Word Count: 2383The book entitled “NorseMythology” by Karl Mortensen, is the book I chose to read for my firstbook report for this semester.
The book was translated from the Danishby A. Clinton Crowell. Karl Mortensen was a doctor of philosophy whom attended the University of Copenhagen. The first part of the book isthe general introduction. Here, you find the author’s meaning of “Norsemythology” and where he got his information. He says,By “Norsemythology” we meanthe informationwe have concerning thereligious conceptions and usagesof our heathen forefathers, their faith and manner of worshipping the gods, and also their legends and songsabout the gods andheroes.
TheimportationofChristianity drove out the old heathen faith, butremnants or memories of it long endured in the superstitiousideas of the common people, and can even be tracedin our own day. In the general introduction, the author tells us why we teach . He tells us that for us, Norse mythologyhas in any case the advantage of being the religion of our own forefathers,and through it we learn to know that religion. This is necessary if wewish to understand the history and poetry of our antiquity and to comprehendwhat good characteristics and what faults Christianity encountered whenit was proclaimed in the North.
Finally, it is necessary to know themost important points of the heathen faith of our fathers in order to appreciateand enjoy many of the words of our best poets. “Norse Mythology”is comprised of four main sections. The first section contains the creationmyth, which is extremely confusing because it talks about brother’saunt’s cousin’s children from second marriages and what importance theywere in those golden times. It’s quite hard to understand, and I hadto read it over twice to make sure I understood.
The second part of thefirst section discusses the creation of the gods and the stories oftheir lives. And the last part is entitled Ragnorak, which stands for theenemies of the gods. All of this was quite interesting to read. The second section of the book talks about common popular belief. It saysthat our forefathers, like other heathen people, found one of the plainestproofs of the soul’s independence of the body and its ability to take ahand in the affairs of living men in the nightmare and dream, as theylacked all other means of explaining those things. They therefore tookit for granted that they were spirits, usually in the form of animals or men.
Through the smallest crack or crevice the nightmare slips to thesleeping one, and torments and troubles him so sadly that he becomes illor that it causes his death. It is felt as an oppressing weight uponthe breast or throat; the mare “treads” or “rides” the sleeping one fromhis legs up to his body and thrusts his tongue into the victim’s throatto hinder him from crying out. The Northern people have clung this veryday to their belief in the “mare” as a supernatural female being, andmany legends about it have arisen. A “mare” can slip out only by the sameway that it came in; if one stops up the opening, it is caught.
Thesame thing happens if one names its name. In the Ynglinga Sagait is told of King Vanlandi, who had betrayed his Finnish bride, Drifa,that he inpunishmentfor that had been killed by a ‘mare’ with which the magic artsof the Finns had tormented him. He became suddenly sleepy and lay down to rest, but when he had slepta little he cried that a ‘mare’ was treading him. The king’s men hastened to his assistance, but when theyturned to his head, the ‘mare’ trod upon his legs so that theywere nearly broken, and if they went to the legs,she was directly occupied at the head; and so the king was actuallytortured to death. Also found in the second sectionare chief gods and myths of the gods. Here, there are stories told of Thor, Odin, Frey and Njorth, Heimdall and Baldur, and Loki.
It commentson the various thresholds crossed by these great gods, and the thingsthat they accomplished. The third section is rather short, but it issolely focused on the forms of worship and religious life. It tellsof the Norse temples, or Hofs, which means in general “a holy place. ” TheHofs were large square, occasionally round, houses, built in the samestyle and of the same kind of material as the common dwelling houses. Just inside thedoor of theHof stood the posts of the high seat, in which were fixedgreat nails, but the meaning of these is not known.
At theopposite end (the Korrunding or apse) stoodthe images of the gods, and in front of them orunderthem thesplendidly ornamented Stall, which one of the Icelandic sagas compares with the Christian altar. Upon its iron-covered upper side burned the sacred fire whichmust never be extinguished, and there also laythe open silver or gold ring upon which all oaths must be sworn. The ring was moistened in the blood of the victim,and on all festive occasions the Gothi had to wear it upon hisarm. Upon the Stall stood also a large copper bowl with asprinkler(hlautbolli andhlauttein). In thebowl the blood of the victim_animal or man_was caught andsprinkled over those who were present.
The Stallalso, perhaps the wholeinterior of the temple, was reddenedwith it. The statues of the gods were most oftenclumsy images carved from wood, and were set up on the Stallor upon apedestal, anddressed inaccordancewith the festal costume of the period. That there was alwaysa hammer in the hand of Thor’s image there canbe no doubt. The last section of the chosen book is full of hero sagas.
You’ll find the stories of The Volsungs, the Helgi sagas, Volunthe Smith, The Hjathningar, and Beowulf. These are great stories thatbeautifully follow the hero cycle. The conclusion of the book talksabout how these stories reflect on us. It comments on our strengthsand our weaknesses.
It also refers to the people’s beliefs concerning death,courage, respect, and faith. I absolutely love this book. It’s extremelyold_copyright 1913! It really made me look deep into myself. I am ofNorwegian origin and it was quite interesting to learn about what my forefathers believed and how they worshipped.
My absolute favorite Norsehero has to be Thor. He represents power. He’s extremely powerful and courageous. He also doesn’t have too much compassion for his enemies.
He never hesitates to crush them with his almighty hammer. Thor is my hero_let his stories live long! Do I recommend the book? Absolutely. You can find it at the OSU library. It’s on the main floor and the callnumber is BL860.
Be careful with it, though, the pages are falling out. BibliographyuMortensen, Karl. “Norse Mythology. ” ThomasY. Crowell Company, New York, NY.