Norse Mythology

Themes

Word Count: 2383The book entitled “Norse
Mythology” by Karl
Mortensen, is the book I chose to read for my first
book report for this semester. The book was
translated from the Danish
by A. Clinton Crowell.
Karl Mortensen was a doctor of philosophy whom
attended the University of Copenhagen.

The first part of the book is
the general
introduction. Here, you find the author’s meaning
of “Norse
mythology” and where he got his
information. He says,
By “Norsemythology” we meanthe
information
we have concerning the
religious conceptions and usages
of our
heathen forefathers, their faith and
manner of worshipping the gods, and also
their legends and songs
about the gods
andheroes.Theimportationof
Christianity drove out the old heathen
faith, but
remnants or memories of it
long endured in the superstitious
ideas
of the common people, and can even be
traced
in our own day.

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In the general introduction, the author tells
us why we teach . He tells us that
for us, Norse mythology
has 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 we
wish to
understand the history and poetry of our antiquity
and to comprehend
what good characteristics and
what faults Christianity encountered when
it was
proclaimed in the North. Finally, it is necessary
to know the
most important points of the heathen
faith of our fathers in order to appreciate
and
enjoy many of the words of our best poets.

“Norse Mythology”
is comprised of four main
sections. The first section contains the creation
myth, which is extremely confusing because it talks
about brother’s
aunt’s cousin’s children from
second marriages and what importance they
were in
those golden times. It’s quite hard to understand,
and I had
to read it over twice to make sure I
understood. The second part of the
first section
discusses the creation of the gods and the stories
of
their lives. And the last part is entitled
Ragnorak, which stands for the
enemies of the gods.
All of this was quite interesting to read.


The second section of the book talks about
common popular belief. It says
that our
forefathers, like other heathen people, found one
of the plainest
proofs of the soul’s independence
of the body and its ability to take a
hand in the
affairs of living men in the nightmare and dream,
as they
lacked all other means of explaining those
things. They therefore took
it for granted that
they were spirits, usually in the form of animals
or men. Through the smallest crack or crevice the
nightmare slips to the
sleeping one, and torments
and troubles him so sadly that he becomes ill
or
that it causes his death. It is felt as an
oppressing weight upon
the breast or throat; the
mare “treads” or “rides” the sleeping one from
his
legs up to his body and thrusts his tongue into the
victim’s throat
to hinder him from crying out. The
Northern people have clung this very
day to their
belief in the “mare” as a supernatural female
being, and
many legends about it have arisen. A
“mare” can slip out only by the same
way that it
came in; if one stops up the opening, it is caught.
The
same thing happens if one names its name.

In the Ynglinga Saga
it is told of
King Vanlandi, who had betrayed his
Finnish bride, Drifa,that he in
punishment
for that had been killed by a
‘mare’ with which the magic arts
of the
Finns had tormented him. He became
suddenly sleepy and lay down to rest,
but when he had slept
a little he cried
that a ‘mare’ was treading him. The
king’s men hastened to his assistance,
but when they
turned to his head, the
‘mare’ trod upon his legs so that they
were nearly broken, and if they went to
the legs,
she was directly occupied at
the head; and so the king was actually
tortured to death.


Also found in the second section
are chief gods
and myths of the gods. Here, there are stories told
of Thor, Odin, Frey and Njorth, Heimdall and
Baldur, and Loki. It comments
on the various
thresholds crossed by these great gods, and the
things
that they accomplished.

The third section is rather short, but it is
solely focused on the forms of worship and
religious life. It tells
of the Norse temples, or
Hofs, which means in general “a holy place.” The
Hofs were large square, occasionally round, houses,
built in the same
style 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 fixed
great nails, but the
meaning of these is not known. At the
opposite end (the Korrunding or apse)
stood
the images of the gods, and in
front of them orunder
them the
splendidly ornamented Stall, which one
of the Icelandic sagas compares with the
Christian altar.

Upon its iron-covered
upper side burned the sacred fire which
must never be extinguished, and there
also lay
the 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 his
arm. Upon
the Stall stood also a large copper bowl
with asprinkler(hlautbolli and
hlauttein). In the
bowl the blood of the
victim_animal or man_was caught and
sprinkled over those who were present.
The Stall
also, perhaps the whole
interior of the temple, was reddened
with it. The statues of the gods were
most often
clumsy images carved from
wood, and were set up on the Stall
or
upon apedestal, anddressed in
accordance
with the festal costume of
the period. That there was always
a
hammer in the hand of Thor’s image there
can
be 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, Volun
the Smith, The
Hjathningar, and Beowulf. These are great stories
that
beautifully follow the hero cycle.

The conclusion of the book talks
about how
these stories reflect on us. It comments on our
strengths
and our weaknesses. It also refers to the
people’s beliefs concerning death,
courage,
respect, and faith.

I absolutely love this book. It’s extremely
old_copyright 1913! It really made me look deep
into myself. I am of
Norwegian origin and it was
quite interesting to learn about what my
forefathers believed and how they worshipped. My
absolute favorite Norse
hero 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 call
number
is BL860. Be careful with it,
though, the pages are falling
out.
Bibliography
uMortensen, Karl. “Norse Mythology.” Thomas
Y. Crowell
Company, New York, NY. 1913.