Who were the Norse gods - the mighty AEsyr, led by Odinn, and the mysterious Vanir? In The Norse Myths we meet this passionate and squabbling pantheon, and learn of the mythological cosmos they inhabit. Passages translated from the Old Norse bring this legendary world to life, from the myths…
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There are many books that aim to provide a succinct, coherent introduction to the subject of Norse mythology. Few, however, manage to so with the clarity and authority of Professor Carolyne Larrington’s The Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes. This book deals with all of the critical aspects of the mythos: from Ginnungagap (‘the howling void’) to Ragnarök (‘the doom of the gods’) by way of Yggdrasil the world-tree, the divine families (the Æsir and the Vanir) and the giants who opposed them, as well as the doings of human heroes like Sigurd the Volsung. This…
Carolyne Larrington is Professor of Medieval European Literature at the University of Oxford, and an expert in Old Norse literature. In this succinct introduction to Viking-Age legends, gods and mythical figures, she begins with a discussion of the evidence, revealing how we are able to piece together Norse mythology. She then guides the reader through the major aspects of Norse mythology from the origins of the world to Valhalla, via the complex battles between gods, giants, and heroes. There are handy summaries of the principal characteristics of the major figures discussed in the book, which is well illustrated throughout, with…
You can choose to read this book before or after you've made your way through the primary sources in this list. Larrington, a professor at Oxford, is one of the foremost authorities on Norse mythology living today. What she presents in this book is the fruit of a career's worth of research and consideration, distilled into a readable 200 pages. Not only do her carefully-considered thoughts complement a close reading of the major primary sources, but she provides the necessary background to appreciate how they interlink, and how they are supported by archaeological finds in northern Europe.
Carolyne Larrington takes a different approach to John Lindow. In The Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes, she arranges the myths in a rough chronology. After introducing her sources and the main gods and goddesses, she proceeds from the creation of the world to its destruction at Ragnarok, digressing along the way to explore how the myths defined what it meant to be a hero in the Viking Age.
Larrington’s Norse Myths is gorgeously illustrated and filled with relevant (and beautifully translated) quotations from the medieval texts. Larrington also does an excellent job of placing the Norse…
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