The Poetic Edda: The Mythological Sagas Of Iceland

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The Mythological Poems Of The Poetic Edda Explore The Wisdom Of The Gods And Giants

 

The Poetic Edda are the oral literature of Iceland, which were finally written down from 1000 to 1300 C.E.  It is a collection of 34 Icelandic poems, interspersed with prose. Collected by an unidentified Icelander, probably during the twelfth or thirteenth century, The Poetic Edda was rediscovered in Iceland in the seventeenth century by Danish scholars.

The Poetic Edda comprises a treasure trove of mythic and spiritual verse holding an important place in Nordic culture, literature, and heritage. Its tales of strife and death form a repository, in poetic form, of Norse mythology and heroic lore.  They include  vivid descriptions of the emotional states of the protagonists, Gods and heroes alike. Women play a prominent role in the Eddic age, and many of them are delineated as skilled warriors.

The mythological poems explore the wisdom of the gods and giants, narrating the adventures of the god Thor against the hostile giants and the gods’ rivalries amongst themselves. The heroic poems trace the exploits of the hero Helgi and his valkyrie bride, the tragic tale of Sigurd and Brynhild’s doomed love, and the terrible drama of Sigurd’s widow Gudrun and her children.

The Eddas are a primary source for our knowledge of ancient Norse pagan beliefs.  Many of the poems predate the conversion of Scandinavia to Christianity, allowing us to glimpse the pagan beliefs of the North.

The impact of these sagas from a sparsely inhabited rocky island in the middle of the Atlantic on world culture is wide-ranging. Wagners’ operas are largely based on incidents from the Edda, via the Niebelungenlied. J.R.R. Tolkien also plundered the Eddas for atmosphere, plot material and the names of many characters in the Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings. — John Bruno Hare

 

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