Did some Norse mythology get lost over time? Cos sometimes there is a lot of info on certain gods, but others barely have anything about them. Which is a shame because some of them sound really interesting.
Short answer: oh, yeah, there’s no telling how much was lost.
Long answer: Everything we know about Norse mythology is largely relegated to two books (as you may already know since you always ask such nice nifty questions); Snorra Edda or the Prose/Younger Edda written by Snorri Sturluson circa 1220, and the Poetic or Elder Edda (sometimes referred to in older scholarship as Sæmundur’s Edda) written by an anonymous scirbe. We’ve gleaned information about worship practices from the sagas and from early scholars like Adam of Bremen and Ibn Fadlan, and there are mythical portions in many sagas and late rímur poems as well, but the general rule of thumb is: if it contradicts the Eddas, it may not be trustworthy, and if the Eddas give no mention of the subject, take it with a grain of salt. For instance, I’m currently working on a rímur poem called “Lokrur”, which hasn’t been translated into English yet (my time is now lmao), which details the popular Snorra Edda story of Þór and Útarða-Loki, but in poetry. There are several kennings (formal poetic allusions) in there for Loki that aren´t found in Snorri´s þulur, a list of thing-to-call-the-gods for poetic purposes, one of them being ´ Oðinn´s thrall´. We don´t have a myth about Loki as Odin’s slave, so this cannot be verified through the Eddas: it is, however, a kenning found in several other rímur poems, so we can at least infer that it was a known kenning and that, if the poems were written by different scribes (which may not even be the case), that it was a well-understood kenning for Loki.
But how much was lost? How much don’t we know? We will never know the full extent of how much more stuff, in terms of mythological content, there was , other than what we have today. But we have clues as to certain topics and items that should be in our possession but aren’t. For instance, as you mentioned, many of the gods and goddesses have very little written about them. In most cases– such as the goddesses Snorri lists in his Edda, those who he describes largely as “lovely” or “fair”– the popular theory holds that by the time Snorri (a Christian) was writing about the myths, many tidbits of knowledge had already been lost, and so what Snorri really means by calling all the goddesses pretty is that he doesn’t know a thing about them. Likewise, in his Edda, Snorri quotes snippets of Eddic poetry to give examples of names and stories about different mythological figures, and many of these poems have never been found in completion: Snorri’s little verses are the only parts that have been preserved. And perhaps the most notable absence from the canon is that of the Great Lacuna. The Poetic Edda is preserved mainly in four manuscripts: the Codex Regius (here in Iceland), the Codex Wormianus (in Copenhagen), the Codex Uppsaliensis (Uppsala), and the Codex Trajectinus (Utrecht, Netherlands). Each of these manuscripts provides different insights into the poems of the Edda, and no one manuscript holds a complete set of the poems. The Codex Regius, however, is considered the most complete collection of poems. The Great Lacuna is a gap of eight missing pages between Sigrdrífumál and Brot af Sigurðarkviðu in the Codex Regius. It contains part of the end of the first poem and the beginning of the second. We can only stipulate, through the version of the story in prose in Völsunga Saga, what was contained in those pages, but the gap could´ve contained more information on the runes and their magic use (as that´s what Sigurdrífa is talking about before the poem abruptly ends). Long story short: we have no clue what we lost there. The Codex Regius is very small, just about the size of your average paperback, and is made up of 45 vellum pages crammed with as much writing as was humanly possible: the margins are virtually nonexistent and the scribe heavily abbreviates words, leaving more space for more writing. So: those eight pages could have had tons of great stuff on them, but we´ll never know. And why were the pages taken out? We´ll never know that either. Maybe an angry monk found it later and decided what was in there was so scandalous it should never be read by Christian eyes. Maybe it ended up in some farmhouse here in Iceland for a while and somebody used those pages as toilet paper. We just don´t know.
But that doesn´t mean we should give up! There´s always research to be done and connections to be made. :)
Völuspá (Prophecy of the Volva, Prophecy of the Seeress) is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva or seeress addressing Odin. It is one of the most important primary sources for the study of Norse mythology. The poem is preserved whole in the Codex Regius and Hauksbók manuscripts while parts of it are quoted in the Prose Edda. This is James Allen Chisholm’s English translation.
1. I bid a hearing from all holy wights, the greater and lesser of Heimdall’s children. It is your wish, Valfather, that I speak the old spells of the world, the earliest I can recall.
2. I recall the children of Ettins, who, in the days of yore, brought me to life. I recall the nine worlds, the nine steads, of the Glorious Meting Wood, beneath the ground.
3. It was in the earliest times that Ymir dwelled. Neither sand nor sea, nor cold waves, nor earth were to be found. There was neither heaven above, nor grass anywhere, there was nothing but Ginnungagap.
