In the second film, the audience is given a chance to compare this account to a different one, one read by Odin from a book about the events of his father’s time due to their immediate relevence. (Due to the film’s incoherent structure, it is unclear whether the prologue is part of this history or not, but I will include his narration, though not the visual accompaniment.) In this scene, he relates his father’s conquest of the omnicidal dark elves to his adult son and the woman who currently has the elves’ superweapon inside her life force. What he is saying is not actually what appears on the page; while the book’s shape indicates a similar history to that [LECTURER] mentioned on Earth, of the shape being that you get when you make parchment of animal skin, this is fairly obviously a magical book that he is interacting with rather than reading.
Some interesting things emerge. Again, it is history as narrative, both on the page and in his words. Again, in both cases, it is clearly biased towards the Asgardian point of view. The version on the page, in fact, revisits Asgard as the shining beacon; thinly disguised in badly-transliterated futhark are the words, ‘the light that radiated from Asgard.’
There is no way to assess the truth of his story, given that almost all of the dark elf backstory comes through his point of view, and the similarities of the story to that of the first film imply that there are probably some narrative conventions being used. Several phrases of the opening narration echo the Thor lesson precisely, for example, and there is again the spectre of the just war looming as the enemy poses a terrible threat to one world or all. As a result, unknown are both the intentions of the Jotuns in attacking Midgard, and the reality of the dark elves’ threat. Each is simply a vanquished threat, rightfully crushed in the service of peace.
In both cases, Asgard intervened as a protector, a superior force with a right to act unilaterally and decisively. Their innate nobility and valiance – an interesting parallel to the spell placed upon Thor’s hammer, ‘whosoever holds of this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor’ – and the righteousness of their cause ensured their victory, even at a cost. The enemy lacks logic to their actions, and are driven by a desire to spread war and destruction across the Nine Realms or universe.
In all Asgardian accounts, other peoples are not accorded equality. In the Thor: The Dark World prologue, the ‘creatures’ [dark elves] are contrasted with ‘the noble armies of Asgard.’ Later in this film, the Queen of Asgard terms a dark elf, ‘creature,’ echoing this and the words of two Asgardian warriors attempting to contain a prison break, and in Thor the Jotuns/frost giants are persistently referred to as monsters, as Loki refers to another dark elf. Midgardians are consistently seen as helpless, childlike, simple and in need of protection.
Asgard’s discipline of history, then, at least that which is consulted at the highest levels of governance, bears the marks of an elitist, martial culture. Historical recording is narrative and appears troped, and Asgard in all cases occupies the same role; that of the noble bringer of light. (It should, however, be mentioned that it is probable that such a casting could be meant to impress children and offworlders in both cases; this itself says something, since both situations could have benefitted from accurate information.) Unlike on Earth, where various social movements and academic trends have been causing disciplinary cross-pollination and wider focus on more issues in history, top-level Asgardian history focuses on its kings’ exploits in war in a way that has more in common with the heroic saga than the modern Earthly historical work.