Ginnungagap – or – The Blank Page

Before there is something, there isn’t quite nothing, because there is always the possibility of something. This is the blank page, empty but waiting to be filled. In Norse mythology, the blank page that waited to be filled was known as Ginnungagap.

photo-1433086981895-12ca61d33d40Ginnungagap is the yawning chasm, the bottomless abyss, the primordial void. It wasn’t exactly empty. Strange mists flowed through the void. In the north, the mists gathered to become the intensely cold Niflheim. To the hot south, they became Muspelheim, land of fire and home to the demon, Surtr.

Deep within the mists lay the Well of Life, Hvergalmir, and ice was gathering over top. That grinding ice was filled with life and the first two beings came into existence. Ymir, father of all ice giants, great and terrible, was created alongside Audumla, the magic cow who licked the salt from the ice and in turn fed Ymir with her milk.

While Ymir drank from Audumla, the magic cow’s raspy tongue uncovered more beings from the ice. The first one to be released was Buri, first of the Norse gods and grandfather to Odin, who with his brothers would slay Ymir.

As time went on, the world tree was planted and the broken body of Ymir was used to craft the nine worlds of Norse cosmology, and the chaos of Ginnungagap found structure. Though in the final battle of Ragnarök, the fire demon, Surtr, will return the cosmos to a state of possibility, we can enjoy life today.

In writing, or any creative endeavor, we know this cycle well. In the beginning, we have little more than possibilities and a blank page. But as the mists swirl over our creative well, the ideas take shape and we give them life. To one end of our mind, we are tempted to burn what we have created and to the other extreme we want to lock it in a drawer and freeze it in time. But if we can find the balance to let the well do its job, we l’ll have a project worth crafting.

At first, our idea is a monster, a father of ice giants. But along with our Ymir, we have a magic cow slowing licking our good ideas to life. In time, those good ideas will triumph over the bad ones, allowing us to build a world from Ymir’s bones, skull-cap, and eyebrows (seriously, Odin and his brothers used every part to create our world), and a better story comes to life.

It all starts with a blank page, with Ginnungagap.

Next time, we’ll look at how to protect our creations during the final battle of Ragnarök, or as it is known to writers, the submissions process.

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My Grandpa Shot Santa Claus

In the words of Doug Ten Napel:

This is a fairy tale. By fairy tale, I mean that this is true without being fact. There’s an important distinction we used to believe in that we don’t believe in so much any more, and that is the idea that there are truths outside of facts. The forms of story telling that best house this claim are Myth and Fairy Tale, for they are not about facts, but are about truth.

This is one of my favorite stories about my Grandpa Mosey. Whether or not it happened, I don’t know. It’s possible that I heard the story wrong and supplemented the rest from my imagination, but that is what makes the following tale a fairy tale. So, if you know the true story, don’t bother correcting me. I’ve got my own truth here, and it is pretty good.

Even better, it is short.

SantaHatMy Grandpa Mosey is best remembered for his skill as a fisherman, but when my dad was just a boy, my grandpa hunted as well.

It was December, not long before Christmas. In fact, my grandpa had been playing Santa in town for some VFW function. When he got home that night, he carried the rented Santa suit in one arm and his gun in the other. My dad, being just a boy at the time, saw what his father brought in and drew his own conclusions.

Bursting in tears and running to his room, he cried, “Daddy shot Santa Claus!”