4. Soon Bur’s sons heaved up the earth. They shaped Midgard, the earth. The sun shone from the south on the stones of the stead, and green leeks grew from the ground.
5. From the south the sun, companion of the moon, threw her right hand across the edge of the world The sun did not know what hall it had. The stars did not know what stead they had. The moon did not know what main it had.
6. All the Regin went to the doom chair, the Ginn Holy Gods mooted over this. They gave names to night and the new moons, they named midday, mid afternoon, and early evening, to reckon the years.
7. The Aesir met on Ida Vale. High they timbered hof and harrow, they founded forges and smithied, they shaped tongs and wrought tools.
8. They played tables in the garth and were blissful. None of them lacked gold, until three maidens came from the Thurses. Their might was awesome, they came from Ettinhome.
9. Then all the Regin went to the doom chair. They held moot to say who should shape the Drighten of the dwarves from Brim’s blood, from Blain’s bones.
10. There was Motsognir, the greatest in speech of all the dwarves. But Durinn was second. These dwarves made many man-like-bodies out of the earth as Durinn had asked.
11. Nyr and Nithi, North and South, East and West, Allthief, Entranced, Nar and Nain, Nithing, Dain Bifor, Bofor, Bombur, Nari, An, and Anarr, Oinn and Meadvolf.
12. Veig and Gand-Elf, Windelf, Thorinn, Thror and Thrainn, Thekk, Lit and Vit, Nar and Nyrath, Reginn and Rathsvith. Now are the dwarves rightly listed.
13. Fili, Kili, Fundinn, Nali, Hepti, Vili, Hanarr, Sviurr, Billing, Bruni, Bild and Buri Frar, Hornbori, Fraeg and Loni, Aurvang, Jari, and Oakenshield.
14. I speak of the dwarves in Dvalinn’s host to tell of their kind down to Lofar, of those who sought the abode of Aurvang at Jorovallar from the stone of the hall.
15. Draupnir was there, and also Dolgthrasir, Har, Haugsthori, Hievang, Gloi, Dori, Ori, Duf, Andvari Scirvir, Virvir, Skafith, and Ai.
16. Alf and Yngvi and Eikenskjaldi, Fjalarr and Frosti, Finn and Ginhar. The long line of down to Lofar will be known while men live.
17. From the host came three, mighty and powerful Aesir, to coast. There they found an ash and an elm of little might, and lacking orlog.
18. They had neither breath nor wit nor life hue nor manner nor good looks. Odin gave them the breath of life, Hoenir gave them wod, Lothur gave them life and good looks.
19. I know an ash that stands, called Yggdrasil, a tall tree, wet with white dews, dews dripping down into the dales. Ever green it stands over Urth’s well.
20. From there come three maidens, deep in lore, from the water that stands under the tree. One is called Urth, the other Verthandi, the third Skuld. Scores they carved, laws they laid, lives they chose. They worked Orlog for the sons of men.
21. I recall the first battle in the world. There they stabbed Gullveig with spears, and burned her in Har’s hall. Thrice she was burned, thrice she was born. It happened often, and yet she lives.
22. She is called Heith, who comes to houses, the far seeing spae woman. The wise volva knew gand magic, she understood seith. She played with minds by her seith. She was always dear to evil women.
23. Then all the Regin went to the doom chair. The Ginn Holy Gods held moot as to whether the Aesir should pay tribute or whether all the gods should have a wassail.
24. Odin sped a shot into the host. That was the first battle in the world. The board wall was broken, the fortification of the Ases. The fighting Vanes trod the battlefield
25. Then all the Regin went to the doom chair. The Ginn Holy Gods held moot over he who blended the sky with poison and gave Oth’s woman to the tribe of Ettins.
26. Thor was then swollen with rage against the foe. He seldom sits when he hears of such. Oaths were broken, then word and oath, powerful pacts made between them.
27. She knows where Heimdall’s hearing is hidden under the holy sky scraping tree. Over it flow the watery falls from Valfather’s pledge. Do you want to know more, or what?
28. She sat out, all alone, there, where the old one came, the awesome Ase looked in her eye. “What do you ask of me? Why test me? I know well, Odin, where your eye is hidden— in the water of Mimir’s well. Mimir drinks mead each morning from Valfather’s pledge. Do you want to know more, or what?”
29. Herrfather dealt her rings and a necklace to have her spells of spae and spae magic. She sees widely over each of the worlds.
30. She sees valkyries coming from afar, ready to ride to the Gothic host. Skuld held a shield, and Skogul another. There were also Gunnr, Hild, Gondol and Geirskogul. Now Herjan’s maidens are listed, valkyries ready to ride over the earth.
31. I saw Baldr, the bloodied God, son of Odin, his orlog hidden. It stood and grew, high among the trees, slender and fair, the mistletoe teinn.
