In God of War (2018), the soft reboot of the high-octane action series about a Greek demigod named Kratos, the storyteller Mimir regaled the protagonist and his young son Atreus with stories about a new and unfamiliar pantheon: that of the Norse gods, goddesses, and other supernatural beings. These godly beings posed a serious threat to Kratos and Atreus, so learning their stories proved useful — but more importantly, Mimir’s stories made for an entertaining way to pass the time while on a long journey. Have I mentioned that Mimir is a disembodied head who dangles from Kratos’ belt loop?
Anyway, Mimir returns for God of War Ragnarök, which means his stories return, too. But he’s not just sticking with Norse mythology as an inspiration this time. At least one of his tales bears a striking resemblance to Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
This came as a shock for me, not because I don’t think Macbeth works as a reference point for the characters in this game — it totally does, because at the end of God of War, Kratos saw an ominous prophetic mural depicting Atreus holding a dying man who looked a little like Kratos. Given how often Kratos and Atreus talk about prophecy in this game, and how much stock they respectively place in it, it makes a lot of sense for Mimir to tell them about a man who becomes obsessed with, and eventually undone by, a prophecy that he will become king. The man in question becomes so influenced by this prophecy that he goes so far as to commit murder to gain the crown. In telling this story, Mimir warns Atreus and Kratos about how prophecies can really mess with your head, especially given that prophecies are often rife with double meanings and symbols that lead to misunderstandings.
The real reason this particular Mimir story is so weird is that it puts an actual date on Ragnarök. Mimir’s story bears too much resemblance to Macbeth to be a coincidence; he describes the man as a “thane” who hears the prophecy from three soothsayers, and so on. The play Macbeth was partially inspired by the reign of a king of Scotland who shared that name and ruled from 1040–57 A.D. (although Macbeth’s tenure as king went a lot better in real life than it did in the play). The play was likely written in 1606, and although Mimir’s version of the story more closely resembles Shakespeare’s play than the actual history of the Scottish namesake, Mimir doesn’t credit Shakespeare. Instead, he presents the story as just another one of his legends. (Atreus then tells Mimir that he ought to write these stories down. Is Mimir actually Shakespeare???)
So, let’s talk about time periods. The first few God of War games take place circa 495 B.C. — way before Macbeth. God of War 3 depicts the destruction of Sparta, which happened in 464 B.C. How much time passed between that game and God of War (2018)? We do already know Fimbulwinter lasts three years, at least, so Ragnarök takes place three years after God of War (2018).
I had assumed that Ragnarök took place in 536 A.D., because there’s an actual historical climate catastrophe that occurred back then in Sweden and Norway; some academics refer to that long and brutal winter as a real-life Fimbulwinter. That would make Kratos over 1,000 years old, but since he’s a demigod, that’s not so unusual. (Atreus is around 13, by the way.)
If an apocryphal story of Macbeth has already begun to circulate, though, and if Mimir goes on to become Shakespeare (kidding, but only kind of), then that means Ragnarök takes place much later on, after 1057, at the very least. Or perhaps it means that Mimir is prophetic himself, foretelling the plot of a pretty cool play that will be written by some guy many years from now. And as for whether or not that guy is Mimir, well, Ragnarök doesn’t confirm it.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the time period of the historical King Macbeth as B.C. rather than A.D.