Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Poetic Edda

The Poetic Edda also known as The Elder Edda, is a collection of poems about the Norse gods and mortal heroes. They were compiled by an unknown author in Iceland around 1270 and were based on earlier sources. The poems tell of Thor slaying giants, Brynhild the Valkyrie, Sigurth and Guthrun, The Prophecy of Ragnarok, Loki's taunts, and many more fascinating and moving tales.

I really enjoyed the variety of tales in this collection. There are amusing tales, tales of bravery and betrayal, interesting prophecies, and a dragon. This edition was a good one to read as it has a lot of information that helps the reader understand the context of each poem. There is a really good introduction with decent explanations about the book. Before each poem there is also a brief note that explains what it is about, who the main characters are, and why it is interesting/important. I found these notes helpful for being able to immediately jump into the poem and know what was going on. I think it helped me enjoy them even more. You do not have to read the notes if you do not want to, but I do think it will help readers who are not as familiar with Norse mythology to really understand what is going on.

I had a lot of fun reading these poems. It had been on my list to read for a while, and it was worth reading. I think some of my favourites were: Volupsa--The Prophecy of Ragnarok which is also interesting because Tolkien got some of names for his characters, mostly for dwarves here. Lokasenna--Loki's Taunts, Thrymskvitha--The Theft of Mjollnir, and the many poems of Sigurth and Guthrun. I enjoyed Tolkien's The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, so it was fun to read an original source for his later work. The Grottasongr--The Song of Grotti is about two giant women sold into slavery, and is very interesting. If you enjoy Norse mythology and the Viking Sagas, I highly suggest reading this book. It has a great variety, and some of the tales give us more information about some of the gods through taunts and questions they ask each other.

Here are a couple pictures from my trip to Sweden that go with some of the poems in this book:

This is a reproduction of the Sigurd Rock Carving(so details can be seen easier). It shows Sigurd plunging his sword into Fafner's belly and Sigurd licking his fingers while the birds talk, and then being able to understand them. And Regin with his head cut off.

Petroglyph showing a Valkyrie with a mead horn welcoming a man to Valhalla.

Baptismal font from circa 1200. It depicts Gunnar in the snake pit. 

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