[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers for God of War Ragnarök.]
As the credits rolled on God of War Ragnarök, I had one big question: What’s up with that mask?
A decent chunk of the way into Ragnarök, Atreus disobeys his father’s wishes and heads to Asgard to meet Odin. Once there, Atreus hopes to find out more about his identity, his godly powers, and the name his mother had originally intended to give him: Loki. Odin has something else in mind — he wants Atreus’ help to study a mysterious mask. Unfortunately, the mask has been broken into several pieces, and Atreus must embark on a series of missions to find them all and restore the mask to its full power.
For some reason, Atreus feels a strange connection to the mask; he can read the ancient language written upon it, as well as sense where the rest of it has been hidden, allowing him to collect the pieces and rebuild the mask. At the very end of the game, Odin pressures Atreus into wearing the mask and gaining its power, which Odin believes will be omniscience. Atreus instead chooses to break the mask in half and throw it into a mysterious portal that closes behind it.
This portal, as well as the mask itself, remain a mystery at the game’s end. Where did the mask come from? Where did the portal lead? Why did Atreus, also known as Loki, have such a strong connection with the mask? Is the mask destined to return to him someday, perhaps in a future game?
Because this game’s characters are based on Norse mythology, I assumed it would be simple to find information about a mask belonging to either Odin or Loki. Instead, I found absolutely no evidence at all that this mask has any historical basis or mythological significance according to Old Norse resources. The most popular reference to a mask belonging to Loki comes from the movie The Mask (1994) and its sequel, Son of the Mask (2005).
Although the original Dark Horse Comics series The Mask does not refer to Norse mythological figures, the films and animated series name Loki as the mask’s owner. In the movies and the show, the mask makes the wearer invincible, unrecognizable, and totally unrestrained by their own inhibitions.
It’s not too hard to see the parallels between these masks. The mask in Ragnarök has a very similar look to the mask’s design in the comics, movies, and animated series. It’s made out of wood and looks ancient and cracked; in the game, it glows with bright green power when Atreus focuses on it, similar to how the movie version turns green when worn.
What I’m trying to say is, I’m pretty sure Loki’s mask in Ragnarök is inspired by The Mask (1994). It’s definitely not inspired by any mask that actually exists in Norse mythology. Could it be that the Ragnarök team remembered a story about Loki having a superpowered mask, but they couldn’t quite remember where they learned that bit of information? Or maybe somebody thought the mask from the movies had an actual basis in Norse myth, even though it doesn’t…?
Naturally, I asked the PR team for Ragnarök to connect me with the game’s writers so I could inquire about this important piece of lore. At first, narrative director Matt Sophos gave me this mysterious reply: “We deliberately never say where the mask comes from. We do specifically say the Giants didn’t make it, but it’s a mystery to Odin that’s at the heart of what he’s trying to figure out.” Sophos has yet to respond to a more direct follow-up question from me about whether The Mask served as specific inspiration.
Anthony Burch, who also contributed writing to the game, did give me a response that confirms he and Sophos were aware of the parallels to the movie The Mask:
I very, very vaguely remember:
- I beat out a lot of the Loki/Odin plot arc and had them focusing on some sort of macguffin that represented Odin and Loki’s relationship
- Either myself or Matt Sophos...I’m almost sure it was Matt Sophos...suggested the macguffin should be a mask because Loki is searching for identity etc etc
I very specifically remember:
- Googling the The Mask mask, sending it to Matt and also concept art, and at some point later on summarizing the plot of the game as ‘ssssssomebody stop Odin’”
In response to this, I did ask Burch whether he was joking, to which he replied: “I’m not joking!”
All this to say, if you watched Ragnarök’s credits and you had more questions about the mask in the game, you may as well watch The Mask (1994), as well as its sequel and TV series. That’s the only other mask that has a connection to Loki and Odin, after all — and that story could even explain where the mask ended up after Atreus threw it into that strange portal. Clearly, it ended up on Earth, where it made its way into the unwitting hands of Stanley Ipkiss. It’s not a crossover that I ever expected to see in this game, but at least now I have a little bit more context on the game’s most underexplained plot point.