Pop Culture – German Myths in Django Unchained.

German mythology plays a huge role in the Marvel universe – Loki and Thor’s battle over an artefact from Asgard summarises the The Avengers plot succinctly. It was interesting to see even more Teutonic myths and folklore act as a framework for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.

Also, I’ve mentioned German and Teutonic myth, and they are almost referring to the same thing – Teutonic myth is any kind of story about gods, goddesses, and heroes from the German region of early Europe – around the 4th Century BC. Characters like Brunhilde and Siegfried featured prominently among theme. It makes sense that Christopher Waltz’ character, Dr. King Schultz, would say that these two characters and chiefly beloved.

Around a campfire, the winter wind carries the mournful sound of a coyote or wolf howl, and Dr. Schultz begins to tell Django the tale of Siegfried and Brunhilde – This is where Django begins his journey as a new Siegfried on the way to rescue Broomhilda (a mispronunciation of “Brunhilde”). It has been noted by the IMDB community, however, that the version of the story Schultz tells is impossible. He tells Richard Wagners’ version from his opera Der Ring des Nibelungen – The Ring of the Nibelungen. The opera was first performed in 1869, while the film is set in 1858. These historical changes, I think, are in place to create a unique, western universe, which acts as a backdrop for the story – they are effective anachronisms. It’s a lose, fable versions of history, designed to tell the revenge story without obstacles. This is similar to how the Kill Bill films appeared to be set in a universe of assassins detached slightly from our own reality – The airlines and motor cycles in this universe had sword holders built into their seats for example.

The core highlights of Wagner’s opera are retold – Siegfried climbs a mountain, fights a dragon, and walks through a ring of hellfire to rescue Brunhilde. Shultz accurately recalls another key detail. He says that Siegfried climbed the mountain, and slew the dragon because he was not afraid of them. In the original myth, Siegfried received a sword sometimes called Nothung, which could only be used by a hero who was not afraid.

Across other games, comics, and television in pop-culture, different genres and characters follow this structure. Super Mario Brothers and Adventure Time, for example, both employ a general “Rescue the princess” trope, which is comparable.  Tarantino has expertly reinvented and adapted the myth of Siegfried and Brunhilde, giving Django Unchained a foundation in prominent mythology to build from.

Django Unchained is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, and distributed by Sony Pictures

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