News from Other Worlds: Studies in Nordic Folklore, Mythology and Culture

By Jenner, Lars | Western Folklore, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

News from Other Worlds: Studies in Nordic Folklore, Mythology and Culture


Jenner, Lars, Western Folklore


News from Other Worlds: Studies in Nordic Folklore, Mythology and Culture. In Honor of John F. Lindow. Edited by Merrill Kaplan and Timothy R.Tangherlini. (Berkeley: North Pinehurst Press, The Wildcat Canyon Advanced Seminars, Occasional Monograph Series, Vol. 1, 2012. Pp. xxvi + 459, tabula gratulatoria, acknowledgements, introduction, photographs, illustrations, notes, references, bibliography of John Lindow's publications, contributors. $40.86 hardcover.)

I have heard through informal channels of communication that John Lindow did not know about the writing and publication of his festschrift until it was actually placed in his hands on the occasion of his 65th birthday and retirement. Along with this top academic tribute from one's colleagues, he also received a very fine acoustic guitar. Tim Tangherlini and Lindow, as I understand it, in addition to being close colleagues, play music in a band together. I do not know the accuracy of any of this, but it makes for a good story.

One might call this book a well-wrought folksong, in that it has wonderful and varied verses while still maintaining a thread throughout, which follows different aspects of Lindow's scholarship and mentoring. The articles are excellent and very up-to-date, presenting the latest scholarship in the field of Nordic folklore, mythology, and culture. Thus, the refrain to this folksong may be: "And John Lindow met us on the way/Yes he did/A cheery friend calling from the Bay."

The monograph contains a useful introduction by the editors, conveying the nature of the studies here presented while also sharing warm details about their friendship with the honorée. The book features nine articles under the rubric "Studies in Old Norse and Nordic Mythology" and nine under "Studies in Folklore, Belief and Culture." All parts of the Nordic region are represented and studies of primary material ranging from antiquity to modernday are included.

I spent some time with this "song" and developed a fondness for many parts of it. Space is limited and does not allow for mention of all the favorites, but I will discuss four in more detail. Merrill Kaplan's "Once More on the Mistletoe" is an elegant revisit of a much-discussed moment in Norse mythology, when favorite son Baldr is killed by a twig of mistletoe, which event is so momentous that it strikes the gods with dumbfounded shock. As we know, this tragedy ushers in the advent of the demise of the gods and the cosmos known in the mythology as ragnarök, or judgment-of-the-powers. Kaplan examines two legal loopholes that are played out in this mythological context to reflect their seriousness in the human world: the age of those permitted to make an oath and the fact that the judicial system had no way of prosecuting the perpetrator of fratricide.

In "Rasmus B. Anderson and Vinland: Mythbreaking and Mythmaking" Ulfar Bragason looks at the career of "the father of Nordic studies in the United States" (134), Rasmus B. …

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