The Prose Edda is the most renowned of all works of Scandinavian literature and our most extensive source for Norse mythology. Written in Iceland, a century after the close of the Viking Age, it tells ancient stories of the Norse creation epic and recounts the battles that follow as gods, giants, dwarves and elves struggle for survival. It also preserves the oral memory of heroes, warrior kings and queens. In clear prose interspersed with powerful verse, the Eddaprovides unparalleled insight into the gods' tragic realization that the future holds one final cataclysmic battle, Ragnarok, when the world will be destroyed. These tales from the pagan era have proved to be among the most influential of all myths and legends, inspiring modern works as diverse as Wagner's Ring Cycleand Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. This new translation by Jesse Byock captures the strength and subtlety of the original, while his introduction sets the tales fully in the context of Norse mythology. This edition includes detailed notes and appendices.
Any who the intent of the book seems to be some what instructional. It collects various stories of godly hijinks, heroes and the monsters they face as well as shorter bits explaining little details of the world according to Norse mythology and the proper way to name things according to the traditions of skaldic poetry. That's why I call it instructional. Most of early Nordic literature is poetic and has very specific rules and symbolism. It can be tricky to understand the kennings and stories without a fair amount of background information so the Prose Edda is essentially intended to give people the background they need to understand and appreciate the literary tradition of skaldic poetry.
That said it doesn't really matter if you're reading the Edda with the intent to dig into skaldic poetry or not. The Prose Edda is the primary source of Norse mythology available to us today and Norse mythology is crazy. Like other mythological systems the purpose is to explain the world and give the history of the gods, but the Norse take just seems a little crazier and bloodier. I can't really go into the actual mythology without either going on way too long or short changing the stories, but suffice it to say that at one point Loki ties his testicles to a goat and engages in a tug of war with said goat.
On a side note, reading Norse mythology totally put me in the mood to revisit my neglected metal collection. Norse mythology is pretty metal.
It was good to read the stories in their original(English translated) versions. They were very approachable and immediate: I felt as I was reading them that they were being spoken to me directly. Possibly this was because I'm English and they form part of a tradition of story-telling that is part of my cultural heritage. I think I'll read the Popol Vuh next and see how that compares.
Seriously, amazingly helpful for any study of the northern myths and epics. Very readable, as well.
High One said: 'A well-informed man would not ask this. Everyone knows why. However, if you are the only person so ill-informed as never to have heard, I'll admit that it is better for you to ask once in your foolishness than to go on any longer in ignorance of what you ought to know.
A translation of the narrative sections of The Prose Edda, which contain various stories about the Norse gods and heroes. In "The Deluding of Gylfi", the Swedish King Gylfi (disguised as a traveller called Gangleri) talks with three beings calling themselves High, Just-as-High and Third, all three of which names are included in the list of Odin's names given by him to King Geirrod. In the second part "Selections from Poetic Diction", a man called Aegir visits the Aesir in Asgard. During dinner he sits with Bragi the god of poetry, who tells him stories about the doings of the gods.