The Marvel Cinematic Universe Visual Dictionary may have just explained one of the greatest mysteries of Avengers: Infinity War: just how did the Red Skull know so much about the Soul Stone?
One of the highlights of Avengers: Infinity War was the unexpected return of the Red Skull. Far from being killed by the Tesseract’s power back during the Second World War, the film revealed that he’d been transported to the planet Vormir, where he’d become the unwilling guardian of the Soul Stone. But on reflection, attentive viewers began to realize that this was quite a strange scene. Vormir was apparently deserted; so just how did the Red Skull come to learn so much about the Infinity Stone he was now responsible for, right down to outlining the sacrifice Thanos would need to make?
Marvel Studios has just published their first Visual Dictionary, a book that runs through the last decade of MCU movies. In general, it doesn’t contain many surprises; most of the entries tend to confirm things we already knew, or to give a little extra detail about objects or artifacts briefly glimpsed in the films. But sometimes the details matter – and indeed, the Visual Dictionary provides a possible explanation for the Red Skull’s mysterious knowledge.
The Book of Yggdrasil
In Captain America: The First Avenger, the Red Skull successfully located the Tesseract at an old church building in Tonsberg, Norway. But the Marvel Studios Visual Dictionary reveals that wasn’t the only thing the Red Skull took from the Tesseract’s guardians. Hydra agents discovered what’s described as “an earthly version of the Book of Yggdrasil,” which tells the story of the Nine Realms and the history of Odin’s family. According to the Visual Dictionary, even the Norse cultists believed this was just mythology; but the Red Skull viewed it as history, and used the text to learn about the Tesseract.
The Asgardian version of the Book of Yggdrasil actually appears in Thor: The Dark World. In one scene early on, Odin takes Thor and Jane Foster into his own chambers. There, he reveals the Book of Yggdrasil, and opens its pages to reveal the history of the universe. Odin tells Thor of the “relics” that predate the cosmos, of the reign of the Dark Elves in the time of darkness before the Big Bang, and even of the Convergence of the Nine Realms. All this information was contained on just a couple of pages.
With that book, it seems the Red Skull knew a lot more about the cosmos than we’d ever guessed. He had acquired an earthly version of one of Asgard’s most sacred texts, a book that was secreted away in the All-Father’s own chambers. What’s more, unlike the guardians of the Tesseract he believed that everything written in this book was true, albeit mythologized. Given Thor thought the Dark Elves to be a bedtime tale until Odin told him otherwise, it’s possible the Red Skull understood more of the universe’s deepest, darkest secrets than even the Asgardian prince.
This certainly explains how the Red Skull knew so much about the Soul Stone; it’s easy to presume details of the Soul Stone were recorded in the Book of Yggdrasil, including the ultimate bargain; “a soul for a soul” (but not its location, hence why Thanos couldn’t find it for so long). There’s a certain irony in the idea that the Red Skull learned of this because he stole knowledge from the guardians of one Infinity Stone, only to be transported to Vormir and become the guardian of an Infinity Stone himself.
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