32. What seemed glorious when on the boughs turned to a deadly dart when Hoth made his cast. Baldr’s brother was soon born. When only one year old, Odin’s son got vengeance
33. He never washed his hands nor combed his hair, until he had born Baldr’s foe to the pyre. Frigg wept in Fensalir for Valhalla’s woe. Would you know more, or what?
34. Then Vali wound war fetters. They were real strong bonds made of guts.
35. She saw one lying in bonds, in the grove of kettles. It was the hated form of guileful Loki. Sigyn sits there, sad by her husband. Do you want to know more, or what?
36. A stream of saxes and swords flows from the east through Poison-Dales. It is called Slith.
37. A golden hall stood in the North on the vales of Nitha, it was the dwelling of the tribe of Sindra. Another stood on Okaini, it was the beer hall of the Ettin Brim.
38. She saw a hall stand, quite far from the sun, on Nastrond. The doors face north, drops of venom fall in through the smoke hole. The hall is wound with the spines of snakes.
39. She saw there oath breakers and murderers, wading the swift stream. There were also those who deceived the female advisers of others. Nithogg sucks dead bodies there, and the warg rips men apart. Do you want to know more, or what?
40. The old one sat in the Iron-woods in the east and raised the brood of Fenrir. The worst one of them all, shall take the sun in the shape of a troll.
41. He fills himself on the flesh of dead men, reddens the seat of the gods with gore. The sun turned swarthy in the following summers. The weather grew entirely shifty. Do you want to know more, or what?
42. He sat on a howe hill strumming a harp. He was the herdsman of a giantess, he was the glad Eggther. The fair red cock called Fjalar sang to him from the gallows tree.
43. Gullinkambi sang for the Ases. He wakes the heroes of Warfather. But another sings beneath the earth, a soot red cock in the halls of Hel.
44. Garm bays loudly before Gnipa-Cave. The bonds are sheared and he runs hungry. I know much lore, yet see even more, of Ragnarok and the powerful victory Tivar.
45. Brothers shall battle one another and fight to the death. Sister’s sons bring ruin on their sib. There is hardness on the world and great whoredom An axe age, a sword age, shields are cloven. A wind age, a warg age, before the world falls, no man will spare the other.
46. Mim’s sons play. The Meter will be set alight. Heimdall blows loudly on old Gjallarhorn with the horn aloft. Odin speaks with Mim’s head.
47. Yggdrasil, the standing ash, is shaking. The old tree howls, the Ettin is loose. All who walk the Hel-roads are terrified, right before the kin of Surt swallow it.
48. How fare the Ases, how fare the elves? All of Ettinhome is in an uproar. The Aesir met in things. The dwarves groaned before stone gates, masters of the mountain walls. So do you want to know more, or what?
49. Garm bays loudly before Gnipa-cave. The bonds are sheared and he runs hungry. She knows much lore, but I see more of Ragnarok and the powerful victory Tivar.
50. Hrym fares from the east, bearing a linden board. The worm Jormungand is engulfed by an ettin rage and churns the waves. The eagle screams and its pale beak is cutting corpses. Naglfar is loose.
51. The ship fares from the East. The folk of Muspell come over the sea, with Loki steering. Kinsmen of fools fare with Freki, Beylast’s brother
52. Surt fares from the south with the bane of branches. The sun of the slaughter Tivar shines from his sword. Crags shake, and fiends reel. Heroes walk the Hel-road. Heaven is cloven.
53. Another sort of grief comes to Hlin when Odin fares to fight the wolf and the illustrious Bane of Beli to battle with Surt. Frigg’s lover will then fall.
54. Then comes the mighty son of Victory-father, Vithar, to vie with the deadly beast. He struck the heart of Hvethrung’s son and so his father was avenged.
55. The fierce jaws of the earth encircling worm gaped from the hills at the holy sky. Then Odin´s son meets the worm, Vithar’s kinsman slays the warg.
56. Then came the mighty son of Hloth (the earth). Odin’s son strode to fight against the wolf. In rage Midgard’s ward dropped him. All heroes shall leave the homestead. Fjorgyn’s son strode nine steps back from the serpent, not worried about fame.
57. The sun turned dark, and the land sank into the sea The bright stars fell from heaven. Steam and fire ferment. Flames leap high to heaven itself.
58. Garm bays loudly before Gnipa-cave. The bonds are sheared and he runs hungry. She knows much lore, but I see more about Ragnarok and the Powerful Victory Tivar.
59. She sees another rise up, earth from the ocean, all agreen. Torrents flow and the eagle flies above scanning the fells and hunting fish.
60. The Aesir meet in Ida-Vale and talk of the mighty Midgard worm, recalling the mighty doom and Fimbulty’s ancient runes.
