Matt Sophos, the narrative director for the upcoming God of War Ragnarok, has defended the game’s decision to race swap the mythological Norse jötunn Angrboda (Angrboða) by arguing that the series “is our interpretation of mythology, not history.”
God of War Ragnarok’s race swapping of Angrboda was first seen in the game’s premerie trailer, released during the September 9th PlayStation 5 Showcase, wherein giantess mother of Fenrir appears as a young black girl voiced by Laya De Leon Hayes (The Equalizer).
In response to this revelation, a number of fans questioned the studios’ decision to race-swap Angrboda, as seen in a thread started by cosplayer Alanna Smith and later joined by Sophos himself.
After tweeting “GUESS WHO TF I’M COSPLAYING” in response to Angrboda’s debut, Smith was asked by another Twitter user why the Norse character was “a black person,” to which the cosplayer declared “Because Black people exist. Get OFF of my TWITTER.”
User @realRahmKota then joined the conversation, arguing to Smith, “Not in Norse mythology ma’am.”
@realRahmKota was then met with pushback from Sophos himself, who asked “Do they also have blue Dwarves in Norse mythology? Was Loki the son of a Greek demigod? Please show me in the Eddas where it says that all Jötunn were lily white?”
“Let me save you the time…you can’t,” he declared. “I’ve read them.”
Turning Sophos’ logic back on him, @realRahmKota responded, “Then I trust that you’ll make some of the mythological characters white in the eventual Egyptian series of GoW games. Wouldn’t want any double standards, correct?”
“You do know Jötunn aren’t real right?” Sophos argued in return. “They can be anyone or anything? Some are even giant serpents?”
“But I get it. You were only okay with Jörmungandr because his scales were white, right?” he dismissed. “Well, good luck to you. Hope you can find a game that better fits your sensibilities.”
Pushing back against Sophos’ clear dodging of his point, @realRahmKota simply argued back, “Neither are Egyptian gods.”
“Neither are Aesir gods,” Sophos asserted, once again avoiding the user’s argument. “I can only imagine how upset you’d have been had we made Thor black.”
Following a weekend’s worth of continued discourse, Sophos took to Twitter on September 13th to offer a soft ‘final’ statement on the matter of Angrboda’s race swap.
“Whew. Mute button got a workout this weekend—granted, of my own doing. You probably know what this is about. And if you don’t, bless you,” opened Sophos. “So I’m just going to address things here and hope (futilely) it will be the last time I have to do so. Saddle up…”
Beginning his statement, Sophos explained, “Angrboda in our game is a young black woman. The vast, vast majority of players are thrilled and think she looks incredible—and boy, does she. But a tiny, vocal sliver of the internet was offended at this notion. I’m going to address a few of the main topics of outrage.”
Addressing the accusations that he had “‘caved to outside pressure,’” Sophos asserted, “I can count on 2 fingers the # of notes we’ve gotten for story changes to 2018 + GoW Ragnarok combined. This was not one of them.”
“I’m grateful for the trust given to us to tell the best story possible without interference,” he continued. “So yeah, nonsense.”
Turning to claims that he “made it political,” Sophos argued, “As a writer, your job is to tell stories that are compelling & relatable.”
“You bring pieces of yourself to stories and your opinions shine through,” the director added. “So writing is always political—it’s just usually only called that if the politics aren’t agreed with.”
Finally, he spoke to the argument, as seen above, that such a change is “‘not accurate to Norse mythology/doesn’t respect the culture.”
“Hoo boy. The big one,” said Sophos. “Let me start with this: God of War is our interpretation of mythology, not history—Norse or Greek. We tell a personal story with the backdrop of gods, Giants, etc. through our lens.”
“And that lens is not 100% by-the-Eddas [the historical documents from which we take our knowledge of Norse mythology]. For instance, here’s a quick review of some mythological main characters from GoW (2018)… SPOILERS AHEAD from the last game”
“Brok: A legendary Dwarven blacksmith we made blue and talks like a foul-mouthed Texas prospector. Sindri: Another legendary Dwarven blacksmith who we made gray-ish, germophobic, and knows about bacteria (“tiny beasties”).”
“Mimir: Rooted in Norse mythology, in GoW he’s Scottish. “Mimir” is the name he took when coming to Midgard, and we tied him to a character from English folklore (and specifically, from one of Shakespeare’s plays).”
“Baldur: The god of light and purity in the myths, we twisted the basics of his invulnerability to (almost) all things, and made him unable to feel anything as a result of it. Loki: We made him a half-Giant, quarter human, quarter Greek-demigod. Need I say more?”
“Loki’s dad: We leaned into the translation of “Farbauti”—the “cruel striker”—to tie him to Kratos… a gruff, Greek demigod with quite the gods-killing history. He also happens to have been voiced consecutively by two incredible black actors. But I digress…”
“I guess what I’m saying is this…we’ve consistently taken mythological characters and given them our own spin.” he eventually concluded. “So if the color of Angrboda’s skin is where you draw the line at how respectful we’ve been, it’s probably worth some self-examination. Thanks for listening.”
What do you make of Sophos’ defense of Arngrboda’s race swap? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!