The Prose Edda


The etymology of "Edda" remains uncertain. There are many hypotheses, and little agreement.

Some argue that the word derives from the name of Oddi, a town in the south of Iceland where Snorri was raised. Edda could therefore mean "book of Oddi." However, this assumption is generally rejected. Anthony Faulkes, author of an edition and an English translation of the Edda, considered this was "unlikely, both in terms of linguistics and history"[4] since Snorri was no longer living at Oddi when he composed his work.

Another connection was made with the word "óðr", which means "poetry or inspiration" in Old Norse.[4] According to Faulkes, though such a connection is plausible semantically, it is unlikely that "Edda" could have been coined in the 13th century on the basis of "óðr", because such a development "would have had to have taken place gradually", and "Edda" in the sense of "poetics" is not likely to have existed in the preliterary period.[5]

Edda also means "great-parent", a word used by Snorri himself in the Skáldskaparmál. That is, with the same meaning, the name of a character in the Rigsthula and other medieval texts. This hypothesis has attracted François-Xavier Dillmann, author of a French translation of the Edda, who said "it seems likely that this person's name was chosen as the title of the work due to the fact that it was a collection of ancient knowledge"[6] or, in the words of Régis Boyer, the "grandparent of all sacred knowledge".[7]

A final hypothesis is derived from the Latin "edo", meaning "I write". It relies on the fact that the word "kredda" (meaning "belief") is certified and comes from the Latin "credo", "I believe." It seems likely Snorri would have been able to invent the word. Edda in this case could be translated as "Poetic Art". This is the meaning that the word was then given in the Middle Ages.[4]

The name Sæmundar Edda was given by the Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson to the collection of poems contained in the Codex Regius, many of which are quoted by Snorri. Brynjólfur, along with many others of his time incorrectly believed that they were collected by Sæmundr fróði[8] (therefore before the drafting of the Edda of Snorri), and so the Poetic Edda is also known as the Elder Edda.

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