Prose Edda

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The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda (Icelandic: Snorra Edda) or simply Edda, is an Old Norse compilation made in Iceland in the early 13th century. Together with the Poetic Edda, it comprises the major store of pagan Scandinavian mythology. The work is often assumed to have been written, or at least compiled, by the Icelandic scholar and historian Snorri Sturluson around the year 1220.

It begins with a euhemerized Prologue, a section on the Norse cosmogony, pantheon and myths.[1] This is followed by three distinct books: Gylfaginning (consisting of around 20,000 words), Skáldskaparmál (around 50,000 words) and Háttatal (around 20,000 words). Seven manuscripts, dating from around 1300 to around 1600, have independent textual value. Sturluson planned the collection as a textbook. It was to enable Icelandic poets and readers to understand the subtleties of alliterative verse, and to grasp the meaning behind the many kenningar (compounds) that were used in skaldic poetry.

The Prose Edda was originally referred to as simply the Edda, but was later called the Prose Edda to distinguish it from the Poetic Edda, a collection of anonymous poetry from earlier traditional sources compiled around the same time as the Prose Edda in 13th century Iceland.[2] The Prose Edda is related to the Poetic Edda in that the Prose Edda cites various poems collected in the Poetic Edda as sources.[3]

Authorship[edit]

The assumption that Snorri Sturluson is responsible for writing the Prose Edda is largely based on the following paragraph from a portion of Codex Upsaliensis, an early 14th-century manuscript containing the Prose Edda:

This book is called Edda. Snorri Sturluson compiled it in the way that it is arranged here. First it tells about the Æsir and Ymir, then comes the poetic diction section with the poetic names of many things and lastly a poem called the List of Meters which Snorri composed about King Hakon and Duke Skuli.[4]

It has been noted that this attribution, along with other primary manuscripts, are not clear whether or not Snorri is more than the compiler of the work and the author of Háttatal or if he is the author of the entire Prose Edda.[5] Whatever the case, the mention of Snorri in the manuscripts has been influential in the acceptance of Snorri as the author of the Prose Edda.[5]

Etymology[edit]

The etymology of "Edda" remains uncertain, none of the many hypotheses have so far met consensus.

Some argue that the word derives from the name of Oddi, a town 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 linguisitics and history"[6] since Snorri was no longer living at Oddi when he composed his work.

Another connection was made with the word ODR, which means "poetry or inspiration" in Old Norse. As Oddi, this hypothesis encounters language difficulties.[6]

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"[7] or, in the words of Régis Boyer, the "grandparent of all sacred knowledge".[8]

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.[6]

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[9] (therefore before the drafting of the Edda of Snorri), and so the Poetic Edda is also known as the Elder Edda.

Contents[edit]

Prologue[edit]

Main article: Prologue (Prose Edda)

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.[10] [10]

Gylfaginning[edit]

Gylfi and three speakers. Manuscript SAM 66 (Iceland, 1765–1766), Reykjavík, Árni Magnússon Institute.
Main article: Gylfaginning

Gylfaginning (Old Icelandic "the tricking of Gylfi")[11] 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[edit]

Thjazi and Loki. Beginning of the myth of the abduction of Idun, reported by Skáldskaparmál. Manuscript NKS 1867 4to (Iceland, 1760), Copenhagen, Royal Library
Main article: Skáldskaparmál

Skáldskaparmál (Old Icelandic "the language of poetry"[12]) 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[edit]

Main article: Háttatal

Háttatal (Old Icelandic "list of verse-forms"[13]) 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 didn't always" follow his rules.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Macmillan Encyclopedia; rev. ed. London: Macmillan, 1983; p. 395
  2. ^ Faulkes (1995:XI).
  3. ^ Byock (2006:IX).
  4. ^ Grape, Kallstenius, Thorell (1977:I).
  5. ^ a b Byock (2006:XII).
  6. ^ a b c Anthony Faulkes, introduction de : Snorri Sturluson, Edda, 1995 Template:Détail édition
  7. ^ François-Xavier Dillmann, introduction de : Snorri Sturluson, L'Edda : Récits de mythologie nordique, 2003 Template:Détail édition
  8. ^ Boyer, Régis., L'Edda poétique, présentation et trad. 2002, (Fayard).
  9. ^ Sigurðsson, Gísli (1999). Eddukvæði. Reykjavík: Mál og menning. p. xiii. ISBN 9979-3-1917-8. 
  10. ^ a b Alexander M. Bruce (2002). Scyld and Scef: Expanding the Analogues. Psychology Press. pp. 56–60. ISBN 978-0-8153-3904-5. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  11. ^ Faulkes (1995:7).
  12. ^ Faulkes (1995:59).
  13. ^ Faulkes (1995:165).

References[edit]

External links[edit]