'What was the beginning, or how did things start? What was there before?'
The Prose Edda is the most renowned of all works of Scandinavian literature and our most extensive source for Norse mythology. Written in Iceland a century after the close of the Viking Age, it tells ancient stories of the Norse creation epic and recounts the battles that follow as gods, giants, dwarves and elves struggle for survival. It also preserves the oral memory of heroes, warrior kings and queens. In clear prose interspersed with powerful verse, the Edda provides unparalleled insight into the gods' tragic realisation that the future holds one final cataclysmic battle, Ragnarok, when the world will be destroyed. These tales from the pagan era have proved to be among the most influential of all myths and legends, inspiring modern works as diverse as Wagner's Ring Cycle and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
This new translation by Jesse Byock captures the strength and subtlety of the original, while his introduction sets the tales fully in the context of Norse mythology. This edition also includes detailed notes and appendices.
Snorri Sturluson (also spelled Snorre Sturlason) was an Icelandic historian, poet and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing. He was the author of the Prose Edda or Younger Edda, which consists of Gylfaginning ("the fooling of Gylfi"), a narrative of Norse mythology, the Skáldskaparmál, a book of poetic language, and the Háttatal, a list of verse forms. He was also the author of the Heimskringla, a history of the Norwegian kings that begins with legendary material in Ynglinga saga and moves through to early medieval Scandinavian history. For stylistic and methodological reasons, Snorri is often taken to be the author of Egils saga.
The Edda is a collection of Norse myths, written in the 13th century by a dude named Snorri. It's where we got most of our knowledge of Norse mythology today, and it's wicked awesome. I learned, for instance, that your legs may hump each other and produce a child while you're asleep, which is something I'm going to be more careful about from now on. And that mead started as god spit, then turned into blood, and ended up being farted out of Odin's ass, which is, by a train of logic that actually kinda makes sense when you read it, why it's called the drink of poets. These are important things to know.
I also learned that much of what I learned from reading Thor comics when I was 13 isn't totally accurate. There's no mention at all of him being in the Avengers.
I enjoyed learning about the Norse poetic style of "kenning," where the point is to pile image upon image to make a complicated chain of meaning. For instance, "spurner of the bonfires of the sea," where "bonfires of the sea" refers to the sun's reflection off it, which is golden, and a spurner of gold would be: a generous man. That's cool because it's exactly what rappers do! Here's an example from the mighty Dres of Black Sheep:
I try to stay aware of the drama, it’s crazy Plus, see I got to tell your mama that I’m Swayze
Here, Swayze refers to the late actor's classic movie Ghost, and ghost means he's gone; so Dres is saying that he's leaving your mama. Which must be sad for her.
I'm not saying that rappers were influenced by Vikings. That would be an awesome thing to say, but not a reasonable one. I'm just saying there's sortof a kinship there.
It's not every day that you get to learn about the spiritual connection between hip-hop and Vikings. This is a cool book, man.
Snorri Sturluson rédigea cette Edda (ces vieilles légendes norroises) au début du XIIIe siècle, alors que son pays, l’Islande, était depuis longtemps convertie au christianisme. Snorri aborde donc de biais ce panorama du polythéisme scandinave. En effet, son livre est avant tout un traité de poétique ou de rhétorique : la Skaldskaparmal, par exemple, recense une série de tournures, vocables, métaphores, périphrases (les fameuses kenningar qui ont tant fasciné Borges) en usage dans l'art des scaldes. On y apprend notamment différentes manières de designer l’or : « chevelure de Sif », « tribut de la loutre », « farine de Frodi » ou encore « semence de Kraki ».
Le propos premier du livre de Snorri, exprimé ici à travers les joutes oratoires du récit cadre, ouvrent cependant sur les vastes narrations mythiques de l’ancien paganisme norrois. On découvre d’abord dans la première partie (la Gylfaginning) quel fut l’origine du monde, avec le démembrement du géant Ymir (« de son cerveau furent créés tous les nuages cruels ») et l’apparition des premières races : Ases, Elfes, nains, trolls... Puis, les lieux ou objets légendaires : le char du soleil, Bifrost le pont entre la terre et le ciel, la terre de Midgard et la forteresse d’Asgard, Yggdrasil le frêne du monde, près duquel vivent les Nornes, etc. Viennent ensuite les dynasties des dieux qui demeurent dans la Valhalle : Odin à l’œil crevé et au cheval à huit pieds, Frigg son épouse, Thor au marteau invincible, Freyia la déesse aux chats, Idunn la gardienne des pommes de jouvence, et surtout Loki le rusé... La Gylfaginning se termine sur les aventures de Thor affrontant le géant Skrymir, le roi Utgarda-Loki, puis le serpent de Midgard, pour finir sur la description de Ragnarök, le crépuscule des dieux, le loup Fenrir dévorant les astres et l'incendie du monde.
La deuxième partie (la Skaldskaparmal) poursuit ce catalogue mythologique à travers le récit des exploits du héros Sigurd, vainqueur du géant Fafnir. Légendes norroises qui connaîtront un développement ultérieur, à travers les récits germaniques du héros Siegfried, recueillis dans La Chanson des Nibelungen. Snorri, quant à lui, se lancera, après l’Edda, dans sa monumentale Heimskringla ou Histoire des rois de Norvège.
