Prose Edda

Prose Edda

The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda (Snorra Edda) or simply Edda, is an Old Norse language Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Norse mythology. The work is often assumed to be written by the Icelandic scholar and historian Snorri Sturluson around the year 1220.

The Prose Edda begins with a euhemerized Prologue followed by three distinct books: Gylfaginning (consisting of around 20,000 words), Skáldskaparmál (around 50,000 words) and Háttatal (around 20,000 words). Seven manuscripts, dating from around 1300 to around 1600, have independent textual value. The purpose of the collection was to enable Icelandic poets and readers to understand the subtleties of alliterative verse, and to grasp the meaning behind the many kennings that were used in skaldic poetry.

The Prose Edda was originally referred to as simply the Edda, but was later called the Prose Edda to distinguish it from the Poetic Edda, a collection of anonymous poetry from earlier traditional sources compiled around the same time as the Prose Edda in 13th century Iceland. The Prose Edda is related to the Poetic Edda in that the Prose Edda cites various poems collected in the Poetic Edda as sources.

Authorship

The assumption that Snorri Sturluson is responsible for writing the Prose Edda is largely based on the following paragraph from a portion of Codex Upsaliensis, an early 14th century manuscript containing the Prose Edda:
This book is called Edda. Snorri Sturluson compiled it in the way that it is arranged here. First it tells about the Æsir and Ymir, then comes the poetic diction section with the poetic names of many things and lastly a poem called the List of Meters which Snorri composed about King Hakon and Duke Skuli.
It has been noted that this attribution, along with other primary manuscripts, are not clear whether or not Snorri is more than the compiler of the work and the author of Háttatal or if he is the author of the entire Prose Edda. Whatever the case, the mention of Snorri in the manuscripts has been influential in the acceptance of Snorri as the author of the Prose Edda.

Contents

Gylfaginning

Gylfaginning (Old Norse "the tricking of Gylfi") follows the Prologue in the Prose Edda. Gylfaginning deals with the creation and destruction of the world of the Norse gods, and many other aspects of Norse mythology. The section is written in prose interspersed with quotes from skaldic poetry, including material collected in the Poetic Edda.

Skáldskaparmál

Skáldskaparmál (Old Norse "the language of poetry") is the third section of the Prose Edda, and consists of a dialogue between Ægir, a god associated with the sea, and Bragi, a skaldic god, in which both Norse mythology and discourse on the nature of poetry are intertwined. The origin of a number of kennings are given and Bragi then delivers a systematic list of kennings for various people, places and things. Bragi then goes on to discuss poetic language in some detail, in particular heiti, the concept of poetical words which are non-periphrastic, for example "steed" for "horse", and again systematises these.

Háttatal

Háttatal (Old Norse "list of verse-forms") is the last section of the Prose Edda. The section is composed by the Icelandic poet, politician, and historian Snorri Sturluson. Using, for the most part, his own compositions it exemplifies the types of verse forms used in Old Norse poetry. Snorri took a prescriptive as well as descriptive approach; he has systematized the material, and often notes that "the older poets didn't always" follow his rules.

Notes

References

  • Byock, Jesse (Trans.) (2006). The Prose Edda. Penguin Classics. ISBN 0140447555
  • Faulkes, Anthony (Trans.) (1995). Edda. Everyman. ISBN 0-4608-7616-3
  • Grape, Anders. Kallstenius, Gotfried. Thorell, Olof (Trans.) (1977). Snorre Sturlusons Edda: Uppsala-Handskriften DH II, vol. II. Uppsala.

External links

See also

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