The Poetic Edda is one of the main sources for Norse mythology, a book of poems culled primarily from the Codex Regius. It was a good thing that I’d read Snorri’s Edda first, as well as other, more expansive works – for me, The Poetic Edda was more about supplementing and contextualizing existing knowledge – or it would have been pretty hard to get a grip on. Like Snorri’s work, The Poetic Edda is important to anyone who wants to go a few steps beyond storytelling and interpretation to original source material. Though I was satisfied with the translation, as I’m sure is clear I found it to be a bit of a slog; I’m less interested in heroes and sagas (which fill much of The Poetic Edda) than I am in the histories and stories of the Norse gods – their meanings, and symbolic value. Given that, and the fact that my goal is to reach a level of expertise that allows me to think about and comment on what I’m reading, rather than indulge in true scholarship, parts of The Poetic Edda were only of marginal interest to me. All that said, I’m glad I read it – no survey of Norse mythology would be complete if The Poetic Edda was left on the table.
Usually I think of Edda as “The Edda,” or “The Prose Edda,” partially because I’m reading The Poetic Edda now, and it’s an easy way of keeping them segregated in my mind. Snorri’s Edda is one of the two (the other is The Poetic Edda) primary sources for Norse mythology. It’s an important work in its own right, but it should be stated that the Edda takes some focus to get through – it’s not as interesting to a casual, modern reader as some of the other books on Norse mythology I’ve collected, that present the material in a more storified form. That said, the Edda is an essential part of any serious (even if small) library of works on Norse mythology: if you’re trying to study the Norse pantheon even a little bit (as I am), you’ve got to get a good version of the Edda. If you just want to know a little more about Odin, Thor, Loki and their adventures, I’d probably get the Davidson book. You can’t really review Sturluson’s work (written almost a thousand years ago), you just have to work your way through it and appreciate it for what it is. As usual, I got the kindle edition, which was nice and cheap, and allowed me to add notes and highlights to the text.
The easiest way to talk about Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H. R. Ellis Davidson is to talk about it in relation to Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs by John Lindow. Both books cover much of the same ground and serve as solid guides to Norse mythology, but while Lindow’s book is organized more like an encyclopedia, with entries for everything from gods and goddesses to giants, objects, and events, Davidson’s book addresses Norse mythology through chapters (“The Gods of Battle”) that gather together related topics (“Odin, Lord of Hosts,” “The Germanic War Gods”) as subheadings. As a result, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe is easier to get into than Lindow’s book; it’s smoother, provides more context, and approached purely as a piece of non-fiction, is more enjoyable. (more…)
I was looking for way back – as an adult – into Norse mythology; picking up the kindle edition of Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs by Lindow was a choice made after looking both at the reviews, and at the price: I’d like to accumulate a good number of books on Norse mythology over time, and because of this I’m very aware of cost, and format. I can highlight and annotate the kindle edition to my heart’s content, without having to mar a paper or hardback with a highlighter or pen (and try read my own handwriting in the margins, later). (more…)