Prime EddaAuthor Snorri Sturluson –

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 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 sir 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 my style than nymphs and satyrs frolicking in meadows. 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 interested in the subject and medieval literature generally There simply isn t enough extant, well preserved material to satisfy the desire to know everything, 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 technical sections of the instruction In the Sk ldskaparm l, 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 H ttatal, 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 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 Sk ldskaparm l, but not H ttatal 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 Sk ldskaparm l I pray the high souled WarderOf earth to hear the OceanOf the Cliff of Dwarves, my verses Hear, Earl, the Gore of Kvasir Now the original Hugst ran bi ek heyra,heyr, jarl, Kvasis dreyra,foldar v r fyr afjar leggjar 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 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 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. What Was The Beginning, Or How Did Things Start What Was There BeforeThe 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 RingsThis 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 Viking mitolojisine merakl ysan z mutlaka okuman z gereken kitap budur. The Sigur R s 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 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 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 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 sir 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. Did you know that all the Norse gods sir are descended from Priam of Troy, and therefore from Zeus himself Did you know apparently the Icelandic authors of the Viking myths are actually Plato disguised to continue his sick addiction to one sided interrogation for infodump If you did not, this book is for you Magnifique somme r unie par L Aube des Peuples Une plong e dans l univers trange et familier des vieilles l gendes norroises, qui semblent encore ce jour d une tonnante actualit. Snorri Sturluson r digea cette Edda ces vieilles l gendes norroises au d but du XIIIe si cle, alors que son pays, l Islande, tait depuis longtemps convertie au christianisme Snorri aborde donc de biais ce panorama du polyth isme scandinave En effet, son livre est avant tout un trait de po tique ou de rh torique la Skaldskaparmal, par exemple, recense une s rie de tournures, vocables, m taphores, p riphrases les fameuses kenningar qui ont tant fascin Borges en usage dans l art des scaldes On y apprend notamment diff rentes mani res 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, exprim ici travers les joutes oratoires du r cit cadre, ouvrent cependant sur les vastes narrations mythiques de l ancien paganisme norrois On d couvre d abord dans la premi re partie la Gylfaginning quel fut l origine du monde, avec le d membrement du g ant Ymir de son cerveau furent cr s tous les nuages cruels et l apparition des premi res races Ases, Elfes, nains, trolls Puis, les lieux ou objets l gendaires le char du soleil, Bifrost le pont entre la terre et le ciel, la terre de Midgard et la forteresse d Asgard, Yggdrasil le fr ne du monde, pr s duquel vivent les Nornes, etc Viennent ensuite les dynasties des dieux qui demeurent dans la Valhalle Odin l il crev et au cheval huit pieds, Frigg son pouse, Thor au marteau invincible, Freyia la d esse aux chats, Idunn la gardienne des pommes de jouvence, et surtout Loki le rus La Gylfaginning se termine sur les aventures de Thor affrontant le g ant Skrymir, le roi Utgarda Loki, puis le serpent de Midgard, pour finir sur la description de Ragnar k, le cr puscule des dieux, le loup Fenrir d vorant les astres et l incendie du monde.La deuxi me partie la Skaldskaparmal poursuit ce catalogue mythologique travers le r cit des exploits du h ros Sigurd, vainqueur du g ant Fafnir L gendes norroises qui conna tront un d veloppement ult rieur, travers les r cits germaniques du h ros Siegfried, recueillis dans La Chanson des Nibelungen Snorri, quant lui, se lancera, apr s l Edda, dans sa monumentale Heimskringla ou Histoire des rois de Norv ge.Quoi qu il en soit, il est tr s frappant de voir combien ces vieilles l gendes norroises ont inspir notre culture contemporaine depuis plusieurs d cennies Sans parler videmment de l influence massive de ces r cits sur l op ra de Richard Wagner, en particulier son Ring des Nibelungen voir notamment Gylfaginning, chapitre 42, et la quasi totalit 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 copi s du quatorzi me chapitre de la Gylfaginning il suffit enfin de regarder les innombrables s ries, BDs, jeux vid os ou romans de fantasy par exemple, le r cent Norse Mythology de Neil Gaiman commercialis s ces derni res ann es, pour se convaincre que tous ont une dette immense envers le scalde islandais. AcknowledgementsIntroduction NotesFurther ReadingNote on the TranslationMap The Geographical World of the EddaThe Prose Edda Prologue Gylfaginning The Deluding of Gylfi Skaldskaparmal Poetic Diction Mythic and Legendary Tales Poetic References from Skaldskaparmal Translated by Russell Poole Appendices 1 The Norse Cosmos and the World Tree2 The Language of the Skalds Kennings and Heiti 3 Eddic Poems Used as Sources in Gylfaginning Genealogical TablesNotesGlossary of Names 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.