‘The All Father Paradox’ (Guest Post by Ian Stuart Sharpe)
What does an optimistic Viking say?
It could be Norse.
Dad jokes are ubiquitous. My dad tells them, and his father told them before that, and so on and so on, all the way back to the dawn of creation. We like to think of it as wordplay, quick on the draw. But as soon as we reach for our puns, people groan and stagger like they have been shot.
The All Father Paradox revolves around one such elaborate gag.
You might have heard of the Grandfather Paradox, a serious hazard for any would-be time travellers. Imagine you invented a time machine. It is possible for you to travel back in time, meet your grandfather and kill him, all before he sired his own children (your mother or father). This prevents your own conception, and since you don’t exist, you can’t invent the time machine, which means you can’t kill your grandfather, which ensures you are born, and so on.
The paradox applies to any action that alters the past, since there is a contradiction whenever the past becomes different from the way it was. The fact is though, what seems like a constantly looping series of events can be quite easily explained. What is really happening is that two entangled histories are occurring simultaneously: namely, you are born and able to go back in time to kill your grandfather AND you’re not born and your grandfather is alive. Picture two coils of DNA, twisting and turning but never touching.
You might have also heard of Odin, ruler of the Norse pantheon. He is a wind god, a war god, a god of death and of poets, worshipped by rulers across the Viking Age, yet cursed for being a sorcerer and a shapeshifter. He’s mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus, cited as a founder of Old English and Scandinavian royalty and is the likely point of origin for Santa Claus. And he’s not done yet: there is a resurgence in adherents to Odin’s ancient teachings, Iceland’s first pagan temple in 1000 years ready in late 2018.
Worse comes to the worst, you might recognise his most modern incarnation as played by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the Marvel films or Ian McShane in American Gods.
Among the 170 plus names he is given in the Old Norse record, the most famous is that of Alföðr, the All Father. Odin is the Granddaddy of them all, and since he was ousted from his throne by upstart Christians and comic book writers, you might imagine he has an axe to grind. Well, spear to throw – a common way for warriors to secure his favour was to throw a spear over one’s foes, sacrificing them to the god with the cry, Óðinn á yðr alla or “Odin owns ye all!”
Imagine Odin, the fickle sorcerer god of old, had a time machine of his own. Then, think of the consequences if he decided to reinstate the Old Ways, not just now with his new temple, but before Christianity knocked Huginn and Muninn off their perch. He could really throw history to the wolves.
That’s the All Father Paradox, an upgraded god-like version of the original conundrum. In the new Vikingverse that results, Odin owns us all. Trust me, what follows isn’t funny.
Ian Stuart Sharpe is the author of The All Father Paradox, available in stores now.