SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok, now playing in United Kingdom/Nov. 3 in the U.S.
Thor: Ragnarok has already begun to conquer movie theaters, but those who aren’t familiar with the concept of Ragnarök, either in Norse mythology or Marvel Comics, might be asking themselves, just who is this Hela character, and what’s the deal with her Army of the Dead anyways?
Since Hela’s army (the Draugr) play a huge role in the battle between Hel and Asgard, CBR will explains just what the Draugr are, who they work for, and what their purpose is with relation to Ragnarök, aka the foretold destruction of Asgard and “End of the World” myth in Norse mythology.
Hela, daughter of Loki, is the Norse Goddess of Death, the ruler of Hel and Niffleheim. She is based on the goddess Hel from Norse Mythology. Hela first appeared in Journey Into Mystery #102, written by Stan Lee and penciled by Jack Kirby. Hel presided over the realm named after her, which receives a portion, but not all, of the dead. The Norse believed there to be more than one location a person could be sent once they died: Hel, Valhalla, Fólkvangr and Helgafjell. You shouldn’t confuse Hel with the Christian destination of the damned, as the two are very different despite the similarities in their names.
Hel is considered to be located beneath the Earth, much like Hell, but the inhabitants spend much of their time doing what they did in life, drinking, fighting and… well, you get the idea. While the underworld version of Hel isn’t too bad, the lady in charge is a ruthless goddess who possesses immense power. As she is the basis for Marvel’s Hela, her comic book counterpart shares a lot in common with he mythological sister, including the Draugr, her army of the undead.
Like their mistresses’ namesake, the Draugr also derive their name from Norse mythology. The word literally translates into “again-walker,” and they comprise Hela’s primary military force. They first appeared in a Season 2 episode of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble titled “Back to the Learning Hall.” They subsequently made their way to the comics when Loki made arrangements with Hela and Tyr to unleash the Midgard Serpent in an attempt to destroy Midgard and save the Universe in Loki: Agents of Asgard #14, written by Al Ewing and penciled by Lee Garbett.
To achieve this goal, the Draugr were unleashed upon Asgardia alongside the Frost Giants of Jotunheim and the Kingdom of Rock Trolls to fight and destroy the Asgardians. Ultimately, the Draugr were defeated when Odin used the Gjallerhorn to summon the fallen Asgardians to be reborn and join the fight.
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