Valhalla Does Not Discriminate

Today’s blog post comes with reading homework, since my post builds on that and I really feel weird posting the entirety of someone else’s writing on my blog as a quote, so I’m going to get to a point in this post where I’ll ask you to click on a link and go read the story there. My post will likely make sense without the reading homework, but I want you to read the absolutely amazing piece that brought me to tears and inspired today’s post.

There is a Tumblr account, writing-prompt-s, that has posted hundreds, possibly thousands, of writing prompts since its inception in May 2016. Back on November 1, they posted the following prompt:

Valhalla does not discriminate against the kind of fight you lost. Did you lose the battle with cancer? Maybe you died in a fist fight. Even facing addiction. After taking a deep drink from his flagon, Odin slams his cup down and asks for the glorious tale of your demise!

This one prompt resulted in over 110,000 notes on Tumblr, but the one that I want you to read comes from a Tumblr user named prismatic-bell.

All the links that I’ve provided up to this point are mostly for reference, although if you’re a writer I would recommend going to the first link and following writing-prompt-s for yourself. They are prolific with their writing prompts and I found many of the ones I browsed through looking for the prompt above to be inspirational.

This is the link I want you to click and read. This is your homework before continuing with today’s post. It, like the rest of the links that I put on this blog, will open in a new window, so you won’t lose your place here.

The old man suddenly appeared inside the entrance to Valhalla, and a booming voice cried out to him, “Come closer, and tell us your tale, you who would enter my hall!”

The old man timidly approached Odin’s throne, cleared his throat and simply said, “I was … distracted … and walked in front of a bus.”

The Allfather took another long drink of mead before stating, “Only those who died fighting may enter this hall. Since you are here, I do not think you are telling me the whole story. One does not fight a bus! What distracted you?”

The old man cleared his throat, plainly intimidated by the majestic presence before him and started his tale.

“I … I was talking to myself. Well, not really. I was listening to my own voice inside my head. It was telling me that I was worthless, that I was friendless, that I was a waste of the skin and bones I’m made of and the air that I breathe, and I was trying so hard to tell myself that wasn’t the truth, but my voice inside my head wouldn’t stop putting me down. I never stopped putting myself down and telling myself all these horrible things about me.”

The lines of Odin’s face softened as he began to understand who and what the old man’s enemy was. “When did this begin?”

Now that he had started, the whole of the old man’s story came out in a flood. “I’ve been putting myself down for as long as I can remember. I was bullied throughout school, I was sexually and physically abused as a teenager, I was psychologically abused well into adulthood, I never felt like I had any close friends … I always felt so alone and incapable of anything. I never did anything with my life. I wanted to end it so many times, but I just couldn’t. I was too scared to.”

Odin One-Eye regarded the old man for a moment before speaking. “You spent a lifetime fighting your own mind, an enemy that never once gave you a moment of peace in all those years. You died fighting that enemy, even though it was not that enemy that killed you. To fight an enemy that’s as relentless for as long as you did takes bravery, strength, and courage the likes of which many here do not have. To be considered brave among such company is a high honor indeed. You have earned your rest.”

Immediately the old man noticed a peace of mind that he could not ever recall feeling. His mind was clear of self-harming thoughts for the first time in his memory. Odin then offered the old man his horn and bid him to take a long drink from it. Those who were listening to the exchange between the god and the old man gasped audibly, which caused many others to stop what they were doing and pay attention. The hall was considerably quieter now as the old man drunk and Odin continued. “You have just drunk from the Mead of Poetry. This is a gift that is not given to many, even here in Valhalla. It will serve you well here.”

The old man thanked the Allfather and went to take his place at a table full of food.

It wasn’t long before another came before Odin and told her tale. She had an eating disorder and had essentially starved herself to death. The old man paid close attention to the conversation, and when she had left the throne the old man spoke with a confidence he had not experienced in life as he effortlessly told the tale of the newcomer, painting her as a true hero of Valhalla for her struggles against the enemy in her mind.

The old man, from that day forth, turned the stories of conflict that he had heard before Odin’s throne into epic tales of bravery and strength and courage, qualities that he now understood that he possessed throughout his life. He became known as one of the skalds of Valhalla. The hall was filled with his stories of the heroes that came before Odin that he told to his many friends there.


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