Norse Mythology

Norse mythology refers to the ancient religions of peoples who lived in Germany and Scandinavia. Like most ancient peoples, they believed in a pantheon of gods who fought among each other but were generally benevolent to the people when they were pleased with them.

Followers of Norse mythology believed that there were four worlds: Asgard, the world of the gods; Midgard, the world of the humans; Utgard, the world of the giants; and Helheimr, the world of the dead, located within Niflheimr. These worlds were connected by Yggdrasil, the world tree, which had Asgard at the top. Dwelling in Asgard were Odin, the chief Norse god, and also the Einherjar, who were the souls of the world's greatest warriors.

Odin, also known as Wuotan or Woden, was considered the highest and most holy god of the Northern races. He was the personification of air, as well as the god of universal wisdom and victory, and also the protector of princes and heroes. In Norse mythology, all the other gods were descended from him. He dwelt in Asgard, which was not only the throne of his power but was also a watchtower; from it, he could see the entire world and was able to observe the activities of the other gods, as well as the giants, elves, dwarfs and men.

Odin is normally represented as being tall, about 50 years old, bald, with a long gray beard. He normally wears grey with a blue hood. Odin carries his spear Gungnir, which possesses a tip that is unbreakable. He also wears the ring Draupnir, which is the most precious item in all Norse mythology and also a symbol of fruitfulness. When Odin sits on his throne, he usually wears his eagle helmet, but when he walks in Midgard among humans, he wears a low broad-brimmed hat to conceal the fact that he has only one eye.

Another one of Norse's most famous deities was Thor, also known as Donar, who was the son of Odin and either Jord/Erda or Frigga, the queen of the gods, depending on the interpretation. He was very large and strong at birth but also had a quick temper. However, his foster parents Vingnir and Hlora helped bring his temper under control. Once Thor was fully grown, he was allowed into Asgard with the other gods and took his place in one of the 12 seats of their judgment hall. He also dwelt in the palace Bilskirnir, which he built himself. Thor was represented as a man in the prime of his life -- tall, with muscles, red hair and a beard that represented his quick temper. Thor was the god of thunder and his weapon of choice was his famous hammer called Miolnir that he used against his enemies, the frost giants. The hammer always returned to him no matter how far he threw it. In Norway, he was considered the primary god, but in other Norse countries, he was always the second of the primary triad after Odin. Thor is the most well-known of the Norse gods as he is also a comic book character.

The final god in the primary triad of Norse mythology was Loki. In some interpretations, Loki was the brother of Odin, and in others, he was not. Loki began as a god, but eventually, he became the devil and was a deceiver, although he played an important part in the creation of man as he gave humans the gifts of motion and passion. Loki was often seen as a counterpart to Thor; he was the embodiment of recreation to Thor's embodiment of work and the god of lightning to Thor's thunder. He was also presented as beautiful, which allowed him to become friends with the other gods. Loki was also considered the god of fire, and the hearth in the home became associated with him. Loki was married three times, and his children included Hel, goddess of death, the Midgard snake Iörmungandr that encircled the world of the humans and the wolf Fenris. Loki was feared by the Norse people, and there are no temples or records of sacrifices made to him.

Norse Mythology: Selected full-text books and articles

FREE! Myths of the Northern Lands By H. A. Guerber American Book Company, 1895
Poems of the Elder Edda By Patricia Terry University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990 (Revised edition)
Librarian's tip: These are translations of The Elder Edda (The Poetic Edda), which tell Norse mythology
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
From Olympus to Camelot: The World of European Mythology By David Leeming Oxford University Press, 2003
Librarian's tip: Norse mythology is discussed in Chap. 6 "Germanic Mythology"
The Mythology of All Races By Hartley Burr Alexander Cooper Square Publishers, vol.10, 1964
Librarian's tip: Chap. I "The Far North"
FREE! The Classic Myths in English Literature and in Art By Charles Mills Gayley Ginn, 1911
Librarian's tip: Chap. XXVII "Myths of the Norse Gods" and Chap. XXVIII "Myths of Norse and Old German Heroes"
An Introduction to Scandinavian Literature: From the Earliest Time to Our Day By Elias Bredsdorff; Brita Mortensen; Ronald Popperwell Ejnar Munksgaard, 1951
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "Old Norse Literature"
Old Norse Images of Women By Jenny Jochens University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996
Northern Dawn - Auroras Inspire Folk Mythology By Egeland, Alv The World and I, Vol. 15, No. 11, November 2000
The Extreme Emotional Life of Volundr the Elf By Jakobsson, Armann Scandinavian Studies, Vol. 78, No. 3, Fall 2006
Baldrs Draumar and the Generic Turn By Malm, Mats Scandinavian Studies, Vol. 76, No. 1, Spring 2004
Cross-Dressing in the Poetic Edda Mic Muno AEsiv Avgan Kalla By Frankki, James Scandinavian Studies, Vol. 84, No. 4, Winter 2012
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