Quoi qu’il en soit, il est très frappant de voir combien ces vieilles légendes norroises ont inspiré notre culture contemporaine depuis plusieurs décennies. Sans parler évidemment de l’influence massive de ces récits sur l’opéra de Richard Wagner, en particulier son Ring des Nibelungen (voir notamment : Gylfaginning, chapitre 42, et la quasi-totalité de la Skaldskaparmal), ou, plus encore, sur les romans de J.R.R. Tolkien, notamment The Silmarillion et The Hobbit (les noms de Gandalf et des nains sont directement copiés du quatorzième chapitre de la Gylfaginning) ; il suffit enfin de regarder les innombrables séries, BD, jeux vidéo ou romans de « fantasy » (par exemple, le récent Norse Mythology de Neil Gaiman) commercialisés ces dernières années, pour se convaincre que tous ont une dette immense envers le scalde islandais.
It’s sort of strange to give a review of a book like this – as if I can sit here and complain that Thor’s character feels underdeveloped, or that I didn’t understand Odin’s motivation for acting as he did. It is, after all, from the 13th century, written by someone we might characterize as an Icelandic warlord – and yet, as removed as I am, it’s still fascinating. The book is genuinely funny at times, and the stories of the Norse gods and goddesses have a sense of humor to them that even the Greek myths can often miss.
The first book is a kind of Norse catechism, where a traveler is shown around Asgard and Midgard and has the cosmology of the Norse universe explained to him in a question-and-answer session. After that comes a kind of poet’s encyclopedia or dictionary, where the origins of words and names for things become jumping-off points for the stories about the various gods and giants and whatnot, and its structure is very interesting. Imagine if the Iliad had a companion volume that explained all the epithets, and that's what you have here. Some of the sections start as questions, while others are just informational – but that they all come from names (and that so very many names exist for “gold” is especially revealing) is a unique way of telling this story, whether it was Mr. Sturluston’s intention to be structurally inventive or not. It is, again, a Christian Iclander’s retelling of Norse legends in the 1200s, which makes it interesting, but hard to evaluate or give a rating to on a site like this. Can’t say I had a bad time reading it, though.
A most extensive source of Norse mythology, this book was written in Iceland in the 13th century (though copies exist from 14th c. onward). This bok has one creation epic, and recounts of survival battles, heroic things, information about the deities and the tree-centric world view, and how the world can end. It preserves oral tradition (and is meant to be read aloud) and cultural roots (of immigrants to Iceland) and offers some guidance on certain details on telling stories from the mythology.
I chose to read the prose-form Edda now. The author is pretty certain: a chieftain's son, then a leader who visited royalty in Norway, and showed interest in the Viking days. This book (and Eddas in general) have influenced fe. Wagner, Tolkien (dwarves, elves, the ring, Middle Earth), Auden, Longfellow, and Borges. One can go on from here to read closely-related books like the Saga Of Volsungs and Saga of Hrolf Kraki.
In this version there is a map of the geographical world of Edda, and at the end appendixes: Norse cosmos and World Tree (of Indo-European origin), some language details, poem sources, genealogical tables of the gods, and names glossary. The book is in four parts, though the fouth isn't included here: prologue (which may have been added later), mythology from creation to end of the world in dialogue-form, background things for references and allusions (dialogue and storytelling; some parts are pre-Viking era), and a long poem with prose commentary (most likely Snorri's).
Some interesting things: gods having roots in the city of Troy (with Loki seen as Ulysses), how giant Ymir's body was used to create more world - incl. dwarves formed like maggots in his flesh, finding yet another book mentioning some norn names used in the Oh!My Goddess manga, amused at the list of dwarf names that have been used later in LOTR (incl. Gandalf haha), Skadi the ski goddess, Heimdall having 9 mothers giving birth to him simultaneously, Thor kicking a dwarf into a funeral pyre, Loki as a salmon, a ship made of human fingernails, choosing an Aesir husband by looking at the gods' feet, how mead was created. Is Frodi's mill-story connected to the Kalevala's Sampo machine? How did Loki survive having his head cut off (this story bit doesn't tell)?
Some amusing details, some shocking reactions, and plenty familiar stuff too. I have read some in comics. I know I will read the other Edda at some point, but this was already interesting to read through. I think if the reader has already read the other one, this would still be worth it, and it's not too long. :)
Odin gave Suttung’s mead to the Æsir and to those men who know how to make poetry. For this reason we call poetry Odin’s catch, find, drink or gift, as well as the drink of the Æsir.
More personal edification than anything. I knew next to nothing about Norse mythos and I sought a remedy. Such a cosmology reflects a brutal existence of deprivation and blind chance. The prominence of trickery is our human approach to the elemental. Plenty of infidelity and incest but lacking the serial rape of the Greek origin stories. As someone (not by choice) who’s sat through a few bad Thor films (as opposed to, you know, the artful ones) I gasped to discover that the depicted familial relationships were all wrong at the multiplex.
So after diving headlong into ancient Norse mythology and history, by way of the Heimskringla, The Poetic Edda, and Sagas of Icelanders in turn, I've become ever more interested in the subject (and medieval literature generally). There simply isn't enough extant, well-preserved material to satisfy the desire to know everything, more often we're left with as many questions as answers. The Prose Edda is no exception. Written by the Icelandic chieftain-poet-historian Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century, it holds a unique cultural position -- purely by accident.
Snorri most likely intended this work to be a sort of medieval textbook for the aspiring Icelandic skald, or poet. He cautions in the beginning to always imitate the chief skalds of the past in their methods, but never to believe the underlying mythical associations. You see, Christianity was well-established in Scandinavia by this time, the old heathen beliefs being forgotten from disuse, the reverence of old ways long gone. It turns out heathendom was an essential aspect of skaldic poetry even after the conversion; men may not have truly feared Odin any longer, yet they wanted to hear and speak his name in connection with their own times, as well as demonstrate their wit and creativity in paraphrasing or "kennings", the way their forefathers had done. Understanding and practicing the time-crafted art of the skalds was a worthy skill.
