The Poetic Edda: Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes
Why this book?
The stories of the Norse gods and heroes were passed down orally in long, traditional poems during the Viking Age. While none of these were written down before the conversion, linguistic evidence suggests that the roughly 30 poems contained in the Poetic Edda--written down in the 1200s in Iceland--were mostly composed before 1000, and thus represent the closest remaining thing to an undiluted source from the Viking Age. Here we read ancient and enigmatic poems of the creation of the realms and the ultimate death of the gods, such as Vǫluspá and Vafþrúðnismál. There are humorous tales of the exploits of Thor, such as Þrymskviða and Hymiskviða, and poems in which the bickering gods insult each other, such as Lokasenna and Hárbarðsljóð. Hávamál, the poem of Odin's wisdom, is here, and a revised and improved translation appears in The Wanderer's Hávamál alongside the Old Norse original. But the Poetic Edda is more than the stories of the gods; the Norse had their own pantheon of legendary heroes, especially the Volsungs, who populate half of the Poetic Edda with their tragic cursed exploits. The lives of the Volsungs are thoroughly tangled with the calculating designs of Odin and are also told in a streamlined format in The Saga of the Volsungs (below).