Norse Mythology

The Norse Mythology is a very rich series of sagas, legends, heroes and gods: forming a source of inspiration for many authors, including JRR Tolkein.

The Eddas preserve the original material: myths, legends, stories – not without occasional contradictions .There are two Edda collections: the elder or poetic Edda and the younger or prose Edda Edda – both have been translated into English from Old Norse. The poetic Edda is quite fragmentary in many places – I suggest reading the poetic Edda translation by Henry Bellows. The prose Edda is much better preserved – and makes more satisfying reading – a good prose Edda translation by Arthur Brodeur is available online, although downloading Anderson’s translation of the prose Edda is also worthwhile: Anderson provides an excellent summary in his preface of the “major contours” of Norse mythological story.

The original legends have, of course, been reworked and retold many times: sometimes with superb results. These include:

  • Matthew Arnold, in his excellent Balder Dead. (Available for download from Gutenberg.)
  • Asgard by Nigel Frith – an interesting novel retelling the events presaging Ragnarok: focusing upon the death of Balder. (Interestingly, Frith chooses to forego describing Ragnarok itself – nor does he emphasise the new heavens and new earth that will be governed post Ragnarok by Balder – newly released from Hell. I think this a pity: I have no doubt Frith could have described the Ragnarok battle excellently…)

Thor

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