who sits at the top of Yggdrasil, and the hungry dragon, Nidhoggr, who lies coiled among the tree’s roots. However, Ratatoskr would love to stir the pot, and relished in the chance to ferry an insult between these two mighty beasts. By doing so, he is continually stirring the animosity between them.

Some believe this is because Ratatoskr is intent on destroying the tree of life. However, he lacks the strength to do much damage to the tree by himself, and so he manipulates the eagle and the dragon into attacking the tree in an effort to get at each other. In one tale, he tells Nidhoggr of a particularly vicious comment the eagle made about him to get the dragon to gnaw at the roots of the tree. He then returns to the eagle with the news that Nidhoggr is gnawing at the tree, in an attempt to do him harm. As a result, the eagle begins to pluck branches from the tree and rain them down on Nidhoggr, and in doing so causes a fair bite of damage to the great tree.

With this knowledge, it’s obvious to see that the big bad of this set is of course Toski, who like his inspiration, wishes to end the world as we know it. Ok, maybe not. But if we get a Legendary Eagle and a Dragon that hates it, just know I told you so.

And that about does it for today lore dive. What do you think about Kaldheim so far? Please let me know in the comments below, and while you’re there you could like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics.

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