Introducing Embla

Hello Internet, today is Wednesday, November 28th… OPENING NIGHT! And I want to introduce you to someone. Her name is Embla, and she was once an elm tree.


Ask and Embla, by Robert Engels

In the early days of writing Original, when I was just doing a general look-see for stories about first human women, I came across the story of Askr (or Ask) and Embla. There is a great summary of that story here, but in short:

Odin and two other gods (sources disagree about which ones) were walking along a beach and they found some tree trunks that looked kind of like a man and a woman. So Odin brought them to life and they became the first man and the first woman. He named them, dressed them, gave them the world (Midgard) to live in, and they parented human civilization.

That’s it. That’s the story.

So, when I was trying to figure out who was going to be in this play of first women, I wasn’t too sure about Embla. Unlike Eve and Pandora, who have detailed stories and personalities to use as a jumping-off place, Embla just… was a tree. An elm tree, in particular. But then, I found out about the flood.

So, in TONS of mythologies from all over the world, there is a huge, universally destructive flood. There’s one in the Judeo-Christian tradition, of course. There’s one in Greek mythology. There’s one in Hinduism. Several Indigenous-American cultures. Chinese mythology. There’s one in Norse mythology, too, but Norse culture has lots of cross-overs with Christianity and scholars generally believe that the existence of a flood in the Poetic Edda was based heavily on Noah’s flood.


This piece, and Original, both take a few liberties with the mythology…

But one of the best-known stories from Norse mythology – Ragnarok – is also a flood.

To be fair, Ragnarok is a lot of destructive things. War, fire, death, eating by a wolf. But the end of it all is that the earth sinks into the sea. More info on that here, if you’re interested.

We generally think of Ragnarok as an apocalypse, but there is a version of the mythology where there is rebirth of all things: gods, worlds, people who survived and repopulated Midgard. Ragnarok is the distant past. But it’s also the future. And it might just be me, but I think that is pretty darn cool.

So when I imagined Embla living now, it meant that she had to survive Ragnarok (at least the first one), and the result is the character in the play.

When Odin found me, I was an elm tree, green with life. Supple, adaptable. Opportunistic. He gave me human form and he gave me Askr, who was an ash tree when he was born. The two of us were pale and perfect. I was resilient, could bear the weather. He was strong and flexible. We reached up the sky, out to the world, we reached down into the earth. We were happy for a thousand years, but then it began to wear a little.

-Embla, Original. Playing at the LSPU Hall TONIGHT, November 28 to December 2nd. Get your tickets here.

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