Naturally it couldn't be assumed that a young Icelander of Snorri's time would know the story behind "Otter's Ransom" nor who would be referred to as "Harmer of Sif's Hair". Snorri knew that the only way the ancient skaldic poetry would have meaning in the future, the only way it could be propagated, was by thorough explanation from one who knew the art. But how could he pass on this knowledge without actually instructing pupils in the forbidden ways of heathendom?
In this task Snorri proceeded on three fronts. First he invented a story, the Gylfaginning, in which a fictional character (Gylfi) questions Odin (in disguise) on many topics: the origins of the world, the gods, their names and characteristics, the doom of the gods and the world itself. To justify his own prose explanations, Snorri quotes a number of skaldic verse fragments. This forms the basis of the mythical worldview from which skaldic poetry drew its metaphors.
Then follows the more technical sections of the instruction. In the Skáldskaparmál, Snorri details a conversation with the god of skaldship (Bragi) in which he explains the intricate and crucial art of kennings. He methodically dissects the work of "chief poets", listing the most common types of kennings and occasionally explaining their origins in detail. Last but not least in the Háttatal, Snorri presents his own skaldic verses to explain every form of verse he knew. This would be an advanced course for the serious skald, indeed.
Snorri whether he knew it or not, was acting to preserve not only the art of skaldship in his own time, but indeed scant traces of Norse mythology and the mere evidence of the chief poets he so admired. For most of their works are now lost to us. Having little practical value to the learned men of the time, there was no great effort to preserve them in memory or in writing. We're lucky to have even Snorri's Edda, as no more than three medieval manuscript copies of it have survived the ravages of time. Neglect (and fire) could easily have claimed these precious documents as well.
I read the 1916 English translation by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, as it was freely available. It contains Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál, but not Háttatal which due to reliance on alliteration, meter, and Old Norse vocabulary, would have greatly diminished value in English (I'd still like to tackle it some day for completeness' sake). Brodeur's translation incorporates centuries of Eddic scholarship, though in a very cut-and-dry fashion.
Snorri's prose is in fact the most entertaining part of this translation, being fairly straightforward to present in English (with the exception of certain names whose etymologies were unclear). If you're reading the Prose Edda in English, this is what you're most interested in, probably because you have a fascination of all things Norse and heathen, rather than being a scholar of Old Norse poetry. The verse, unfortunately, is miserably butchered in the translation to the point of being almost unreadable. The meter is destroyed, the alliteration is absent, the grammar is awkward to say the least, one must force themselves to endure many of the verses - though there is the rare example which shines across the language barrier.
As a comparison, read the following verse from section III of Skáldskaparmál: "I pray the high-souled Warder Of earth to hear the Ocean Of the Cliff of Dwarves, my verses: Hear, Earl, the Gore of Kvasir."
Now the original: "Hugstóran bið ek heyra, heyr, jarl, Kvasis dreyra, foldar vörð á fyrða fjarðleggjar brim dreggjar."
The former is a labyrinthine jumble of words, the latter is poetry. Another example: the author of said verse is repeatedly referred to as "Einarr Tinkling-Scale", a truly comical rendering of the original Einar Skalaglam. With no explanation of what "tinkling-scale" means, we're left to wonder (it's a scale for counting money), and in fact there are numerous other examples. I can't blame Brodeur for making such literal translations, but they have limited value to the English lay-audience and often detract from what are otherwise fascinating insights. By comparison the Complete Sagas of Icelanders is invariably more readable, though a project of considerably greater breadth and depth, simply because they gave thoughtful consideration to these aesthetic issues.
Snorri didn't help by inserting random verses out of context simply because they had a kenning he wanted to reference, but naturally that was his purpose in composing the Edda. It's important to remember Snorri was not preserving skaldic poetry for us -- he assumed we'd always remember the poems -- rather the skaldic art that created them.
In spite of this, the Prose Edda presents great value to the committed reader. Where Snorri breaks way from the pedantic, he reveals himself as a master story teller, capable of quickly summarizing sagas and poems in dramatic fashion leaving us craving for more. There is lore recorded in the Eddic manuscripts not preserved anywhere else, lore which has inspired generations of authors, musicians, and artists, even spawned new religions and breathed life into ancient ones. In short, it's part of an essential corpus for those interested in studying the origins, culture, religion, poetry, and/or literature of the ancient Norse people and their neighbors.
This one marks the end of an almost yearlong project about reading Medieval Icelandic or Old Norse literature. It blended with hopes of going to Wardruna and playing Assassin`s Creed Valhalla and with reading Tolkien which borrowed a lot, but mostly it`s indebted to Borges and his passion for kennings and metaphor and the meaning of poetry. The well-known “mother of dragons” from Game of Thrones, as a friend told me one, for example.
Since many kennings were based on myths, and Old Norse religion was replaced, a memoir was needed to understand them, as explained by Jesse Byock in the introduction. And of course, Snorri himself was a very interesting character, who deserves his own movie. Then, it was forgotten and recovered.
I read it the first time when I was a child and it was a resume made for youngsters. I still remember that I wanted to be Thor. Then, a few years ago, in the commercial version, but also being interested in myth, in parallel with the Poetic Edda. It was also the period when I discovered Wardruna.
This time was interesting to approach it not for stories and their cyclical and deterministic point of view, but as a poetical handbook, the way some people recommend it should be seen. It changes the perspective. One can almost imagine a drunken party of nobles, jumping around fires, and in a corner, a skald trying to remember the verse he just conceived. It becomes less about myths and more about producing verses, embellishment and fun.
