The Prose Edda
The most renowned of all works of Scandinavian literature and our most extensive source of Norse mythology
Written in Iceland a century after the close of the Viking Age, The Prose Edda tells ancient stories of the Norse creation epic and recounts the battles that follow as gods, giants, dwarves…
Why read it?
5 authors picked The Prose Edda as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?
For serious readers of Norse mythology, its origins in literature and early culture the Byock translation of the 13th-century text by Snorri Sturluson presents the Viking equivalent of Heroditus’ Histories of the Ancient Greeks and the religious texts of the Abrahamic religions. It’s a thrilling read and forms the basis of all modern versions of Viking legend. I still refer to this, years after first reading it.
This translation, in the ever-reliable Penguin Classics series, is a good introduction to the scholarship of Norse Myth. It contains lots of little facts that the retellers usually omit and has helpful genealogical tables and a discussion of kennings, those tiny riddle-games that the Norse poets liked to play with their audience and that all retellers I know have omitted as too hard. The Prose Edda is as close as English-speaking readers are going to get to the original unless they learn Old Norse.
For those who want to venture further up the river of Old Norse mythlore, the best advice I can give is to first travel to the source. Without the efforts of the thirteenth-century Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturluson, our knowledge and understanding of Norse mythology would be greatly impoverished. His Edda, written in Old Norse in around 1220, was the first systematic attempt to explain the pre-Christian mythology of Scandinavia and northern Europe in a way that would make sense to medieval contemporaries. Written primarily as a handbook for the poets of his own time, Snorri’s portraits of Thor, Odin,…
You can’t have a “Best of Norse Mythology” list without including this groundbreaking tome. Sturlusson was a thirteenth-century Icelander who was one of the first to physically document the Scandinavian myths, whose traditions had been passed down orally. He penned the Edda as a sort of handbook for skaldic poets to use when writing verse. The Edda is considered by many as the most important source for Norse mythology in existence. While conducting research for my series, the Prose Edda became my go-to bible for all things Norse. Every god, every story, every place you can imagine is included in…
This is the primary source for the myths, culled by 13th-century poet Sturluson, and it spans everything from the creation of the Nine Realms to their ultimate destruction during Ragnarök, the twilight of the gods. There is a sense of struggle and doom throughout the saga, interspersed with moments of light relief, and anyone whose exposure to characters such as Thor and Odin comes only from the Marvel movies may be surprised at how dumb and brutish the former is here, and how fierce and forbidding the latter.
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