the home of the eddic poems

The home of the Eddic poems

Written by Sophus Bugge

About this book

Genre: Folklore, History
Year of first publication: 1899

The Norwegian original of the The home of the Eddic poems forms the Second Series of Sophus Bugge’s Studies on the Origin of the Scandinavian Stories of Gods and Heroes, of which the First Series appeared at Christiania in 1881-1889.

The First Series refrained from investigating the general foundation of the heathen religion of Scandinavia, and made no effort to determine where Scandinavian mythological ideas, taken as a whole, had their origin, or to decide whether these ideas were known to all classes of society. The object was rather to throw light on certain of the most important of the Old Norse (Norwegian-Icelandic) myths preserved in the so-called Elder (or poetic) Edda, and in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda.

The foundations of the heathen Scandinavian religion were laid in primitive Germanic times. Near kinship between Scandinavian and other Germanic peoples reveals itself in numerous conceptions regarding the whole mythological world, and in names connected with these conceptions — e.g., Hel; the abode of the dead, Urðr (A.S. Wyrd), who controls the fate of mortals, dlfar (elves), risar (giants), jgtnar (giants), dvergar (dwarfs), vættir (wights), etc., etc.

Many of the gods worshipped among the Scandinavians were known and worshipped likewise among the West-Germanic peoples — particularly the chief gods, like Odin, Frigg, Thor, Tyr, but still others as well. The different Germanic peoples ascribed to these several gods, to some extent, the same activity and attributes; they placed some of them in the same relations to one another, and associated not a few closely related stories with their names. But in the First Series of the Studies it has been strongly emphasised that we find in the two Edda-collections whole series of names of gods and giants unknown to German and English races; and that in these collections there is a very large number of stories and conceptions which cannot have arisen under primitive Germanic conditions of culture. The history of the world, for instance, is narrated in mythological language in a way entirely unknown to the early Germanic races. We cannot but marvel at the conception of life revealed in these poems, with its profound ethical seriousness, power of will, and love of battle; at the poets’ description of character, playing with rough humour over the deep abyss; at the comprehensiveness of the mythological symbols; at the skill and power with which has been constructed out of varied and complex elements a grand, unified drama of the world.

(This description is largely based on Sophus Bugge’s introduction from The Home of the Eddic Poems: With Especial Reference to the Helgi-Lays)

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