One can see also the influence of sagas in certain stories. For example, there are standard formulas of introduction (“there was a man called”) or routine plots (vendettas between clans, settlements, adjudications). Bottom line, this reading was less mythical and more secular or prosaic.
According to the Prose Edda the Norse god's were descendents of Priam of Troy whose son Paris ran away with Helen who was married to Menelaus the King of Sparta. This act sparked a 10 year war between Troy and Sparta.
These places are so far away from the Viking homelands of Denmark, Sweden, Norway that the stories must have been related by a traveller. I find it fascinating that something so disparate could be so interconnected. It also implies that the Norse god's weren't deities as the Greek gods were thought to be, rather they were flesh and blood humans.
I also noted in a couple of updates that J.R.R. Tolkien of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings stories borrowed some names for the Dwarves and other characters directly from these writings. Read through them and I'm sure you will find your favourite. Nyi, Nidi, Nordri, Sudri, Austri, Vestri, Althjolf, Dvalin, Nar, Nain, Niping, Dain, Bifur, Bafur, Bombor, Nori, Ori, Onar, Oin, Modvitnir, Vig and Gandalf, Vindalf, Thorin, Fili, Kili, Fundin, Vali, Thror, Throin, Thekk, Lit, Vitr, Nyr, Nyrad, Rekk, Radsvinn. There is also the setting for his stories which he named Middle earth which is a direct translation of Midgardr the place where humans dwelt.
'Midgardr situated halfway between Niflheim on the north, the land of ice, and Muspelheim to the south, the region of fire.'
I find these ancient stories of god's and giants, monsters and humans far more compelling than many modern day novel. They evoke greater emotions and feel more 'authentic' to me. Therefore both the original author from the 13th century Snorri Sturluson (died 1214) and the translator of my penguin edition Jesse L. Byock have in my humble opinion done a spectacular job of bringing these stories to magical, wonderous life.
My favourite character by far is Loki who is very naughty and funny. He sometimes assists the gods and sometimes behaves maliciously towards them. For instance; After a wrong doing he makes amends as in this story the end of which I'll put here.
'Another condition of her settlement was that the Æsir must do something she thought they could not do: make her laugh. Then Loki tied one end of a cord to the beard of a goat and tied the other end around his own testicles. The goat and Loki started pulling back and forth, each squealing loudly until finally Loki fell into Skadi’s lap, and then she laughed.'
I've taken some my favourite parts of The Sibyl's prophecy on Ragnarok (which was probably from the 10th century) the final battle that ends the nine worlds, to give just a taste of this epic tale.
1; Even Yggdrasil in worried.
The ash of Yggdrasil trembles as it stands, the old tree groans and the giant breaks free.
2; The battle has begun in earnest.
Jormungand thrashes in giant wrath. The serpent lashes the waves; the eagle screeches, Nidfol, rips apart corpses. Naglfar breaks loose.
3; The Hel in this verse is a person.
Stone cliffs tumble and troll witches stumble. Men tread the Road to Hel as the sky splits apart.
4; And finally. The sun grows black, the earth sinks into the sea. The bright stars vanish from the heavens. Steam surges up and the fire rages. Heat reaches high against heaven itself.
If you are at all intrigued by my thoughts on this book I hope you take the time to explore it for yourself, you won't be sorry.
I’ve been meaning to read both this and the Poetic Edda for a while now, and starting the Icelandic Sagas was just the kick in the pants I needed to do it. I felt like I could use some cultural context, and Snorri here provides it in spades. Norse mythology is fascinating in that it represents a belief-system that was actually practiced not so long ago, relatively speaking. Rome officially converted in the early 300s and I think that most of Europe outside the empire was at least nominally Christian by the 7th century or so. So, the fact that Scandinavia remained pagan until after the 1st millennium, and probably much longer than that in more remote areas, makes it rather unique.
There is a fun contrast between the grand designs and personalities of Norse mythology. Namely, the Norse understanding of the cosmos is beautiful and elegant; and its gods and other characters are rather not. Their construct of the universe centers around the tree Yggdrasil, the branches and roots of which support the nine worlds of men, gods, giants, elves, and the dead. A giant serpent gnaws on the root of the tree, threatening to destroy it, but the tree is kept alive by three Norns, who are analogous to the Fates. The Norse version of the apocalypse, Ragnarok, was my favorite of the stories. Ragnarok begins when Yggdrasil shudders, the Fenris-wolf is loosed in the world, and the giant serpent surrounding the earth joins his side. It culminates in the death of nearly all the gods and the destruction of the world in flames and floods. It gave me chills. I would love to know how much of the story is colored by Christian interpretations of older material and how much is just eerily similar to the apocalypse story in Revelations. That being said, there are probably only so many ways to have an Armageddon, so maybe the similarities are just natural.
The gods and goddesses and creatures that figure in these myths are definitely interesting, but they largely lack the polish of the creation and apocalypse myths. These are gods that were dreamed up by people who lived pretty darn close to the Arctic Circle before electricity; so logically, they are tough and brutal and just a little scary.
It kills me that people refer to Loki as a “trickster” god. It seems a little inappropriate to equate Loki’s bloody mayhem and maliciousness with schoolboy shenanigans. However, I fully accept that the Vikings and I may have somewhat different senses of humor. Although, considering that the gods did end up tying him to a rock with his son’s intestines so a snake could drip excruciating venom into his face for eternity, perhaps they didn’t find him all that funny either.