61. They will again find the wondrous gold chess pieces in the grass, those they had owned in the days of yore.
62. The unsown acres will then grow. Evil will turn better, Baldr will return. Both Baldr and Hoth shall live in Hropt’s victory hall, the work of the gods. Do you want to know more, or what?
63. Hoenir will then handle the lot wood, his brother’s two sons will live there in the wide wind home. Do you want to know more, or what?
64. She sees a hall, standing fairer than the sun, thatched with gold in Gimle. There the worthy drightens shall dwell, forever in happiness.
65. Then comes the strong one, to the doom of the gods, the awesome one from above who rules all.
66. The dark drake comes flying, the flashing viper from under Nitha-Fells She sees Nithogg carrying corpses in his feathers as he flies over the valley. Now she shall sink down.
I've been trying to find information on Loki's kids (mainly Hel) but I'm coming up with different reports depending on where I go. Is there any actual record of things like which order they were born in, whether some of them lived with Angraboda (or however you spell it), their involvement with Ragnarok, etc?
I can’t make a list of everything like I did with this Sigyn post because there are just too many little shreds of information about this subject. Depending on what you’ve found and where you’e been looking, some of the conflicting information you’ve found might actually conflict in Old Norse literature, for example regarding the roles of Nar(f)i and Váli (they switch places depending on the whether you’re reading Lokasenna or Gylfaginning, or Váli isn’t mentioned at all – the oldest sources are silent regarding him, while Nar(f)i appears in very old skáldic poetry).
While the study of Vǫluspá and ragnarök in general is very complicated with huge tomes written in attempt to explain it, one idea that seems to have enjoyed a high level of acceptance among scholars is that it was composed in a mixed heathen/Christian environment and was influenced by Christian Armageddon, so that pre-existing heathen elements have been heavily reinterpreted, resulting in some lack of correspondence between the poem and older sources like skáldic poetry. For this, see “Völuspá and the Feast of Easter” by John McKinnell, available for download here.
Snorri, of course, used Vǫluspá to write his Edda, and tried further to explain things that were confusing or mentioned only briefly, so that introduces more opportunity for late reinterpretation.
According to Snorri (Gylfaginning, “About Loki’s Children and the binding of Fenrisúlfr,” chapter 34 in the edition I’m using), all three of Fenrisúlfr, Miðgarðsormr, and Hel were being raised in Jǫtunheimar before the other gods found out about them:
Enn átti Loki fleiri börn. Angrboða hét gýgr í Jötunheimum. Við henni gat Loki þrjú börn. Eitt var Fenrisúlfr, annat Jörmungandr, þat er Miðgarðsormr, þriðja er Hel. En er goðin vissu til, at þessi þrjú systkin fæddust upp í Jötunheimum…
‘Though Loki had more children. There was a gýgr (giantess and/or trollwoman) named Angrboða in Jǫtunheimar. Loki had three children with her. One was Fenrisúlfr, the second Jǫrmungandr, that is Miðgarðsormr, the third is Hel. But when the gods learned that these three siblings were being raised in Jǫtunheimar…’
(Note that Jǫtunheimar is plural, so it is not at all clear that this is a single, cohesive world).
As this is the only passage that describes their youth, there is no description of the order in which they were born unless they are given in order here (note that the phrasing does not necessarily imply this, though it is a possibility). The kinship of Loki, Hel, Fenrisúlfr, Nar(f)i, Býleistr, and Fárbauti are supported by the poetry of Þjóðólfr ór Hvini from the 9th century demonstrating that these connections are extremely old. The first reference to Miðgarðsormr as a member of this family that I can find is from Þórsdrápa by Eilífr Goðrúnarson around 1000. Angrboða is not mentioned until Hyndluljóð and Snorri’s Edda.
Ragnarök is described in Vǫluspá and Snorri’s Edda. I won’t rehash it here but you can find it here for example (starts page 79, page 214 of the PDF). Hel is not described participating in ragnarök(kr) but the inhabitants of Helheimr (heljar sinnar) will be led into battle by Loki according to Snorri (but Loki steers the ship from Muspellsheimr in Vǫluspá). The Codex Regius version of Vǫluspá describes Þórr fighting against a wolf, but ulf is probably just an error for orm ‘serpent’ since Miðgarðsormr is also described shortly before.
Fenrisúlfr’s role in Ragnarök, both as the one who will swallow Óðinn and either as the one or the father of the one who will swallow the sun, is by far the most supported by separate, independent attestations. For example, Vafþrúðnismál: “Ulfr gleypa mun Aldaföðr” (‘The wolf will swallow Aldafǫðr [Óðinn]’); Hákonarmál: “Mun óbundinn á ýta sjǫt Fenrisulfr of fara” (‘Fenrisúlfr will go unbound over the world of men’); and images carved in stone depicting a wolf swallowing a man (likely Óðinn); the Gosforth Cross depicts what is believed to be either Fenrisúlfr swallowing Óðinn or Víðarr pulling his jaws apart.
