Friday, November 11, 2011

Essential Classics: the Eddas

They are the basic sources of our knowledge about Viking mythology, and there are two of them, readily available in English translations.

The Poetic (Elder) Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems, mythological, apocalyptic and heroic.  It's the older of the two, and the poets are anonymous and unknown.  Read it closely, and find the names of Tolkien's dwarves!

The Prose (Younger) Edda is the work of the medieval Icelandic poet (and historian and politician) Snorri Sturluson. It is a how-to manual for skalds and includes in one of its sections, the "Tricking of Gylfi", our best prose source for Norse myth.

Stop reading bad summaries written for kids -- go to the source today!


  1. What about the Helekava? If i remember correctly, isn't it a divergence from the Eddas?

  2. Hmmn, not sure what you mean. There is a Lay of Helgi in two parts, called the Helgakvida (sorry, don't know how to make the "eth" character here), which is included in the Elder Edda.

    You might also be thinking of the Kalevala, the national mytho-heroic poem of Finland, collected and published by Elias Lonnrot? I very nearly blogged about the Kalevala today instead of the Eddas, and will do so maybe next time. The stories in the Kalevala are distinct from Norse myth, but from the same part of the world and very cool...