For studies of both Eddas, see Einarsson, A History of Icelandic Literature (1957), P. Hallberg, The Icelandic Saga (1962); C. J. Clover and J. Lindow, ed., Old Norse-Icelandic Literature: A Critical Guide (1978).
Body of ancient Icelandic literature. Contained in two 13th-century books, it is the fullest and most detailed source for modern knowledge of Germanic mythology. The Prose Edda (Younger Edda, or Snorra-Edda; circa 1222), a handbook on poetics by Snorri Sturluson, explains diction and metre in skaldic and Eddic poetry and recounts tales from Norse mythology. The Poetic Edda (Elder Edda, or Sæmundar Edda; circa 1250–1300) is a collection of mythological and heroic poems of unknown authorship composed circa 800–1100. These austere lays are the oldest surviving antecedents of the
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The term Edda (Plural: Eddas or Norse plural: Eddur) applies to the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, both of which were written down in Iceland during the 13th century, although some of the poems included in them may be centuries older.
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.
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.
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