Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Collective name for the Pantheon of Elder Gods of Northern Europe, including Ymir, father of the giants, and Odin, Vili and Ve, who are sidebar descendants of the first God, and who defeat him and his offspring. They then create the Cosmos out of Ymir's corpse, and later take on normal pantheon duties, operating from their Heaven, Asgard. Asgard is also home to later gods – up to 42 of them, according to some totals – including Thor, Balder and Loki. The Aesir inhabit the background of much Nordic Fantasy as well as much Rationalized Fantasy in the mode developed for Unknown. Many can be found in The Incomplete Enchanter (1941) by L Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. They appear also in much Sword and Sorcery, though normally along the fringes of the central action, as in Robert E Howard's Conan tale "Gods of the North" (1934 Fantasy Fan). Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984) by Robert A Heinlein features the Aesir, mainly in the person of Loki (who stands in for Lucifer); members of the pantheon appear in Sterling E Lanier's "The Kings of the Sea" (1968), and in disguise in Diana Wynne Jones's Eight Days of Luke (1975). The fascination exercised by the Aesir on commercial fantasy writers like Poul Anderson has primarily to do with their status as doomed within historical time and according to their own legends; they are thus characters apt for tales which emphasize Thinning and Apocalypse as well as for a more general atmosphere of melancholia, doom and Belatedness. This and further aspects of the Aesir are guyed by Tom Holt in Expecting Someone Taller (1987) and other titles. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.