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Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.
in the East.  At last in the fifteenth century, a Portuguese traveller, Pedro Covilham, happening to hear that there was a Christian prince in the country of the Abessines (Abyssinia), not far from the Red Sea, concluded that this must be the true Prester John.  He accordingly went thither, and penetrated to the court of the king, whom he calls Negus.  Milton alludes to him in “Paradise Lost,” Book xi., where, describing Adam’s vision of his descendants in their various nations and cities, scattered over the face of the earth, he says,—­

“...  Nor did his eyes not ken Th’ empire of Negus, to his utmost port, Ercoco, and the less maritime kings, Mombaza and Quiloa and Melind.”

CHAPTER XXXVIII

NORTHERN MYTHOLOGY—­VALHALLA—­THE VALKYRIOR

NORTHERN MYTHOLOGY

The stories which have engaged our attention thus far relate to the mythology of southern regions.  But there is another branch of ancient superstitions which ought not to be entirely overlooked, especially as it belongs to the nations from which we, through our English ancestors, derive our origin.  It is that of the northern nations, called Scandinavians, who inhabited the countries now known as Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.  These mythological records are contained in two collections called the Eddas, of which the oldest is in poetry and dates back to the year 1056, the more modern or prose Edda being of the date of 1640.

According to the Eddas there was once no heaven above nor earth beneath, but only a bottomless deep, and a world of mist in which flowed a fountain.  Twelve rivers issued from this fountain, and when they had flowed far from their source, they froze into ice, and one layer accumulating over another, the great deep was filled up.

Southward from the world of mist was the world of light.  From this flowed a warm wind upon the ice and melted it.  The vapors rose in the air and formed clouds, from which sprang Ymir, the Frost giant and his progeny, and the cow Audhumbla, whose milk afforded nourishment and food to the giant.  The cow got nourishment by licking the hoar frost and salt from the ice.  While she was one day licking the salt stones there appeared at first the hair of a man, on the second day the whole head, and on the third the entire form endowed with beauty, agility, and power.  This new being was a god, from whom and his wife, a daughter of the giant race, sprang the three brothers Odin, Vili, and Ve.  They slew the giant Ymir, and out of his body formed the earth, of his blood the seas, of his bones the mountains, of his hair the trees, of his skull the heavens, and of his brain clouds, charged with hail and snow.  Of Ymir’s eyebrows the gods formed Midgard (mid earth), destined to become the abode of man.

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