Next in line is Thor, who is kind of a jerk. He seems to be unduly popular considering that he’s constantly bashing people’s heads in with his hammer every time he gets a bit cross. Not very gentlemanly, but I suppose I do see the appeal that his temper and easily offended honor might have had to a society centered around warrior culture. His one redeeming moment came after Loki cut off all of Thor’s wife Sif’s pretty hair, and he threatened to break every bone in Loki’s body unless he swore to fix it. I actually found that quite sweet.
Odin is scary, but good. I think it’s the ravens that freak me out, or maybe the pet wolves. I’m also a little creeped out by his valkyries who swoop down and snatch men who have died in battle. On a side note, what an interesting conception of heaven Valhalla is: getting up in the morning, chopping your friends to bits with war-axes, and then sitting down to some serious mead-drinking by breakfast-time, all miraculously healed so you can do it all again tomorrow.
The goddesses were a little difficult to get a handle on, personality-wise. They seem to be less manipulative and horrible than their Greco-Roman counterparts, but that’s about all I could get. Frigg is the queen of the gods, and she sees everyone’s fate but tells no one. Freyja is the Aphrodite of the group, Hel guards the realm of the dead, and Idun possesses the magic that keeps the Æsir eternally young. There are others of course, but the women are just very remote in the stories.
At the very end, and completely unexpected, was the extremely melodramatic story of Sigurd, Gunnar, and Brynhild. I knew that old Wagner got it from somewhere, I just didn’t know it was from here. Ick. It’s not his fault, but Sigurd will only ever make me think of Nazis and bad, loud opera featuring hefty women in horned helmets.
Lots of fun, and definitely more my style than nymphs and satyrs frolicking in meadows.
Wow! Amazing piece of literature. Every time I finish reading one of these for the first time, I feel not as if I have accomplished a task, but been invited across a deep river to a faraway land. In this case, this river is black and icy and the land beyond it filled with Giants and their rocks and the gods in their mead-hall.
The Sigur Rós playlist, fittingly, is on, and we are back in business!
The army-musterer gave mountain-haunting ravens their fill. The raven got full on she-wolf’s prey, and spears rang.
Expectations versus reality. You hear the term bandied about all the time; and while my experience of it (at least in the literature-sphere) might not have been as extreme as some, I feel I’m coming closer to understanding that concept having finished the Edda. I wasn’t expecting to give this such an average rating (medieval Iceland and Norse myth? Sounds like a perfect blend, like those Christmas peppermint hot chocolates they used to do at Starbucks), but things started to go downhill after the story-based Skaldskaparmal devolved into what appeared to be just another ordinary textbook. What saved this one from a lower rating was the first 100 pages or so, and some of those morbidly beautiful poetic descriptions that made me wonder if I could get away with sneaking them into my own writing, since they’re just so perfect for the situation at hand.
Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t actively dislike any part of the Edda - but I did find certain sections far more engaging than others. While the exploits of the Norse gods were the unquestionable favourite, the conversational structure of the Gylfaginning - the tale of a Swedish king named Gylfi, who, disguised as a peasant, is told the mythological history of the world when visiting the residence of three oddly-named kings – and the similar premise of the first part of the Skaldskaparmal were also enjoyable. They worked as effective framing devices for what were in essence just massive info-dumps, and IMO this is what set them above the rest of the book. Underneath, they were ‘textbooks’ like all the rest, but crucially it didn’t feel like I was reading one. Compare this to the Hattatal, which makes no attempt to hide this and is pretty much a list breaking down the key elements of around 100 forms of poetry.
Sticking with the positives for the moment, I felt like Snorri’s Edda gave me a detailed insight into the culture of medieval Scandinavia – heck, I think I even learned a thing or two about the Old Icelandic/Old Norse language while I was at it! The priorities of the age are expressed in the poetry quoted, and it’s probably much like you’d expect – princes and jarls fight to defend their territories, give out rafts of precious things to their retainers, and warriors make a lot of journeys in ships. All of this is expressed via the use of varied kennings – compound metaphorical descriptions that can be confusing at first, but luckily there are plenty of [side notes] in this edition to help you understand just what on Earth a ‘spear-clash-flame-mail-tree’ or the like even is.
Many of these poems are meant to describe dramatic conflicts and praise great rules, but I couldn’t help laughing at some of those kennings. They may be an integral part of the form, but some look so strange to the modern reader that they can end up being unintentionally amusing (see my activity for a couple of examples!)
Now… on to the not so good.
Firstly –let’s face it, I’m not going to remember much of the Hattatal. It might be useful if you want to learn more about Norse literature or have an interest in poetry; however, I’ve always preferred prose narratives, and I just wanted to get it finished by the time I was about ¾ of the way through (I may have speed-read the last 10 pages…). Some of the forms have awesome-sounding names, like ‘ghost-form’ and ‘fox-turns’, but I couldn’t tell you the difference between them. The format quickly becomes repetitive and dull, and all the terminology about syllables and rhyme begins blurring into one. Maybe this wasn’t intended to be read in extended sittings; whatever the reason, it stopped appealing to me shortly after I started it.
Secondly – and lastly – I have a real bone to pick with that Prologue. I think I felt my brain melting at one point because it ended up being so utterly convoluted and confusing. Sure, it started out easy enough, with a discourse on God and Creation, as you might expect from a medieval Christian writer – and then proceeded to blow the space-time continuum to smithereens as Classical, Christian and Norse myth were smashed together in a cosmic melting-pot and the resulting stew slung out onto the page. Warning: geeky rant incoming.
I sat there in disbelief for most of this. I was just so bloody confused. God made the world – fine, I get it. People begin to worship the Earth and forget about God – I got you. There was a city in Turkey called Troy – brownie points for getting this bit of Classical legend right!
