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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term Edda (Old Norse Edda, plural Eddur) applies to the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, both of which were written down in Iceland during the 13th century. They are the main sources of medieval Norse mythology and skaldic tradition in Iceland. Some of the older poems included may predate the date of their recording by several centuries, establishing continuity with the Viking Age.



There are several theories concerning the origins of the word edda. One theory holds that it is identical to a word that means "great-grandmother" appearing in the Eddic poem Rígsþula.[1] Another theory holds that edda derives from Old Norse óðr, "poetry." A third, proposed in 1895 by Eiríkr Magnússon, but since discredited, is that it derives from the Icelandic place name Oddi, site of the church and school where students, including Snorri Sturluson, were educated. [2]

The Poetic Edda

The Poetic Edda, also known as Sæmundar Edda or the Elder Edda, is a collection of Old Norse poems from the Icelandic medieval manuscript Codex Regius ('The King's Manuscript'). Along with Snorri's Edda the Poetic Edda is the most important source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends. The first part of the Codex Regius preserves poems that narrate the creation and destruction of the Old Norse mythological world as well as individual myths about gods such as Odin, Thor and Heimdall. The poems in the second part narrate legends about heroes and heroines such as Sigurd the Dragonslayer, Brynhildr and Gunnar.

The Codex Regius was written down in the 13th century but nothing is known of its whereabouts until 1643 when it came into the possession of Brynjólfur Sveinsson, then Bishop of Skálholt. At that time versions of Snorri's Edda were well known in Iceland but scholars speculated that there once was another Edda - an Elder Edda - which contained the pagan poems Snorri quotes in his book. When the Codex Regius was discovered it seemed that this speculation had proven correct. Brynjólfur attributed the manuscript to Sæmundr the Learned, a larger-than-life 12th century Icelandic priest. While this attribution is rejected by modern scholars the name Sæmundar Edda is still sometimes encountered.

Bishop Brynjólfur sent the Codex Regius as a present to King Christian IV of Denmark, hence the name. For centuries it was stored in the Royal Library in Copenhagen but in 1971 it was returned to Iceland.

The Prose Edda

The Younger Edda, known also as the Prose Edda or Snorri's Edda is an Icelandic manual of poetics which also contains many mythological stories. Its purpose was to enable Icelandic poets and readers to understand the subtleties of alliterative verse, and to grasp the mythological allusions behind the many kennings that were used in skaldic poetry.

It was written by the Icelandic scholar and historian Snorri Sturluson around 1220. It survives in seven main manuscripts, written down from about 1300 to about 1600.

The Prose Edda consists of a Prologue and three separate books: the Gylfaginning, concerning the gods' creation and destruction, the Skáldskaparmál, a dialogue between Ægir, the god of the sea and Bragi, the god of poetry, and the Háttatal, a demonstration of verse forms used in Norse mythology.

See also

  1. ^ Snorri Sturluson. The Prose Edda: Tales from Norse Mythology, translated by Jean I. Young (University of California Press, 1964), p. 8.
  2. ^ Anatoly Liberman, "Ten Scandinavian and North English Etymologies," Alvíssmál 6 (1996): 63–98

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Old Norse edda (grandmother)

Proper noun


  1. A collection of Old Norse poems and tales from two medieval manuscripts found in Iceland.

Derived terms



Proper noun


  1. (Norse mythology) Edda.
  2. A female given name, shortened from Germanic compound names beginning with Ed- or Edel-.

Simple English

Edda or the plural Eddas or Eddur, including Poetic Edda (or Older Edda) and Prose Edda (or Younger Edda), are two collections of stories about Viking deities. They were made in around 9th to 13th century by Icelandic Christian historians. Although the Eddur are the most important written records remaining today about Norse mythology, they are not very reliable because Christians hated pagan religions, and they changed the original tales to make the Norse gods and goddesses look silly, lusty, and barbaric.

The term "Edda" most likely refers to Oddi, a place where both Saemund Sigfusson (a cleric who is rumoured author of Older Edda), and Snorri Sturluson (a Christian politician, author of Younger Edda) lived.


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