Norse Mythology: Description and Features

This essay is written for English 503 and the subject is Norse Mythology. The main sources of our knowledge about Norse Mythology are from the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. Edda is Icelandic for saga and these stories are often to as The Sagas. The Prose Edda was written by Snorri Sturluson from Iceland around the year 1200. Snorri begins the prologue of the book where he explains his understanding of the origin of heathen science. Prose Edda itself is based on belief in the old Nordic gods or heathen, and recounts and explains the faith of men before they were Christian.

The book is divided into three main parts, but they are called the Gylfaginning, Skaldskaparmal and Hattatal. In the first section, Gylfaginning (The delusion of King Gylfi) is about the gods and their roles in the world. In addition, will explain how the world and everything in it, was created and the end and what will come after it was destroyed. In the Skaldskaparmal (Language of Poetry) are stories that explain the theory and name, which can be used in place of fiction in everyday words.

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Hattatal (list of verses) is a collection of ancient poetry which allows us to understand the ancient poetry and the ancient mythology. Prose Edda constitutes our main source of information on ancient mythology. She however, was originally written as a textbook in fiction and served the next few centuries a major role in this field. The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems found in the Icelandic medieval manuscript Codex Regius. The author of the Poetic Edda is unknown. The Norse Mythology relates to heroes and kings, and also supernatural creatures.

Norse Mythology is as popular as ever. JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth saga is stuffed with Norse inspiration and takes the whole thing to a whole new dimension. Viking age is the early age when people believed in the old Nordic gods. They were gods of the settlers and their influence of some vanished after Christianity was enacted here in 1000th in Iceland. Heathen has remained the nation to this day and is and has survived as long as other religions. In this essay I will write about the three most famous gods in Norse Mythology and their world.

In Norse mythology there are nine worlds: Asgard, where the gods live – Midgard, the world of humans – Alfheimr, world of the elves, – Svartalfaheim, world of black elves – Vanaheimr, world of the vanir – Muspellheim, world of fire – Jotunheimr, the world of mesomorph (jotnar) – Niflheim, world of those who die from sickness or age and Hel controls it. All of these worlds are connected by Yggdrasil. Two types of elves live in heaven. Light elves live in Alfheimr, they are the bright colors and very cute. Dark Elves live in the ground, and they are black and are bad creatures.

Here the Greek and Roman mythology had exerted some influences in the Norse myths. Snorri Sturluson, the Icelandic author who wrote the Prose Edda and the Ynglinga Saga, compared Asgard with that of Troy, from the Greek myths. Snorri said that Asgard was a city in Asaland or Asaheim, in Asia (Asia Minor, or modern Anatolian Turkey). Norse, Greek, and Roman mythology are not all that different. All mythologies of the world share common themes, such as the creation, the transfer of powers to new gods, a flood that kills a lot of the human population, and the end of the earth to name a few.

Those are broad themes. More specific stories in mythologies are influenced by the culture of the people who believed in these myths and the ways they thought. The reason Roman and Greek mythologies are really similar is because the Greeks had settled in parts of Italy. The only entrance to Asgard was through the “Rainbow Bridge” called Bifrost. The red arc in the rainbow is actually burning fire, so to make the bridge impassable for mountain-giants and frost-giants. The responsibility of guarding the entrance was entrusted to Heimdall. Heimdall’s home was called Himinbiorg, and it was built near Bifrost.

Norse Mythology is a strange world; it’s differed from other mythology, in that their characters and world, even in Asgard, are grave and solemn. This may all be due to the fact, even though the gods are immortal, they will be destroyed in the final battle between good and evil. Odin is the most powerful of them all and he is the warrior god, he rules Asgard. Odin carried many names and it is believed that he has around 169 names. Odin speaks in constitutional matters and feeds exclusively on whine, all the food he gives his wolves. He can transform himself in all creatures, and he can make positions and magic.