The sources give slightly mixed messages regarding Miðgarðsormr. There may have been a tradition wherein Þórr’s fishing trip is the only actual encounter between the two, represented in the poem Húsdrápa by Úlfr Uggason. Snorri even seems to account for this when, in Gylfaginning, Hárr says: “ok segja menn, at hann lysti af honum höfuðit við hrönnunum, en ek hygg hitt vera þér satt at segja, at Miðgarðsormr lifir enn ok liggr í umsjá” (‘and men say that he struck his head off into the waves, but I think otherwise is true, that Miðgarðsormr lives yet and lives on unharmed’). There is reason to believe that Þórr’s actual defeating of Miðgarðsormr during the fishing trip was itself a deviation from an original where he escapes. For more on Miðgarðsormr generally and especially his role during the fishing trip, see this post: http://fuckyeahnorsemythology.tumblr.com/post/118441814072/what-is-known-about-jormungandr-for-a-being-that
Regarding Hel in old sources, the word Hel is mentioned very frequently in extremely brief euphemistic phrases for death, and it can be very difficult to differentiate references to the goddess from references to the place (otherwise Helheimr in order to differentiate). This has led to some scholars declaring that Hel was never a goddess in heathen times but was later personified from what was originally just a euphemism for the grave. I have a great deal of difficulty with this theory unless “late development” is defined as “during the first half of the Viking age”, since she is clearly a distinct being as early as the above-mentioned Þjóðólfr’s Ynglingatal, wherein she is called mær Loka ‘Loki’s maiden (daughter)’, jódís Ulfs ok Narfa, ‘Stallion-dís of the wolf and Narfi’, and others. It is true that all of these are used to refer to someone’s death; nonetheless this would be impossible without an audience that recognized Hel as an individual member of a family.
Lesson 9b - Literature and the Sagas, Part II: Snorri Sturluson and the Edda.
Komið þið sæl,
Note: [If you have not done so already, check out last week’s lesson, which was Part I of this lesson series. Visit “Viking History” on my blog to view all of the lessons.]
This week we will continue our discussion of Viking Age related literature by entering the realm of the Edda and Eddic poetry. We will start by discussing an important Icelander named Snorri Sturluson, discussing the literature that has preserved much of our mythological material.
What is an “Edda”?
The Poetic Edda
Snorri Sturluson (d. 1241)
Snorri Sturluson was a prominent member of a powerful Icelandic family, the Sturlungs. He was an impressive person, being a lawyer, diplomat, poet, and also a scholar. He married up into wealth and literacy, working his way up. His prose writings are sprinkled with court poems and eddic poems that complement and complete them. His two major works are Heimskringla(a History of the Kings of Norway) and the Prose Edda. Without his knowledge and efforts, we would know much less about norse mythology and legends surrounding many notable figures of the Viking world. Although his texts are coated with popular legend and new ideals, his works retain a valuable historical memory. Despite his and Iceland’s transition to a new, Christian world, he was able to protect his traditions from being lost to time.
This view of Snorri and his accomplishments can be related to all saga authors and their writing. The sagas are all history that is intertwined with legends and drama. That does not make them useless, but rather valuable in a different sense. Many give Snorri a bad reputation, but in the end, his only goal was to emphasize the greatness of his people’s past in the eyes of a new kingdom. This was perhaps the goal for all saga writers.
Disclaimer: This is my half-assed translation attempt and is not intended to be painstakingly accurate or replace actually reading the texts. I’m going more for the gist of things. Obviously, there’s going to be personal bias in the interpretations.
A very long introduction to norse mythology, with all the appropriate background information. This article is 3 pages long, so I’ve place it under a cut.
I highly recommend this for people who are new to mythological study in general, and norse mythology in particular. It gives the history of the eddic corpus, answers basic questions about the sources, and attempts to prepare the reader to properly understand most of the scholarly sources regarding mythology.
I’ve tried to make this article as easy to follow as possible, but my tone tends to be rather academic. I hope you all enjoy it.
The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic medieval manuscript Codex Regius. It is the most important storehouse of Germanic Mythology. The poems within the Poetic Edda predate the time of the pen and have been preserved through oral tradition for most of their existence.
You list Thor as one of the aspects of The One's Champion. Would Ronan or Peach be able to wield Mjolnir? Or perhaps would just about any uncorrupted wizard be able to seeing as The Oath is a noble, worthy purpose that's an essential part of them?
Well, first let’s be clear that we are here dealing with a new-myth-overlaid-on-old-myth situation.
