Völuspá World Literature Mr. Brennan
AGENDA SWBATgain a deeper understanding of Norse cultureby analyzing the form and function of the Poetic Edda’s“Völuspá” Learning Objective • Mini-Lecture: Norse Context • Class Reading: Völuspá Finish Reading Völuspá Homework Reminders
Norse/Scandinavian Norseman, or Northmen, refer to people of Scandinavia, a peninsula in northwestern Europe consisting of the countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark and also of Iceland, Finland. (Primarily during the Medieval period)
Germanic Origins • Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of N. European, identified by their use of the Germanic languages • Evidence suggests a common culture dwelt in a region defined by the Nordic Bronze Age between 1700—600 BC • Norseman (Northmen), also known as Vikings, were seafaring north Germanic people who raided, traded, explored, and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia, and the North Atlantic islands from the late8th to the mid-11th centuries.
Norse Mythology • Our understanding of Norse mythology is primarily attested in Old Norse texts created in Iceland, where the oral tradition stemming from the pre-Christian inhabitants of the island was collected and recorded in manuscripts. This occurred primarily in the 13th century. • Two significant primary sources include (1) the Poetic Edda and (2) the Prose Edda • It is believed that the term Eddaderives from an identical word that means "great-grandmother”, or from Old Norse óðr, maening"poetry."
Christian Influences? • Writing in Latinletters was introduced to Scandinavia with Christianity, so there are few native documentary sources from Scandinavia before the late 11th and early 12th centuries. • Consequently, scholars often debate the authenticity of many Norse texts, as segments may have been altered, added, or removed as a result of Christian influences
Poetic Edda • Poetic Edda comprises of a collection of Old Norse poems that serve as an important source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends • The individual authors are anonymous, and the poems may have been composed sometime between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, when Iceland and Scandinavia were being gradually Christianized.
Norse Mythology • Most of the surviving mythology centers on the plights of the Norse gods and their interaction with various other beings, such as mankind and the jötnar (giants). • The cosmos in Norse mythology consist of Nine Worlds that flank a central cosmological tree, Yggdrasil, where the world is created from the flesh of the primordial being Ymir, and the first two humans are Ask and Embla.
Völuspá • Völuspá(The Wise-Woman's Prophecy) is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda, and one of the most important primary sources for the study of Norse mythology. • It tells the story of Othin, chief of the gods, always conscious of impending disaster and eager for knowledge, who calls on a certain "völva," or wise-woman, who goes on to tell him: • the origin of the world from the flesh of the primordial being Ymir, composing of the Nine Worlds that flank a cosmological tree, Yggdrasil, and • the prophecy that these worlds are to be destroyed and reborn after the events of Ragnarök, an immense battle between the gods
Odin andthe Völva Völuspá
Notes onVöluspá • It seems that the poet was heathen and not Christian, as the intensity and vividness could not be achieved by a Christian. Yet, evidence of Christian influence are sufficiently. It seems likely that the Voluspo was the work of a poet living chiefly in Icelandin the middle of the tenth century, a vigorous believer in the old gods, and yet with an imagination active enough to be touched by the vague tales of a different religion emanating from his neighbor Celts. • How much the poem was altered during the two hundred years between its composition and its first being committed to writing is largely a matter of guesswork. • The poem was certainly not composed to tell a story with which its early hearers were quite familiar; the lack of continuity which baffles modern readers presumably did not trouble them in the least.
Significance ofVöluspá • Cyclical Transformation: The act of creation through the transformation of a dead body expresses the idea that our bodies take shape thanks to the energy that comes from the cosmos, and will eventually go right back into the land to begin the transformative process all over again. • Cyclical Violence towards Order & Fate: Ymir’s murder symbolizes the presence and suppression of primal appetites that must occur before society can come into being. In other words, people have to put aside their selfish urges in order to cooperate and create something larger than themselves. [Struggle can produce a better world. From murder and bloodshed comes beauty and order.] Like in most creation myths, though, the forces of chaos never disappear completely. • Morality/Values: As with the dead of Odin, we see vengeance as being embraced; revealing the value placed on honor, and the condemnation of murder [even the gods are punished for their behavior]