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The Opening Scene of Thor: Ragnarok Is Kind of Confusing. Here’s What’s Going On

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In the opening minutes of Thor: Ragnarok we meet a not-so-friendly fire monster who informs us that he plans to destroy Thor’s homeland of Asgard in an event called Ragnarok. For those unfamiliar with the Thor comics — or Norse mythology — this villain’s brief introduction is a bit confusing. So who is this fiery fellow and what, exactly, does Ragnarok mean?

The giant fire monster is named Surtur, and he is one of the classic villains from the Thor comics. As you might guess from his visage, he’s the god of flame. He’s also bound up in a rather bleak prophesy for Asgard.

In both Norse mythology and the Marvel comic books, there is a prophesy that a great battle, instigated by Thor’s brother Loki, will bring about Asgard’s apocalypse. Surtur is said to be involved in this destruction. The cataclysmic event is known as Ragnarok.

MORE: How Thor: Ragnarok Sets Up What’s Next in Avengers: Infinity War

As the God of Thunder and the prince of Asgard, it is Thor’s job to stop Ragnarok from happening. Thor reasons that if he defeats Surtur, he can stop Ragnarok. That’s why he battles the big beast at the beginning of the movie.

But Thor eventually realizes, like Oedipus before him — to cite another ancient myth — that attempting to side-step your fate can have horrible, unintended consequences.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com