Exploring Norse Mythology
Quiet voices from the past, whispering stories to us through time in a language that is foreign, yet somehow seems familiar. The stories breathe to life ancient gods, great battles, love and deceit, and ultimately paints a picture of monsters devouring and scorching the earth.
Theirs was a hard and violent world, but also one with humor, hope and a strong will to fight for their honor and what they believed to be right.
Ancient manuscripts offer a glimpse into this long ago place and the stories that were past down through hundreds of years.
Their stories are also our stories. Getting to know them and passing them on helps keep the wolf at bay.
Blissfully ignorant, but slowly understanding
The inspiration for this site was one driven by curiosity and a demanding audience. My name is Marius and being a Norwegian I thought I had a good grasp of the old myths. However as I started telling my two young children about the “real” Norse gods after yet another Marvel movie I quickly realized how little I knew.
Thus I started going down the rabbit hole that is our modern understanding of what Norse mythology really is. Which as it turns out is mostly based on two ancient Icelandic manuscripts, the Poetic and Prose Eddas’ which were collected or written a few hundred years after the actual Viking Age.
To make things even more confusing, these manuscripts are at times self-contradicting, were written or collected by Christians which possibly colored their editorial process and are only partially supported by archeology or other facts.
Before Christianity developed throughout Scandinavia around one thousand years ago little was actually written down. Sure there is a wealth of runic inscriptions on stones, bones and small trinkets, but manuscripts of any substance is sadly missing.
While the ancient Egyptians and other cultures in what is now the Middle East put pen to paper three thousand years ago or even more, our Norse ancestors were (very simply put) in the stone age at the same time.
Dynamic and changing Norse mythology
The tradition of the Norsemen was one of oral storytelling which brought with it room for variations and adaptions both regionally and through time.
When Snorri Sturlasson sat down on Iceland some time around 1220 AD and composed the manuscript known as the Prose Edda he went about it with some artistic freedom. Together with the collection of anonymous poems known as the Poetic Edda, best represented in a book called the Codex Regius, they are our best sources of insight into Norse mythology.
While it is tempting to say that Norse mythology is as it’s told through those two sources, that is in reality an overly simplistic view. In reality Norse mythology can be dated back as far as 300-400 AD or even longer, and it was changing over time and across regions in Northern Europe and Scandinavia for the next 600-700 years.
Challenges and caveats
Trying to collect, organize and share information on such a broad topic as Norse mythology has indeed proven to be an interesting set of challenges. Among other things it has led me to enroll in an online university course on Norse mythology.
Much like Odin, I am venturing far on my quest for deeper insight. While I’m not concerned with the end of the world, I am at least driven by curiosity about ancestors far removed.
It has so far been both interesting and fun. While most of the content here on vikingr.org will be written by other enthusiast, I will personally take on the role as editor. While I don’t want to filter peoples perceptions too much (who am I to say what is “right”) I do want to try and provide meaningful insight and understanding.
Hopefully you will find the stories and information provided here both educational and entertaining.