…Wait. Now you’re telling me that King Priam had a grandson named Tror, who we call Thor? He married the freaking Sibyl, and Odin is descended from them? They came to Scandinavia from Turkey, and their line ended up being worshipped as deities? The Æsir came from Asia, hence their name?! I… can’t.
I understand that paganism had fallen out of favour with the establishment by this time, but was attempting to connect three different forms of mythology really necessary? I feel I’m being unduly harsh here as I have limited knowledge on the subject, but this really messed with my head.
Overall… I’m chalking my apathy towards sections of the Edda up to personal taste. I loved the crash course in Norse mythology; it’s just a shame things went out of the window further down the line. Still recommended for any Norse or history buff!
Final rating: 3/5 stars. May reread some of it in future.
Bonus: TOLKIEN! I’m pretty sure this is where Tolkien got the names of his dwarves from – Thorin? Dvalin? Gloin? - and it really made me smile to spot the apparent references.
I vecchi miti mi piacciono parecchio. È il motivo per cui, tra le altre cose, sto provando a leggere la Bibbia (sono a Mosé e la consiglio a tutti: è incredibilmente più divertente di quello che ti fanno credere a catechismo... in particolare la storia della torre di Babele, quando Dio creò la facoltà di lingue for the lolz). Però sono interessanti anche le altre mitologie, quella nordica mi ha sempre affasciata parecchio... e dopo Beowulf e i Nibelunghi mi sono sentita pronta per il manuale di istruzioni degli dei. L'unico, piccolo problema è che non sono una grandissima amante della poesia: in linea generale prima vedo se esiste una versione in prosa e a quanto pare nel 1220 tale Snorri Sturluson ha trascritto un bel po' di robina in prosa, appunto.
Perchè "a quanto pare"? Perchè, a dire il vero, quello che mi sono trovata tra le mani è più che altro una specie di saggio sulla mitologia scritto nel 1220, che è figo da morire ma dà un tantino per scontato che la maggior parte dei miti tu li conosca già. E parla anche un po' di metrica. E in quella parte volevo un po' spararmi, perchè anche se capisco l'interesse didattico per uno che parla di poesia otto secoli fa, io non ce l'ho e mi volevo leggere il materiale d'origine. Che adesso possiedo, perchè il canzoniere eddico è arrivata l'altro giorno
La cosa più bella del libro è che comunque ti introduce nel mondo della mitologia nordica: il "protagonista" è Gangleri, fiero possessore di un nome pronunciabile che, trovandosi di fronte a tre figure mitologiche (che credo fosse Odino che trollava ma non ne sono sicura), si mette a fargli un terzo grado notevole per farsi spiegare vita morte e miracoli di tutto il pantheon, con approfondimenti su Asgard, il Valhalla e Ragnarok. Per quello che mi riguarda la mitologia norrena è completamente folle e per questo bellissima, e credo che uno scoiattolo cosmico dovrebbe essere in tutte le religioni. Sì, c'è uno scoiattolo che vive su Yggdrasill e si chiama Ratatoskr. Il suo compito è divertentissimo: in cima all'albero ci sta un'aquila e tra i suoi occhi vive un falco, Veðrfölnir. Sotto l'albero ci sta un serpente, Níðhöggr, e si scambiano costantemente insulti tramite lo scoiattolo.
Ad Asgard tutto ha un nome proprio: sai quando ti dicono che non devi dare un nome sennò ti affezioni? Ecco, credo che sia simbolo della cazzutaggine vichinga il fatto che prima diano nomi alle cose e poi vadano allegramente a farle a pezzi, o a mangiarle, o tutte e due le cose. Persino la caldaia del Valhalla può presentarsi: piacere, Eldhrìmnir. E hanno una capra, Léradhr, da cui mungono birra. Ho anche capito perchè gli dei più conosciuti sono Odino, Thor e Loki: altro che le storie che li vedono protagonisti, come fai a rendere Vafthrùdhnir commercialmente appetibile?
Scherzi a parte, l'Edda fa ben intuire che tipo di società fosse quella che l'ha creata: il mondo è nato letteralmente nel sangue, plasmato dal corpo di un gigante ucciso. La punizione inflitta a Loki è così terribile che finisce per sembrare sproporzionata: ho sempre creduto che stare legato sotto ad un serpente che ti sgocciola acido in faccia fosse abbastanza da incubo, ma sapere che le catene sono le interiora di suo figlio, ammazzato dal fratello trasformato in lupo da Odino proprio perchè sbranasse l'altro... ok, Loki sarà anche stato una merda fino a quel momento, ma inizio a pensare che avesse i suoi motivi per stare dalla parte dei cattivi quando si scatena Ragnarok. Un po' come Hel, Fenrir e Iormungandr: visto che c'è una profezia che sostiene che faranno danno, diamogli un movente nel tentativo di fermarli. Insomma, ottima idea. Magari sarebbero stati malvagi comunque, ma così gli avete reso le cose un tantino facili, cari i miei Æsir. E Odino è il peggior zio del mondo, considerando che usa come destriero da battaglia uno dei suoi nipoti (c'è la storia in cui Loki si trasforma in giumenta e resta incinto/a di uno stallone, anche se credo che nessuno pensasse che sarebbe stato raggiunto davvero... ha senso quando lo leggi).
Però ci sono anche parti molto potenti, come la cronaca dettagliata di Ragnarok, chi morirà come, ed è sempre triste leggere della fine di un mondo, e pensare che questo popolo non concepiva come eterni neanche i loro dei. Non c'è nessuna speranza, perchè non viene descritto un conflitto finale o uin atto di chiusura come può essere la nostra Apocalisse (che è bella inquietante anche quella, eh): qui muoiono tutti. E io non ho potuto fare a meno di pensare... ma quanto era dura la vita di questa gente se anche la religione, che dovrebbe stare lì per dare speranza, forza e spiegare i misteri del mondo, va a finire male?