In the original Norse myths — specifically the material in the Poetic / Elder Edda and the Prose / Younger Edda — there’s no question that Mjollnir is a very special weapon. It was created on a dare, after Loki had commissioned the two master-craftsman sons of the dwarf Ivaldi to make replacement golden hair for Sif. (As a practical joke, Loki had cut all Sif’s hair off.) They also forged the indestructible spear Gungnir for Odin, and for Freyr they made the magical ship Skidbladnir, which could be folded up and put in Freyr’s pocket.
For reasons best known to himself, Loki then sought out a couple more dwarf-craftsmen named Brokk and Eiti, and bet them his head that they couldn’t make three more wonderful things than the sons of Ivaldi had made. Brokk and Eiti immediately got busy proving Loki wrong.
First they made (built? engineered? created? pick your verb…) the boar Gullinbursti, which had bristles of gold (hence the name) that glowed bright enough to light up the night. Gullinbursti could run faster than any horse, as well as being able to fly through the air and run on water. Loki, in the shape of a fly, and with what Gods only know in mind — besides making them fail in their task so that he could keep his head — kept buzzing around and biting the dwarfs and trying to interfere with the process of Gullinbursti’s creation, but failed.
Eiti and Brokk then forged the gold ring called Draupnir, which magically “dropped” eight other rings
exactly like it every nine nights. (I think the word being translated
here as “ring” indicates “arm ring”, so this means fairly significant
quantities of gold appearing out of nowhere every week and a half or so.
Unquestionably a useful thing for any pantheon to have lying around.)
then started work on a great iron hammer that would be “the most
powerful weapon in the world”. The Eddaic explanation of what this
implies simply states that the hammer would hit whatever it was swung at
or thrown at, and that if thrown it would always return to the
thrower’s hand. Useful, especially on the battlefield. Because Loki had been buzzing around again and stung Brokk right between the eyes while he was forging Mjollnir, the hammer came out “a little short in the handle”, but that was its only imperfection.
gifts were then carried together to Asgard and were the subject of a
kind of committee meeting where they were assigned to their new owners
and judged as to which one was best. The vote came down in favor of
Mjollnir, which was deemed to give the Gods the best chance of
prevailing over the various hostile giants at Ragnarok. And it made
sense to give this peerless weapon to the strongest of the Gods, so it
was assigned to Thor.
Note that there’s no mention whatsoever of
the bearer/user-must-be-worthy trope here. Which is just as well, as
otherwise the whole “Theft of Mjollnir” story told in the Thrymskvitha
could never have happened. The poem tells us in its first stanza that
“Thor woke up and his hammer was missing” — from the bedside table, one
gathers — “and he went bugfuck.” (Well, that’s how I’m translating vreiðr today.)
Actually it should be more like this:
Thor went bugfuck when he woke up | and found that mighty Mjolnir was missing:
he tore his beard and his hair stood on end | as the Hurler searched everywhere for his hammer.
First thing he said was: “Listen up, Loki, | Mjolnir’s missing, it’s nowhere in heaven:
Nor on Earth either, nobody has seen it. | Mjolnir the mighty has somehow been stolen!”
now we get Loki borrowing Freyja’s featherhame to go find out what’s
what (because he’s certain from the start that the Giants are to blame),
and a (theoretical) arranged marriage between Freyja and Thrym, and
plotting and planning, and Thor getting dressed up as a bride-to-be (and
whinging about it most ineffectively**)…
…and a trip to Jotunheim, and
Mjolnir being brought out to hallow the “bride” (by laying it in “her” lap:
YO FERTILITY SYMBOLISM…), and Thor, once he’s got his hands on
his hammer again, rising up and killing every damn giant within reach.
And then he and Loki go home.
What’s interesting about this,
besides the theft itself (managed how? magic? we’re never told), which
would naturally have been carried out by someone unworthy — is the
implication in the verse that one of the servants or other functionariesin
Thrym’s hall fetched in the hammer for the wedding service when
requested. So plainly as far as the original mythographers were
involved, you don’t need to be worthy, or even particularly strong, to
carry Mjollnir around. As for wielding it, it’s going to be more about
the user’s strength than the hammer itself.
