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Norse mythology Overview

Discussion in 'Norse Mythology' started by Green Gaia, Jan 19, 2006.

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  1. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

    Mar 27, 2004
    Norse mythology

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

    Norse or Scandinavian mythology comprises the pre-Christian religion, beliefs and legends of the Scandinavian people, including those who settled on Iceland, where the written sources for Norse mythology were assembled. It is the best-known version of the older common Germanic mythology, which also includes the closely related Anglo-Saxon mythology. Germanic mythology, in its turn, had evolved from an earlier Indo-European mythology.


    Norse mythology was a collection of beliefs and stories shared by Northern Germanic tribes. It was not a revealed religion, in that it was not a truth handed down from the divine to the mortal (although it does have tales of normal persons learning the stories of the gods from a visit to or from the gods), and it had no scripture. The mythology was orally transmitted in the form of long, regular poetry. Oral transmission continued through the Viking Age, and our knowledge about it is mainly based on the Eddas and other medieval texts written down during and after Christianisation.

    In Scandinavian folklore, these beliefs held on the longest, and in rural areas some traditions have been maintained until today. Others have recently been revived or reinvented as Germanic Neopaganism. The mythology also remains as an inspiration in literature (see Norse mythological influences on later literature) as well as on stage productions and movies.


    Most of this mythology was passed down orally, and much of it has been lost. However, some of it was captured and recorded by Christian scholars, particularly in the Eddas and the Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson, who believed that pre-Christian deities were men and women rather than devils. There is also the Danish Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus, where, however, the Norse gods are strongly Euhemerized.

    The Prose or Younger Edda was written in the early 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, who was a leading poet, chieftain, and diplomat in Iceland. It may be thought of primarily as a handbook for aspiring poets. It contains prose explications of traditional "kennings," or compressed metaphors found in poetry. These prose retellings make the various tales of the Norse gods systematic and coherent.

    The Poetic Edda (also known as the Elder Edda) was committed to writing about 50 years after the Prose Edda. It contains 29 long poems, of which 11 deal with the Germanic deities, the rest with legendary heroes like Sigurd the Volsung (the Siegfried of the German version Nibelungenlied). Although scholars think it was transcribed later than the other Edda, the language and poetic forms involved in the tales appear to have been composed centuries earlier than their transcription.

    Besides these sources, there are surviving legends in Scandinavian folklore. Some of these can be corroborated with legends appearing in other Germanic literatures e.g. the tale related in the Anglo-Saxon Battle of Finnsburgh and the many allusions to mythological tales in Deor. When several partial references and tellings survive, scholars can deduce the underlying tale. Additionally, there are hundreds of place names in Scandinavia named after the gods.

    A few runic inscriptions, such as the Rök Runestone and the Kvinneby amulet, make references to the mythology. There are also several runestones and image stones that depict scenes from Norse mythology, such as Thor's fishing trip, scenes from the Völsunga saga, Odin and Sleipnir, Odin being devoured by Fenrir, and Hyrrokkin riding to Baldr's funeral.

    In Denmark, one image stone depicts Loki with curled dandy-like mustaches and lips that are sewn together and the British Gosforth cross shows several intriguing images. There are also smaller images, such as figurines depicting the god Odin (the one with one eye), Thor (with his hammer) and Freyr (with his erect phallus).

    External links

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