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COLORADO / Scandinavian / SCAN 3202 / Why do we need to know norse mythology to understand norse poetry?

Why do we need to know norse mythology to understand norse poetry?

Why do we need to know norse mythology to understand norse poetry?


School: University of Colorado at Boulder
Department: Scandinavian
Course: Old Norse Mythology
Professor: Avedan raggio
Term: Spring 2017
Tags: odin, Ymir, and OriginStories
Cost: 25
Name: SCAN 3202 Week 2 Notes
Description: This upload includes the week 2 notes for Old Norse Mythology.
Uploaded: 01/30/2017
5 Pages 30 Views 7 Unlocks

Old Norse Mythology, Week 2 Notes

Why do we need to know norse mythology to understand norse poetry?

January, 23, 2017 (Week 2, Meeting 1)

Poetry and Mythology 

Snorri and Poetry

Wrote the Snorri Edda

∙ Poetry and prestige

∙ Well-crafted versions of events

o “words of praise that live forever”

∙ Skalds, Icelandic art

∙ Difficult Skaldic poetry supplanted by prose (because skaldic was so hard) ∙ “textbook” Prose Edda

o Gylfaginning: the tricking of Gylf

o Skaldskaparmal: the language of poetry

o Hattatal: list of verse-forms

Why do we need to know Norse Mythology to understand Norse poetry? Kennings

Why we must understand mythology to understand norse poetry?

∙ Norse and Anglo-Saxon poetic device

∙ Compound word metaphor, circumlocution

∙ Often mythological

∙ Examples… We also discuss several other topics like What is wavelength is affected by motion?

o Whale-road: the ocean (I traveled the whale-road to the ends of  Iceland…)

o Battle-sweat: blood (Many men drown in battle-sweat during these  wars)

o Wound-digger: a sword

o Feeding the Eagles: Dying in Battle

o Wolf’s father: Loki (because he father’s the wolf Fenrir)

o Sif’s Hair: Gold (because Loki took all of Sif’s hair and made her new  hair of gold)

What is the meaning of snorri's euhemerism?

o Baldr’s bane: mistletoe (Baldr was killed by a twig of Mistletoe) o Ymir’s skull: the sky (refers to the beginning of the cosmos)

o Slayer of Giants: Thor

o Wolf’s joint: the wrist

∙ This is why we must understand mythology to understand Norse poetry, and  Snorri’s Edda helps you to do this We also discuss several other topics like Does the first amendment apply to state governments?

o Sail-road: ocean

o Ring giver: King

o Forest of Oaks: warriors

o Freyja’s tears: gold (again)

o Destroyers of raven’s hunger: warriors

o Scabbard- icicles: swords

Conceptual Framework

∙ Context/organization/frame of reference we use to make sense of  information

o Time Periods (The Viking Age – people of the time weren’t living in the  Viking Age, this is a title given to the period later to contextualize it) o Economics, “supply” vs. “demand” If you want to learn more check out How many atoms are in the periodic table?

o National Borders (invisible lines, imposed and not natural)

o Sociology/anthropology

∙ Frameworks = imposed from the outside, not intrinsic (we will not know  what our time period will be called…)

∙ Useful but not absolute (Ex. When did the Roman Empire end? With  Christianity becoming the recognized religion or with any of the many  sackings of Rome?)


 ∙      The process by which mythological events are re-interpreted to have been historical evets, and mythological figures have been mortal  humans 

∙ Snorri, and others, did this in an attempt to (sometimes) respectfully explain  Pagan material but not compromise his own Christianity

∙ Supposes that myths are exaggerated with retellings, remarkable people  become gods

∙ Have you done this? (smaller scale) If you want to learn more check out What does daily value mean?

o Idealizing the past

o This is similar to “ret-conning” (retroactive continuity) – when you add  context or information to change the interpretation (Ex. Star Wars  changed Han vs. Grito scene to make Han look more heroic in the  remaster 90s version of the movie)

∙ Why does this happen?

o You want to add more legitimacy to your ideas, so perhaps you  exaggerate signifcance of people

o Snorri was sucking up to Kings of his time; he Euhemorised Norse  Mythology so that it ft with the Christian World View. But then he made these Gods great men and kings to compare his Kings to them and  suck up to them

Snorri’s Euhemerism (This is Snorri making the Gods into men)

∙ Genesis of the Norse (as told by Snorri): In Troy (Turkey), grandson of Priam  Tror  Thor

o Story began in Troy for legitimacy

∙ 18 generation later: Odin (and Trig)

o They leave Troy to follow a prophecy which states if they go to the  North, they will be praised

o Echoes the values of the Viking AgeIf you want to learn more check out What governments did colonists establish in 1620?

