The Prose Edda

Contents

Prologue

The Prologue is the first section of four books of the Prose Edda, and consists of an euhemerized Christian account of the origins of Nordic mythology: the Nordic gods are described as human Trojan warriors who left Troy after the fall of that city (an origin similar to the one chosen by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 12th century to account for the ancestry of the British nation, and which parallels Virgil's Aeneid). According to the Prose Edda, these warriors settled in northern Europe, where they were accepted as divine kings because of their superior culture and technology. Remembrance ceremonies later conducted at their burial sites degenerate into heathen cults, turning them into gods. Alexander M. Bruce suggested that Sturlson was in possession of the Langfeðgatal or a closely related text when he composed the detailed list of gods and heroes given. He noted parallel sequences in the Langfeðgatal and the Edda, noting the second appearance of a "Scyld figure" as both an ancestor and a descendant of Odin in both. This figure is expanded upon in the Edda detailing Skjöldr as Odin's son after his migration northwards to Reidgothland and his ordination as a King of Denmark.[13]

Gylfaginning

Gylfaginning (Old Icelandic "the tricking of Gylfi")[14] follows the Prologue in the Prose Edda. Gylfaginning deals with the creation and destruction of the world of the Nordic gods, and many other aspects of Norse mythology. The section is written in prose interspersed with quotes from skaldic poetry, including material collected in the Poetic Edda.

Skáldskaparmál

Skáldskaparmál (Old Icelandic "the language of poetry"[15]) is the third section of the Prose Edda, and consists of a dialogue between Ægir, a god associated with the sea, and Bragi, a skaldic god, in which both Nordic mythology and discourse on the nature of poetry are intertwined. The origin of a number of kenningar are given and Bragi then delivers a systematic list of kenningar for various people, places, and things. Bragi then goes on to discuss poetic language in some detail, in particular heiti, the concept of poetical words which are non-periphrastic, for example "steed" for "horse", and again systematises these.

Háttatal

Háttatal (Old Icelandic "list of verse-forms"[16]) is the last section of the Prose Edda. The section is composed by the Icelandic poet, politician, and historian Snorri Sturluson. Using, for the most part, his own compositions it exemplifies the types of verse forms used in Old Norse poetry. Snorri took a prescriptive as well as descriptive approach; he has systematized the material, and often notes that "the older poets did not always" follow his rules.


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