Sagas & Sea-Kings
Sigurd the Volsung ·
The Northern World ·
the dawn of time there was a great
void in the centre of the world. This
abyss was Ginnunga-gap, and was
cloaked in perpetual twilight. To its
north was the realm of Nifl-heim -
the source of mist and darkness, and
also an eternal spring from which all
other rivers flowed ...
[In the Beginning]
The Northern World
The Eddas. The great corpus of Scandinavian mythology is contained in the two
volumes called the Eddas. The Elder or Poetic Edda
as we know it was compiled in the thirteenth century in Iceland,
but some of its tales (at least) date back to the period of the early
German migrations. The Poetic Edda is also known as
Saemond's Edda (Edda Sæmundar).
The Younger or Prose Edda (Snorra Edda)was
written by Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) around 1230. Its
two parts are Gylfaginning, an introduction
Norse myths for poets, and Skaldskaparmal, a history
The Sagas. Sagas are prose
tales of kings, warriors, poets, and explorers; some are historical
chronicles, some are pure fiction, and some (in the way of
much medieval literature) partake of both fact and fiction.
The sagas are without doubt Iceland's most important contribution to world literature. They are
medieval prose narrative, abounding in paradox and iron. Violence is abundant, but the style is
subdued. Heroism is praised, but moderation is more highly prized. Much is said of fate, but the
complex characters seem to control their own destinies. The world of the saga is pagan, but its sentiment
is humanitarian. [Antti Lahelma, Icelandic
One of the best-known sagas is Heimskringla, a history
of the kings of Sweden and Norway, also written by Snorri Sturluson.
Early Scandinavian literature, prose or poetry, is rich in
heroic tales of kings, elves, seeresses,
explorers, dwarves, magic-wielders and sword-bearers; its
influence colors much of the imaginative literature of the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries. Here is our introduction to this magical world.
Tales and Essays
from the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, at D. L. Ashliman's
Folklore and Mythology
The Ash Tree
in Indo-European Culture. Explore the origins of Yggdrasil, the world-tree,
in this fascinating essay by Darl J. Dumont, from Mankind Quarterly,
The Eddas and Sagas
Introduction to the Works of Snorri Sturluson for young people, in
or The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway by Snorri Sturluson,
a text based on the 1844 Samuel Laing translation,
at the Online Medieval and Classical Library at Berkeley.
Ása: Norse Mythology Source Texts
includes the Elder or Poetic Edda, The Younger or Prose Edda, and other
texts in English translation.
for Old Norse literature at
The Prose Edda, translated by
Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (1916), electronic text from the
Internet Sacred Text Archive.
OLDNORSENET "provide[s] a
forum for discussion of problems that concern the medieval
Scandinavian and North Atlantic societies ... open for
contributions from researchers in all branches of
medieval studies concerning the Nordic area." Their Discussion
Archive is available to the public.
Norse and Germanic Mythology
Chapter 38 of Bulfinch's Mythology. New!
List of Norse Beings at Nicole Cherry's
Mythology page at CalTech.
Legends, and Sagas by D. L. Ashliman at the University of
A Family Tree
of the Norse Gods, part of Scott T.S. Trimble's Scandinavian
Scandinavian Mythology FAQ.
the Rune Typology Project "computerizing the runic inscriptions at the
Historic Museum in Bergen."
Fantasy and Philology
Tolkien and Iceland: The Philology of Envy,
a lecture by Tom Shippey at the Sigurður Nordal Institute
at the University of Iceland. "It is very easy now for us to forget or to underestimate the impact which
Old Norse literature had on the learned world as it was rediscovered,
from Icelandic sources, between the seventeenth and the nineteenth
centuries..." New !
Philology and Fantasy Before Tolkien by
Andrew Wann, also at the Sigurður Nordal Institute,
explores the saga-influenced novels of Ernest Ruckert Eddison.
"Eddison is an intriguing 'Before Tolkien' phenomenon.
His sequence of three clearly interconnected 1920s books helps us to
recognise two basic points about pre-Tolkien British novelistic
responses to Icelandic medieval literary tradition: firstly, that
there was a vigorous 'pre-Tolkien' tradition of such responses, and,
secondly, that this tradition often had a strong philological underpinning."
Notes on the Illustrations ·
16 June 2004