He was the son of Bor and Bestla. Bestla was a Jotun woman. He created the world and the mankind with his two brothers, Vili and Ve. His wife is Frigg; she is the most powerful goddess. Together they had the sons Balder and Hod. His son Balder was said to be the best and every one vowed him. He marries Nanna and they have a son Forsete. He builds one of the most beautiful ships called Hringhorni. However, Balder often dreams of his own death so his mother Frigg asked all the world’s objects to swear on a vow to never hurt him. Everything agreed except mistletoe.

When Loki heard of the news he had an arrow made of mistletoe. While the gods were playing a game of throwing objects at Baldur and him standing infallible, Loki gave the arrow to Hod, Balder’s blind god brother. With a tip of the arrow, Hod killed his own brother. Here you can see that Loki is an evil person. Odin has two ravens beside him, Huginn and Muninn; they are identified as Odin’s mind and soul. Odin lives in Valhalla and owns a horse which has eight legs, his name is Sleipnir. Odin was known to be a ladies’ man and had three sons outside of marriage; he was also known to be a poet.

He had a golden ring that could multiply into eight other rings, there we can see similarities with the story The lord of the rings after John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, in the book there is one ring who rules them all and together they are nine rings, three were given to the elves, nine to the humans and seven to the dwarfs but there was one that ruled them all witch is very similar to Odin’s ring because it was one that multiplied. Also all of the dwarfs names in the lord of the ring they come from prophecy of the seeress in Snorri’s Prose Edda.

Odin only has one eye because he gave it away for a drink from Mimir‘s magic well. It was told that Mimir was the wisest of them all and it was told that anyone who would drink from the well would gain the wisdom of Mimir. Odin was desperate to get wiser and powerful so he returned his eye for a drink from the well. He was now known for being the wisest god of them all and the one with one eye (Norse Mythology, 2010). Odin is related with various other gods in Indo-European religions. For Greeks, it is Zeus. Together, they should be attributed to destroy.

Both have unfaithful wives, what shows up best in that they have many children with other women, although Zeus has more. Both gods are highly migratory and often hiding behind pseudonyms and disguise. Thor is the strongest one, he is son of Odin. He is also known in German mythology as well. He is married to Sif, she is known for her hair was made from gold. Thor had red hair and a beard and he was known to be ill tempered. He rides in a chariot which is pulled by two goats, Thor eats them every night, throwing bones on their skin and every morning, they recover their legs.

He is called the thunder god because every time he rode his chariot the wheels would make noises and it made strong sparks around the sky like thunder and lightning’s. Thor owned a hammer named Mjollnir, he could hit any target but it always came back to him afterwards. Thor was constantly fighting the Jotuns, the giants. Thor had a magical belt in his possession. It certainly came in handy when he was fighting with the giants. Thor had one daughter with Sif who was named Trud and she was sweet and strong, he also had one son with Frigg whose name was Modi.

Outside of marriage Thor had a child with his mistress who was a jotun woman, the child was given the name Magni (meaning strong). The name of Thursday comes from Thor. Loki is the ‘‘trickster“, he lives in Asgard but his father Farbauti is a mesomorph and his mother is a giant whom was called Laufey. He is a god or jotunn (or both) and there are no sign of that he was worshiped. He was described as handsome and iniquitous. Loki had the ability to transform himself into other beings, including animals like salmon, seal, fly, horse and more. He gave three awful children to a troll called Angurboda.

The oldest one is the Midgard worm, he lives around Midgard, the other one is a wolf named Fenriswolf and they had one daughter who is Hel and she controls Niflheim (the underworld). His wife is Sigyn whom had two sons with, she is very loyal to him. He is the evil one and he is always playing tricks on the other gods but every time they find out he really gets it back worse. Loki is truly the most scandalous God of all time. Gods realized who was behind Baldur’s death and Loki fled on a mountain where he kept hidden often in a shape of a salmon.

