The Edda, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 36 pages of information about The Edda, Volume 1.
touch survives in Gregory of Tours (died 594), when the Frank Chlodvig tells his Christian wife that the Christian God “cannot be proved to be of the race of the Gods,” an idea entirely in keeping with the Eddic hierarchy.  Before leaving the Continental historians, reference may be made to the abundant evidence of Germanic tree-worship to be gathered from them.  The holy oak mentioned by Wilibald (before 786), the sacred pear-tree of Constantius (473), with numerous others, supply parallels to the World-Ash which is so important a feature of Norse mythology.

A study of this subject would be incomplete without some reference to the mythology of Saxo Grammaticus.  His testimony on the old religion is unwilling, and his effort to discredit it very evident.  The bitterness of his attack on Frigg especially suggests that she was, among the Northmen, a formidable rival to the Virgin.  When he repeats a legend of the Gods, he transforms them into mortal heroes, and when, as often happens, he refers to them accidentally as Gods, he invariably hastens to protest that he does so only because it had been the custom.  He describes Thor and Odin as men versed in sorcery who claimed the rank of Gods; and in another passage he speaks of the latter as a king who had his seat at Upsala, and who was falsely credited with divinity throughout Europe.  His description of Odin agrees with that in the Edda:  an old man of great stature and mighty in battle, one-eyed, wearing a great cloak, and constantly wandering about in disguise.  The story which Saxo tells of his driving into battle with Harald War-tooth, disguised as the latter’s charioteer Brun, and turning the fight against him by revealing to his enemy Ring the order of battle which he had invented for Harald’s advantage, is in thorough agreement with the traditional character of the God who betrayed Sigmund the Volsung and Helgi Hundingsbane.  Saxo’s version of the Baldr story has been mentioned already.  Baldr’s transformation into a hero (who could only be slain by a sword in the keeping of a wood-satyr) is almost complete.  But Odin and Thor and all the Gods fight for him against his rival Hother, “so that it might be called a battle of Gods against men”; and Nanna’s excuse to Baldr that “a God could not wed with a mortal,” preserves a trace of his origin.  The chained Loki appears in Saxo as Utgarda-Loki, lying bound in a cavern of snakes, and worshipped as a God by the Danish king Gorm Haraldsson.  Dr. Eydberg sees the Freyja myth in Saxo’s story of Syritha, who was carried away by the giants and delivered by her lover Othar (the Od of the Edda):  an example, like Svipdag and Menglad, of the complete transformation of a divine into an heroic myth.  In almost all cases Saxo vulgarises the stories in the telling, a common result when a mythical tale is retold by a Christian writer, though it is still more conspicuous in his versions of the heroic legends.

Appendix

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