Lo consiglio? Nì. Per quello che mi riguarda non è la lettura adatta a chi vuole iniziarsi ai miti nordici. Magari ha più senso dopo il canzoniere eddico (vi farò sapere come va, con quello). Ma in definitiva sono molto contenta di averlo letto. E un giorno avrò un pesce rosso di nome Ratatoskr.
I respect the Prose Edda as our main source of Norse mythology. That said, it is not particularly well written, its intention mostly being a lesson in poetry. As a fan of ancient myth and epics, I am the target audience and it did not land. That said, one interesting aspect is the references to Christianity that are shoe-horned into the text. In our time it might seem odd, but people do the same today. Austrian School economists try to explain the fall of Rome as caused by regulation and taxation while feminists and Marxists apply their ideas to eras where the terms feminism and Marxism did not exist. In Snorri's day it just happened to be Christianity.
Another splendid look at Icelandic and Old Norse Literature by UCLA professor Jesse L. Byock, who has become probably the most respected scholar in the area worldwide -- outside of perhaps Iceland.
Here are told all the tales of the Aesir, the Gods Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya -- and the eventual doom that overtakes their world at Ragnarok, when the Fenriswolf and the Midgard Serpent are loosed upon the world tree Yggdrasil.
There is an incredible pathos to Norse mythology. Odin sees and calmly discusses the end of him, the gods, and the world they inhabit.
Snorri Sturluson ve Joseph Campbell'i benzer zamanlarda okumak yaptığım deliliklerden biriydi. İkisi de akademik eserler yazmış ve arka planına hakim olmadığınız konulara denk gelince devasa boşluklarla karşılaşmanıza sebep oluyor. Yine de Viking Mitolojisine dair daha fazla araştırma ve okuma yapmış olduğum için görece daha rahat bir okumaydı. Özellikle şiirsel anlatımları okumak istediğim için bu dönemde önceliklendirdiğim bir kitaptı. İki kitabın çakışmasının sebebi yeni kurgum için yapılan ekstra okumalar arasına girmiş olmalarıydı diyebiliriz. Epey verimli bir okuma oldu. Varlığını korumak istedikleri kültüre şahitlik ederken bir yandan da dinin etkilerini takip edebildiğimiz bir eserdi.
Sadece Kahramanın Sonsuz Yolculuğu ile denk gelmesi veyahut dilin bir tık yabancı olması sebebiyle yer yer zorlanarak okudum. Kapağına vurulduğum bu kitaba dair beni üzen asıl unsursa yazım yanlışlarıyla dolu olması oldu. Umarım ilerleyen baskılarda bu duruma el atmışlardır.
I found the stories easier to follow than The Poetic Edda. Written in a prose style most of it is set out like a dialogue exchange between two people, one is enquiring about a whole assortment of things from how the world was made to who are the gods to why summers are hot compared to winters. My version, downloaded from Gutenberg, has two stories both in the same style, a question and answer format. Where they differ is the questioner, in The Fooling of Gylfe is King Gylfe he ruled lands now known as Sweden. Having heard about wise strangers coming to his land he visits them to discover more about his world. The second story Brage’s Talk is about Brage who speaks to Aeger wanting to know what happened to the asas, two of these are Odin & Loke.
I was impressed how this free book comes with: an introduction, a foreword, an afterword to The Fooling of Gylfe, an afterword to Brage’s Talk, extracts from the Poetical Diction, Notes, Vocabulary, and Index. And I was further impressed how it is formatted well to work on my kindle, where I could jump back and forth easily with working links.
It would be elsewhere I would discover Snorri (also spelt Snorre) Sturluson was an Icelandic poet in the 13thC. Concerned that skald, a poetry form, would become forgotten, Snorri set himself the task to compile and write book. As a book it seems like a religious text but the purpose behind it was to record this poetical form for generations to come. I did struggle to see this connection but accepted that I will grasp this as I continue to read books about and around this subject. For now, I was delighted to note this book describes a connection between the Norse gods, Troy and Aeneas; Robert Graves in The Greek Myths: Vol. 1 and The Greek Myths: Vol. 2 would be the first to confirm to me these old stories are connected.
I was dreading reading this book as I found The Poetic Edda tough, in comparison this was a lot easier. Also, the footnotes in this book references the verses in The Poetic Edda the prose here is describing, enabling me to feel more confident to read The Poetic Edda again.
Vikingler ve İskandinav mitolojisine dair bilinen birçok şey 12.yüzyılda yaşamış olan tarihçi, politikacı, şair ve yazar olan Snorri Sturluson'dan geliyor. Birçok kişi Nesir Edda'nın Sturluson tarafından yazıldığını düşünse de bunun için kesin bir kanıt yoktur. Yine de kendisi Nesir Edda üzerine birçok çalışma yapmış ve emek harcamıştır. Kitabı içindekiler kısmından yararlanarak anlatmaya çalışacağım.
Nesir Edda: Tarihsel Değeri ve Özellikleri kısmında adından da anlaşılacağı gibi Nesir Edda nedir, nasıl yazılmıştır, içinde ne tür şeyler vardır gibi birçok temel sorunun cevabını alıyoruz. Tartışmalara ve bilinmezliklere rağmen kesin olan tek şey Nesir Edda'nın üç parçadan oluştuğudur; Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál ve Háttatal. Bu kısa giriş bölümünde gerçekten tarihi yararlı bilgiler bulunuyor.
