A review of Chadwick Ginther’s “Runt of the Litter” in OnSpec Vol 26, No. 1
By Derek Newman-Stille
Where else are you going to find the Frost Giants of Norse mythology than in Northern Canada? Chadwick Ginther’s “Runt of the Litter” allows us to explore a Frost Giant (Jotunn) who escapes from his family’s northern climes to find a place where he won’t be bullied any more for being a mere 10 feet tall. Grim, the runt of his Jotunn family escapes south to Winnipeg in order to find a place of belonging where he isn’t at risk from constantly family violence. Like any Frost Giant Werewolf… he just wants to find a place in the world that he can make his home. And for a while he was succeeding, finding an apartment with high enough ceilings to accommodate his height when indoors (outdoors, of course, he shapeshifts into a smaller form to blend in with humanity). Unfortunately, his great great great great grandfather Loki, the Norse god of mischief finds him… and where Loki goes, disruption follows…. and in this case, so do Grim’s family who are in pursuit of Loki for his regular mischievous antics.
When a Norse god’s sense of fun is stirring up trouble that can either end in excitement or near-death experiences, things can get really shook up… more so than the thumping feet of the Jotunn. Grim has to decide whether he can trust Loki – after all he is family. Ginther’s narrative is one of the discomforts of family and the complexities involved in family interactions. He explores the image of family as a set of shifting alliances and temporary bonds… largely to create a united front against other family members. He illustrates the precarity of family relationships and the constantly shifting nature of belonging.
Ginther uses the figure of the Jotunn, a figure that is often portrayed in recent stories as fundamentally dim and incapable of complex thought, in a multifaceted way. The Norse Frost Giants were generally pretty intelligent, often out-thinking the Norse gods, so Ginther had a rich heritage of diversity in the intelligence of his subject matter. Ginther explores both the intelligent and the dim and muscly side of the Frost Giant, putting the two images in contrast (and conflict) with one another. Grim exemplifies all of the smart, wily quality of the giants, where most of his brothers are simply large slabs of moving meat. This contrast puts the reader in the position of examining the way that intelligence and brute force butt heads in our popular fiction and portrayals of the heroic and villainous.
Of course, when Loki is involved, nothing is as it seems and everything is subject to being shaken up… which is when the most exciting things happen.
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To find out more about Chadwick Ginther, visit http://chadwickginther.com