Loki was in a shape like a salmon when Thor captured him. After Loki had been captured, he was tied with the guts of his own son and the gods placed a snake above his head and the poison dripped on his head. His wife Sigyn sat by him and held a basin above his head where the poison would drop in. But when Sigyn needed to empty the basin the poison would drop on Loki’s head and then Loki rocked so much that it was called earthquakes whenever this happened. When Ragnarok happens, Loki will fight with the jotuns not the gods and he fought against Heimdall and killed him.

Askur Yggdrasil the tree of life, all roots lead to the three main worlds: Asgard, Midgard and the netherworld. It’s their sacred place where they have meetings every day. Yggdrasil is the longest tree in all the worlds and it is very thick. At the bottom of the tree is a hall and there are three witches whose name are Urdur, Verdandi and Skuld (which means debt in English), they decide when people are going to pass on. (Silja A?alsteinsdottir 1992: 22) At the very top of the tree an eagle resided. By the roots of the tree the serpent named Nidhogg lingered.

The eagle and the serpent were enemies; a squirrel named Ratatosk was always running up and the tree. Every time Nidhogg made an insult about the eagle, Ratatosk would hurry up to the top of the tree and tell eagle what Nidhogg had said. The eagle always spoke badly about Nidhogg. Ratatosk just loved to gossip, which was the reason why the eagle and the serpent remained constant enemies. Around the three of Yggdrasil, four harts who are pasturing, they represent beauty and harmony. Ragnarok is the final battle between the gods and the Jotuns (giants). The word Ragnarok means literally the end of gods.

The last battle will take place on the plains called Vigrid. It’s the doom of gods and the end of the world. The murder of Balder, son of Odin and Frigg, is the first indication of the upcoming Ragnarok. Three succession hard winters that last three years with no summer between, is another warning that Ragnarok is emerging. During these three years wars and evil will rule the world. People will suffer. These three continuous winters are called the Fimbulwinter. The Midgard worm, Jormungand will squirm violently causing enormous waves to come crashing towards land.

This will be his attempt to ascend the shores of land. The stars will disappear, Yggdrasil, the tree of life will groan and shake. Odin will fight the Fenrir Wolf son of Loki. Odin will lose his last battle. The Fenrir Wolf will swallow Odin. His destiny was to be killed by the wolf and he knew it. Vidar, the son of Odin will take revenge on his father’s murderer. Vidar will kick the Fenrir wolf with a frightful force. He will kill the wolf. This is possible because Vidar had the strongest boots ever made from all the leather leftover scraps from the human world.

Thor will fight the Midgard worm, Jormungand son of Loki. Thor will kill the worm. He will only be able to take nine steps after killing the Midgard worm before he falls dead to the ground. The venom from the Midgard worm will kill him. A jotun will set fire to the worlds. Asgard will become an inferno. During Ragnarok gods, humans, dwarfs and giants will die. Those gods who survive are sons of Odin and Thor. Norse Mythology is very interesting topic and I found it very amusing to write and read about. I have been learning about the subject for over a year at school in the subject Icelandic 203 and 303.

Norse Mythology has always made me wonder about the things that people believed and believe nowadays, it seems like they have an answer to everything that makes the world as what it is. Norse Mythology teaches us about our history and culture and how life was in Iceland these early days. Many authors and filmmakers have used Norse mythology as a subject in their work but it is very differential how they use it. I have seen similarities in many movies and episodes. The Norse Mythology is something that I recommend people should read and study because it gives us a whole new perspective of the world and life in general.

References:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norse_mythology retrieved 2010-11-02 2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loki retrieved 2010-11-04
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin retrieved 2010-11-05
4. http://www.mythicalrealm.com/legends.thor.html retrieved 2010-11-05 5. http://www.norse-mythology.com retrieved 2010-11-28
6. Silja Aðalsteinsdóttir. 1992. “Orð af Orði”. Reykjavík. Mál og menning.

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