Snorri Sturluson ve Nesir Edda'nın Yazarlığı bölümünde Snorri Sturluson'un hayatı ve onun Nesir Edda üzerine olan çalışmalarını öğreniyoruz. Bu kısım da tarihi olarak büyük önem taşıyan bölümlerden.
Önsözden sonra gelen ve Nesir Edda'nın ilk bölümü olan Gylfaginning (Gylfi'nin Aldanışı) Kral Gylfi'nin hayatından başlayıp birçok şeyden bahsediyor. Zamanın en başlangıcından, tanrıların ve 9 diyarın doğuşundan, insanların ve diğer canlıların yaratılışı ve son olarak da her şeyin yok oluşu gibi İskandinav mitolojisine dair bilmeniz gereken birçok bilgi var. Şahsen benim kitapta en çok ilgimi çeken bu bölümdü.
Skáldskaparmál (Şiirsel Söyleyiş) ise İskandinav deniz denizi tanrısı Ægir ile şiir tanrısı olan Bragi ve şiirin doğası üzerine söyleminin bulunduğu bölümdür. Adından da anlaşıldığı gibi bu bölümde birçok karakterin birbirleri arasında diyalog şeklinde şiirsel konuşmaları var. Şiir ve edebi şeyleri seven kişilerin çok seveceği bir bölüm burası.
Nesir Edda'nın son bölümü olan Háttatal (Metreler Kataloğu) bu kitapta bulunmuyor. Kitabın son 20-30 sayfasında ise Kadim Norse Dili Hakkında Kısa Bilgi ve bunun dışında tanrı, tanrıça, yaratık ve yer isimleri hakkında ufak bilgiler bulunuyor. İskandinav mitolojisi ve Vikinglere ilgisi bulunan kişilerin okuması gereken bir kitap. Fakat bu konulara yeni giriş yapıyorsanız Neil Gaiman'ın İskandinav Mitolojisi'ni öneririm.
"Lunga è una notte lunga è la seconda, come posso aspettare per tre? Spesso un mese mi sembrò più breve che questa mezza notte d'attesa."
Non c'è molto da dire sull'Edda di Snorri. È una meravigliosa raccolta di miti norreni. Per gli amanti di Tolkien dovrebbe essere un must. Snorri racconta in modo poetico la mitologia islandese, la nascita degli dèi, le malefatte di Loki, le imprese di Thor. Un bellissimo e imperdibile gioiello di epica.
The prose Edda and its predecessor The Poetic Edda: The Heroic Poems are cornerstones and the only relevant references regarding Germanic mythology (i.e. one of its branches – Norse mythology). In the beginning of my interest for Norse mythology I, by chance, discovered and read this very book, yet in Serbian translation, and in quite abridged manner, for that edition included translations of merely "Gylfaginning" and some legends from "Skaldskaparmal". Now, I finally read the entire Eda and it left me thrilled with the equal zest as with the first-time reading. Moreover, many contemporary authors were inspired by Edda’s texts, and among them my favourite J.R.R. Tolkien in whose literary work one may find a lot of parallels and characters inspired by Edda (dog Garm from Farmer Giles of Ham vs Garm from Hel; drasils from Letters from Father Christmas; Beren vs Carcharoth and Tyr vs Fenrir; Turin vs Glaurung and Sigurd vs Fafnir, Orome and Heimdall, the entire troop of dwarfs etc.). Thus, I always enjoy re-reading these legends from one of the most beautiful among World Mythologies.
Cresciuta con la mitologia greco-romana e i suoi dei bellissimi e immortali, trovarmi di fronte a figure divine storpie e destinate a morire è spiazzante e allo stesso tempo affascinante. Edda è un compendio di molti miti. Questo implica che a volte alcune parti siano descritte in modo troppo veloce; a volte ci sono compendi di nomi che per il lettore moderno hanno poco significato; pure per essere un'opera scritta nel 1220 (parliamone, 800 anni e non sentirli!), è molto scorrevole e, grazie anche all'introduzione e alle note, leggibilissima per un lettore moderno. In più permette di farsi un'idea di quale sia il debito di tanti autori moderni di fantasy a questi racconti antichissimi: dall'anello di Tolkien, all'albero del ciclo di Shannara, all'inverno di George Martin. Certo, ciascun autore ha preso spunto e poi ha sviluppato in modo autonomo storie e vicende, ma un piccolo seme di quei racconti è qui, dentro Edda.
I originally planned on reading Penguin's but I read that it omitted quite a few passages, so I went with this one instead.
Interesting how Snorri explains that the gods were actually humans and that they originated from Troy. As Odin and family migrated north, his offsprings founded many of the mythic germanic dynasties from which many rulers and persons claimed descent. As they reach Scandinavia they lose their 'asiatic' names and start being known by the names the natives call them; Odin, Thor, Baldr, etc.
First part of the book deals with the origin of the gods, the creation, end and rebirth of the world after ragnarok. The second deals with poetry and how to make poetry, the various styles of verse and the many kennings (I love kennings) and ways which you can refer to things, events or people.
Its so hard to rate or review a piece of workings that have influence so much of the world we know today. I almost feel I have no place in rating this when it is of such importance, however I did love this fascinating and very strange piece.
If you're intrigued or want to know more about Norse mythology and its origins, this is the book. The Prose Edda is nearly 800 years old and depicts ancient tales of gods and goddesses of Asgard and others of further worlds. While it is not a book to read for perhaps entertainment, it was fascinating to read where it all originated. There are, however, some gaps in this, so it would not be wise to rely on the Edda for all your Norse knowledge, it, I think, is to be considered a rough basis and a first stepping stone when learning about Norse mythology.