I’m still playing Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, although I’m getting perilously near to lacking things to do. And yes, I’m still having a lot of enjoyable. Just recently I ran into a mission which troubled me a bit since it felt so formulaic, the sort of meaningless, minor rubbish one might have found at the start of Oblivion, but the ending of this little vignette was subversive and amusing sufficient to legally split me up.
Valhalla is the most lore-heavy of the Assassin’s Creed video games I’ve played, integrating Norse folklore in big, vibrant style. Naturally this stimulated me to go back and polish up my somewhat torn subject knowledge; I have actually had a good time capturing up by browsing through the Poetic Edda and Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Norse Misconceptions.
The Ruin is an Old English poem found in the manuscript of the Exeter Riddle Book, which was written in the 8th or 9th century, about the same time as the Viking intrusions of England which Valhalla utilizes as its setting. Here’s the start from Michael Alexander’s translation:
Well-wrought this wall: Wierds broke it.
The fortress burst …
Snapped rooftrees, towers fallen,
the work of the Giants, the stonesmiths,
Shattered the showershields, roofs ruined,
age under-ate them.
Earthgrip holds them– gone, long gone,
quickly in gravesgrasp while fifty daddies
and children have actually passed.
The ghosts of a forgotten age, of time eroding away the foundations of certainty, is a familiar theme, stimulated maybe most famously by Percy Shelley in his Ozymandias. I was lucky sufficient to grow up within easy walking distance of the ruins of a Roman villa, and I can still keep in mind the look at feel of its stub walls, the empty ghosts of lives. And undoubtedly, it’s that villa which always came to mind whenever I considered this poem.
What Valhalla has done, nevertheless, is made me comprehend on a visceral level how the poet behind The Ruin would have seen the Romans. As an example, here’s a (bad, sorry) screenshot from the Valhalla version of Colchester:
Till I played through this game I didn’t effectively appreciate the degree to which these people would have been residing in the shadow of those who came previously (i.e. ‘the work of the Giants’). Even in their lack, the Romans would have controlled the country, and the Germanic tribes from whom the English descend had actually displaced the only people on the island with any real claim to that heritage, the Romanized British.
The early English had, in effect, got into a nearly post-apocalyptic nation, one which continuously reminded them of their marked inability relative to the ancients. While we might analyze the ruins as sad ghosts, the poem has more resonance if it’s comprehended as standing in the blasted remains of the giants and angels of antiquity, that powers beyond their comprehension had actually been overthrown and ruined and that their towns were built on their mouldering bones. I knew all of this, naturally, but playing (undoubtedly, living) through a world where the truth is inescapable makes it much, a lot more real.
I’m trying to move far from the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ because of current scholarship, which suggests it’s even more typically utilized as a racial signifier than as a particular English time/cultural one
There’s a contempt in my initial response to The Ruin The works of those who went before, declaring immortality, is absolutely nothing compared to what modernity can accomplish. We live, in a material sense, at the peak of human civilization. The past can not touch us, and hence we are, as an entire, a bit drunk on our own power. If we resided on the ruins of a people we could only barely imitate (the castle didn’t effectively reach English shores up until after the Norman conquest), on the other hand, if the past loomed above us, eclipsing our hopes and dreams … well, I think the work takes on a significantly different flavor when their original context is more easily comprehended.
I didn’t expect Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla to have me re-interpreting poetry. This game has lots of great surprises!