I am a sucker for random facts; just love them! I rarely remember them but hey, I am silly. As part of my random factoid collection, Norse history is pretty awesome. These Vikings came up with insane gods and goddesses and earthly events that make up the backbone of Scandinavian history. When I was learning Icelandic and Icelandic history, there was little online information about this fascinating pagan religion. So why not put together a short guide to Nordic gods and the sagas? Swedes learned Scandinavian history back in grade school but most don’t have a clue about the origination of the Runes and the Gods anymore. Here’s the refresher for your summer soaked brains.
You may be wondering why on earth you should care for Nordic history. As we all know, our Swedish vikings friends inherit their personalities and culture and heritage from somewhere. One somewhere is the world of the gods and goddesses. It is here that women were written into the books as possessing deep powers and respect in society. We must not forgot though, these societies were still very much patriarchal and male oriented.
When your little Swedish boyfriend is quietly sitting by the table drinking coffee without uttering a word, think about where that cultural habit came from.
The Eddur (Eddas)
Most of Norse mythology is based on the Icelandic Eddas, specifically the Prose and Poetic Eddur. Edda is Icelandic for saga and these stories are often to as The Sagas. Snorri Sturluson wrote The Prose Edda in the early 1200s while the Poetic Edda is part of the Codex Regius. The writing time is heavily debated; ranging from 1000s-1180s and has no true authorship. Snorri referred to the Poetic Eddas but it was not until the 1700s did researchers find the Poetic Saga.
Prose Edda is part of the very popular folklore history of Scandinavia. Snorri’s Edda is comprised of three parts: Gylfaginning (The delusion of King Gylfi), Skáldskaparmál (Language of Poetry), and Háttatal (List of verses). It is here that we hear the stories of Odin, Loki, Thor, Freyr and the creation and destruction of Earth. Hopefully you can a little taste, a short summary of the Eddas here.
The Main Norse Gods and Goddesses of Snorra Edda
Gangleri – King Gylfi’s alias while traveling
Thor (Þorr) – The god of thunder and is known in Germanic mythology as well. He is the son of Odin and Jord (mother Earth) and has a wife, Sif.
Baldur – The son of Odin and Frigg. He marries Nanna and they have a son Forsete. He builds one of the most beautiful ships called Hringhorni. However, Baldr often dreams of his own death so his mother Frigg asked all the world’s objects to swear on a vow to never hurt him. Everything agreed except mistletoe. When Loki heard of the news he had an arrow made of mistletoe. While the gods were playing a game of throwing objects at Baldur and him standing infallible, Loki gave the arrow to Höðr, Balder’s blind god brother. With a tip of the arrow, Höðr killed his own brother.
In retaliation, Odin and the giantess Rindr gave birth to the giant Vali and killed Hodr. Baldur was burned upon a pyre on his ship. Nanna also throws herself on the pyre and burns with him. Hyrrokin, a giantess, drove Hringhorni out to the vast sea on her wolf. After Baldur’s death, Hel agreed to release Baldr from the underworld only if all of the world, dead and alive, would weep for him. All did, except Þökk, another giant. As it turns out, Loki was Thokk and for this trick he was punished for eternity.
Freyja – One of the beautiful Norse goddess, Freyja is the daughter of Njord and sister of Freyr. She is the goddess of love, fertility, battle, and death.
Njord– the second mythlogical King of Sweden as told in Heimskringla.
Tyr – Son of Odin and is known as Leavings of the Wolf. He lost his right arm to Fenrir. Tyr lends his names to Tuesday (Tisdag in Swedish) and to the runic letter T.
Æsir – one of the two types of gods, the other being the Vanir. The Aesir comprised of the
major gods and goddesses of Nordic mythology.
Vanir – Part of the two groups of gods (Aesir and Vanir). The Vanir are mainly fertility gods who lived in Vanaheim.
Places, things and Events of the Prose Edda
OldThe Icelandic name for Sweden (thanks to LaughingPuffin for fixing that).
Ragnarök – the series of events where the world is destroyed. It is the end of the world and all the gods.
Asgård – The capital city of the Aesir gods
Vallhalla -The great hall in Asgard; Gangleri appears here to hear the stories of the gods but is ultimately tricked when all the gods and the hall vanishes.
Mjölnir – Thor’s hammer
Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr – The goats that drive Thor’s chariot. Thor can eat the goats, as long as the bones are not damaged, and uses Mjölnir to bring the goats back to life again.
Yggdrasil – The Tree that lays out the Nordic gods’ worlds
1) Asgård – The world of the Æsir; land of the Gods.
2) Vanaheim – The world of the Vanir.
3) Midgardh – The world of men.
4) Jotunheim – The world of the Giants.
5) Svartalfaheim – The world of the Dwarves.
6) Alfheim or Lysalfheim – The world of the Light-Elves.
7) Muspellheim – The world of fire; located in the south and home to the Fire-Giants.
8 ) Niflheim – World of ice and terrible cold; located in the far north and home of the Frost-Giants.
9) Helheim or Niflhel – The world of the dead.
Got something to add??
Have something you want to contribute? This post will continue to expand as I have time to fix it.