I have completed the first two portraits in my mini series of Norse deities, “HEL,” and “SIF.” Hel is goddess of the underworld, and she represents both the place and its ruler. She is described as half dead, half alive- most representations are rather gruesome due to this. However, in the stories Hel is never really portrayed as a villain. Rather, she is more of a neutral character. When she is appeased to release people from the land of the dead, she treats such requests fairly and with careful analysis, much more like a judge than a jailer. I played with this metaphor with the idea that she is a physical representation of yin and yang and halfway down her flesh simply turns black. She is yes and no, black and white, positive and negative. A much more interesting character than a grotesque zombie, I think.
Sif is the wife of Thor and is renowned for her beautiful, golden hair. The most important story featuring Sif is one in which Loki, the trickster god cuts off her hair in the middle of the night as a prank. Furious, Thor demands that Loki bring back her hair or he will break every bone in his body. Many stories start this way, with Loki setting off on some mission to make amends for one of his pranks. The following story takes Loki to the underground land of the dwarfs, where he manages to swindle them into spinning a magical wig made out of golden threads for Sif to wear. Ever after, she has the most beautiful hair in the kingdom.
Keep posted for more portraits coming soon!