The Edda, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 36 pages of information about The Edda, Volume 1.

The poet of Eiriksmal, quoted above, alludes to the Baldr myth:  Bragi, hearing the approach of Eirik and his host, asks “What is that thundering and tramping, as if Baldr were coming back to Odin’s hall?” The funeral pyre of Baldr is described by Ulf Uggason:  he is burnt on his ship, which is launched by a giantess, in the presence of Frey, Heimdal, Odin and the Valkyries.

Though heathen writers outside of Scandinavia are lacking, references to Germanic heathendom fortunately survive in several Continental Christian historians of earlier date than any of our Scandinavian sources.  The evidence of these, though scanty, is corroborative, and the allusions are in striking agreement with the Edda stories in tone and character.

Odin (Wodanus) is always identified by these writers with the Roman Mercurius (whom Tacitus named as the chief German God).  This identification occurs in the eighth-century Paulus Diaconus, and in Jonas of Bobbio (first half of the seventh century), and probably rests on Odin’s character as a wandering God (Mercury being diaktoros), his disguises, and his patronage of poetry and eloquence (as Mercury is logios).  Odin is not himself in general the conductor of dead souls (psychopompos), like the Roman God, his attendant Valkyries performing the office for him.  The equation is only comprehensible on the presumption of the independence of Germanic mythology, and cannot be explained by transmission.  For if Odin were in any degree an imitation of the Roman deity, other notable attributes of the latter would have been assigned to him:  whereas in the Edda the thieving God (kleptis) is not Odin but Loki, and the founder of civilisation is Heimdal.

The legend of the origin of the Lombards given by Paulus Diaconus illustrates the relations of Odin and Frigg.  The Vandals asked Wodan (Odin) to grant them victory over the Vinili; the latter made a similar prayer to Frea (Frigg), the wife of Wodan.  She advised them to make their wives tie their hair round their faces like beards, and go with them to meet Wodan in the morning.  They did so, and Wodan exclaimed, “Who are these Long-beards?” Then Frea said that having given the Vinili a name, he must give them the victory (as Helgi in the Edda claims a gift from Svava when she names him).  As in Grimnismal, Odin and Frigg are represented as supporting rival claims, and Frigg gains the day for her favourites by superior cunning.  This legend also shows Odin as the giver of victory.

Few heathen legends are told however by these early Christian writers, and the Gods are seldom called by their German names.  An exception is the Frisian Fosite mentioned by Alcuin (who died 804) and by later writers; he is to be identified with the Norse Forseti, the son of (probably at first an epithet of) Baldr, but no legend of him is told.  It is disappointing that these writers should have said so little of any God except the chief one.  A very characteristic

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The Edda, Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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