So now we move
ahead seven or eight centuries.* Stan Lee first brings Thor into
the comics world in the early 1960s, and various additions start to be
made to the basic character. Naturally since Thor is the god of thunder,
we get a fair amount of summoning of lightning and storms and so forth
in the comic, and Mjolnir starts getting involved in this… which never
happened in the old myths as far as I know. Also the
is a comics trope as well. In the original myths, when Thor needed to
travel, he did so in a chariot pulled by the two magical goats Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr (Gurner and Gnasher, more or less). …Hitting the hammer’s handle on the ground to produce a localized earthquake: comics trope. Mjolnir being forged from Uru metal? Comics trope. (Or in the heart of a dying star? Film trope.)
finally comes the addition which I think probably began in
the comics but has become much better known in the films: the concept
that one must be worthy in some way or other to use or even lift Mjolnir. And the definition of what “worthy” means is obviously going to be exercising everybody’s minds.
let’s step back. The question we’re considering here involves the
intersection of the Powers that Be of the Young Wizards universe with not the
original Norse god that people in the Northlands actually prayed and
sacrificed to — the working man’s god, the god nowhere near as clever as
his half-brother but admired for his direct approach anyway, the great
power who was nonetheless as doomed as all the rest of his pantheon and
who would fight to the end regardless — but the Marvel Comics version
of Thor. Who is worthy (by canon definition and in the larger sense) for
reasons of his own.
In that sense, the details of how any given
YW character would handle the holy Hammer are probably best left to any
reader’s own judgment. I would assume that the One’s Champion, if
he/she/whatever were to run into Marvel!Thor — either in film or comics
format — would find an immediate kinship with him/her on some level***,
and that the Hammer (which it seems to me from the films we’re meant to
get a sense is a bit sentient) would not object to being wielded.
As for Ronan, I suspect he could at very least wind up carrying it
around, due to his previous association with the Champion. And if he got too insufferable about it, I suspect that at some point he might turn his
back on the Hammer briefly, and on turning back again, find that Darryl had
borrowed it and was using it to crack nuts with.
…Hmm, maybe I should ask Walt and Weezie if they’d like to do a crossover. :)
Hope this helps.
*The Codex Regius in which the Elder Edda was
(as far as we know) first written down dates back to the 1200s, but
there’s no telling exactly how much older the myths recorded in it were.
** “All the Gods in Asgard are going to make fun of me if I get dressed up in bride’s clothes. They’ll say I’m gay.” “Thor, if you don’t get dressed up in bride’s clothes, pretty soon there will be no more Gods in Asgard because the Giants will overrun the place. So shut up and let me fix this veil.” (NB that Loki is already dressed as Thor’s bridesmaid at this point and has been making a lot less of fuss about it. But then Loki has always been, well, flexible.)
***Or actually the other way around, since the Michael / Thor Power is the archetypal being from whom the Norse God, and in turn the comics / film character, would have been — at whatever distance of times and dimensions — derived: It includes them.
Classics that Inspired J.R.R. Tolkien: Legends from the Ancient North
Penguin Books has kindly sent me their collection of epic stories that had a great impact on Tolkien’s legendarium. I feel very honored and thankful for it and ask apologizes for taking quite a long time to write this review. I just wanted to make sure it would be a good one, cause it's the first time I do something like this. The first thing that catches the eye is the design of the books, which is very elegant, the mistic and colourful paintings despicted on their covers really attracts the reader and gives a feeling of what’s to be found in there. The collection comprises the following titles: Beowulf, The Elder Edda, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddle and The Saga of the Volsungs. Below I’ll give my impressions as a reader of the first four books (I haven’t received the fifth) and draw parallels between those tales and J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium, much of which have been discussed by himself in some of the letters that are avaliable in the book "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien". - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight presents an Arthurian legend dated from the 14th century. It’s a Middle English alliterative romance that tells the story of Sir Gawain, a knight of the King Arthur’s Round Table, who accepts (after had begged Arthur for the honour) the challenge to strike the Green Knight with his axe on the condition that he may return the blow in a year and a day. Sir Gawain then beheds the Knight, who neither falls nor dies, he simply picks up his head from the ground and handles Gawain his axe. The rest of the story tells about Sir Gawain’s chilvary and loyalty in his quest to reach the Green Chapel and fulfill the oath made to the Green Knight (these features are very abundant in Tolkien’s characters) J.R.R. Tolkien and E.V. Gordon published in 1925 a scholarly edition of the Middle English text of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and described the author as:
He was a man of serious and devout mind, though not without humour; he had an interest in theology, and some knowledge of it, though an amateur knowledge perhaps, rather than a professional; he had Latin and French and was well enough read in French books, both romantic and instructive; but his home was in the West Midlands of England; so much his language shows, and his metre, and his scenery.