∙ Every country they passed through, they gained more Kingdoms and glory  and seemed Gods

∙ Establishes Kings in Scandinavia

o Kings cam claim divinity

Framework witin Snorra Edda

∙ Snorri writing as 13th c Icelander

∙ Snorri’s Euhemerism (prologue) explains contradictions between Pagan and  Christian Norse

∙ Snorri states King Gylf contemporary to euhemerized Odin

∙ Euhemerized Odin (in the prologue) =/= Mythological Odin (Odin was a man,  so he was historical and not comparable to “the God”) We also discuss several other topics like What makes a crime a crime?

∙ Snorri writes down what King Gylf learned from High, Just-as-high and Third  about pagan Norse myths (Snorri is using Gylfi as the narrator in  Gylfaginning)

***The euhemerizing is ONLY IN THE PROLOGUE to the Edda, just so Snorri can tell  his Christian audience, “I know who God is! The people I am writing about, the  Pagans and their God’s, did not, but I still will write about them because they are  interesting.” 

Why does King Gylifo go to ask questions? 

Why does hToday we talked aboute assume a new name, Ganglieri? Dialog between Gylf and 3 Kings: 

 1. What kinds of questions does Gylf ask? 

 2. Are they always quick to reply? 

January 25, 2017

Story Time…

Gefun the Aesir  Oxen (her 4 sons) plow  King Gylf  Zealand (Copenhagen; West of Denmark)

Norse Cosmology, Mythic Time 

Quick Note: Identifed Kennings in this week’s readings

∙ Snorri’s Edda – “eight brow-stars” = eight eyes

King Gylfi

∙ Remember, in the prologue of Snorri’s Edda, Snorri euhemerizes the Pagan  Gods and the mythology (here Gylfi, is a historical figure/king)

∙ In the mythology, Gylfi is a narrator, a vessel for Snorri to get his  information on mythology out

∙ Kind of miffed about Gefun’s land gain, Gylf goes north to the Aesir ∙ Disguised as Gangleri (which is seen through Prophecy by the Aesir, so he’s  fooling no one)

o Gangleri wished to fnd out if there was any “learned” person there… this is a challenge of whit and knowledge 

o “High said he would not get out unscathed unless he were more  learned” – If you don’t know more than us, you will be  

hurt/punished in some way

∙ Gangleri meets 3 kings and challenges them: High, Just-As-High, and Third 

What kinds of questions did Gangleri ask? 

Gangleri asks about the Gods but also asks about Genesis and the Beginning of  all things  

Gangleri asks, “what was there in the beginning”

∙ First, they say, there was the world of Muspelheim  all ash and fre in the  south (and later all who could live there were the fre giants and Surtr) ∙ There was also Niflheim

∙ Between the two (dichotomy’s) was Ginnunga-gap

o Frost of Nifheim met with heat of Muspelheim

o Out of the ice Ymir, the father of all giants (including the giant Surtr) o Sweated out a male and female from his armpits

o His legs also mate

∙ Next there was the cow Audhumla  she produced milk to sustain Ymir ∙ Audhumla licks the ice and reveals Buri (the frst Aesir) 

o Buri begets Bor  Bor marries Bestla  their sons were Odin, Vili, and  Ve

Creation of the Earth

∙     First conflict between Gods and Giants: Vili, Ve, and Odin kill Ymir o His blood drowns most of the frost giants (except one, Bergelmir, who  escapes on an ark with his family)

∙ Ymir’s body the land, bones the mountains, blood the sea, skull the  sky

∙ Giants separated from us (humans) by the blood sea

∙ Fortress of Midgard from Ymir’s eyelashes

First Man and Woman

∙ Pieces of Driftwood became the frst man and woman, Ask and Embla  ∙ Given life by Bor’s sons

o 1st (odin?) Life and breath

o 2nd (Vili?) Consciousness and movement

o 3rd (Ve?) Face, speech, sight, and hearing

∙ Given realm beneath Midgard

Mythic Time

There are several ways to view time. But…

∙ Linear (is what we’re most used to) vs. Cyclic chronology (what we see in  Norse mythology)

o Cyclic – based on ages (ex. golden age) which repeats after a while (in  a cycle!); idea that fate cannot be changed

∙ Snorri describes cyclic Norse Myths through his linear Christian understanding o This creates confusion and contradiction (this is ok, to see  

contradictions as long as we understand them and why theyre there) ∙ Mythic Past: Ginnungagap, Ymir and Audhumla, creation of the world ∙ Mythic Present: Stories about the Gods (where we will mostly be talking  about)

o We can do some relative dating  

 Odin myths towards the beginning, Baldr’s death towards the  end (because this is a pre-cursor to Ragnorak)

∙ Mythic Future: Ranorak (doom of the Gods), new Gold Age

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