- Beowulf is one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature. It tells the story of Beowulf, a hero of the Geats in Scandinavia, who came to the aid of Hroðgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall (in Heorot) has been attacked by Grendel (a monster) and later by his mother. He defeats both and later becomes king of the Geats. Some years later, he finds his kingdom threatened by a dragon that he slays whilst daring into his lair. It’s an epic poem of a hero who proves his strenght against the greatest forms of evil. J.R.R. Tolkien in 1936 gave a lecture entitled “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”, which was later published in that year Proceedings of the British Academy and reprinted in many collections, incluiding the one edited by Christopher Tolkien “The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays”. In this, Tolkien managed to put down the critics against the poem and to draw attention to the main theme of the tale which is the hero’s battles against monsters and not its historical accuracy. It is said to be the most important article on Beowulf of the 20th century. Also Tolkien spoke on the importance of the tale to him:
“Beowulf is among my most valued sources; though it was not consciously present to the mind in the process of writing, in which the episode of the theft [Bilbo stealing the cup from Smaug] arose naturally (and almost inevitably) from the circumstances. It is difficult to think of any other way of conducting the story at that point. I fancy the author of Beowulf would say much the same.” on a letter to the editor of the ‘Observer’, 1938.
- The Elder Elda is a collection of Old Norse poems present in the Icelandic medieval manuscript Codex Regius. J.R.R. Tolkien has showed great interest on those having its influences spread over his works, as he states in this quote:
“Thus the names of the Dwarves in The Hobbit (and additions in the L.R.) are derived from the lists in Völuspá of the names of dvergar; but this is no key to the dwarf-legends in The L.R. The 'dwarves’ of my legends are far nearer to the dwarfs of Germanic [legends] than are the Elves, but still in many ways very different from them. The legends of their dealings with Elves (and Men) in The Silmarillion, and in The L.R., and of the Orcdwarf wars have no counterpart known to me. In Völuspá, Eikinskjaldi rendered Oakenshield is a separate name, not a nickname; and the use of the name as a surname and the legend of its origin will not be found in Norse. Gandalfr is a dwarf-name in Völuspá!” on the drafts for a letter to 'Mr Rang’, 1967
Also the book The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún draws back from studies of characters from these poems and also from The Saga of the Volsungs. - The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles presents poems from England’s ancient origins. J.R.R. Tolkien based the name of the Ents from the poem The Wanderer and the Seafarer" as mentioned by him in this letter to W.H. Auden (1955):
“But looking back analytically I should say that Ents are composed of philology, literature, and life. They owe their name to the eald enta geweorc2 of Anglo-Saxon, and their connexion with stone.”
- The Saga of the Volsungs (I have not read it) is a legendary Icelandic saga narrating the origin and the fall of the Völsung clan. It dates from the 13th century. The book “The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún” was larged based on it and comprises the alliterative verses written by J.R.R. Tolkien inspired by this poem. In a letter to W.H. Auden (1967), Tolkien wrote:
“Thank you for your wonderful effort in translating and reorganizing The Song of the Sibyl. In return, I hope to send you, if I can lay my hands on it (I hope it isn’t lost), a thing I did many years ago while trying to learn the art of writing alliterative poetry: an attempt to unify the lays about the Völsungs from the Elder Edda, written in the old eight-line fornyrðislag stanza.”
and in a letter to Mrs. Mitchison (1949):
“I find 'dragons’ a fascinating product of imagination. But I don’t think the Beowulf one is frightfully good. But the whole problem of the intrusion of the 'dragon’ into northern imagination and its transformation there is one I do not know enough about. Fafnir in the late Norse versions of the Sigurd-story is better; and Smaug and his conversation obviously is in debt there.”
Also Sigurd is a dragon slayer and reminds me a lot in parts of Túrin Turambar’s story.
There’s much more that could be written but I will keep it small for brevity’s sake, plus I think it’d spoil a bit for the potential new readers. I do recommend this series not only to Tolkien’s most assiduous fans but to every fantasy enthusiastic. Much of what is featured on late fantastic literature has its roots on the old legends from nowadays Scandinavia, Germany and Great Britain. And this series are amazing for those who have never gotten in contact with it before due to all the information provided beforehand in the introduction section, it’s very well-written and explains to the reader the backgrounds of the tales and how they were translated to modern english. Being a long time J.R.R. Tolkien fan I’ve always read about parallels drawn between his legendarium and the old norse, germanic and english tales, both by Tolkien himself and by his readers and critics, which drove me to search more about it. Now I finally had the chance of experiencing it as 'whole' not only by reading fragments in internet and whatsoever but having them beautifully compiled in physical books. I do intend on reading more carefully this works because it is really amazing how much of them can be seen not only in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but also in the tales that helped shaping Arda’s first ages. That’s it! Thank Penguin Classics so much for the wonderful gift and to everyone who read it, buy it! It’s totally worth it.
Sort of a rough and messy look at the timing and estimated dates of various things. These dates are all estimations and scholars still debate these things, so these are not hard quotable numbers. I have not been able to find estimations for everything. Don’t expect a complete list of lore and sagas.
I’ve also included the estimated dates of Christian conversion for various places so you have an idea of how much time passed between when the populace was no longer Heathen and when things were actually written down.
If someone has more expertise or better numbers, please let me know so that I can correct or add data.