A Blog about Norse Fantasy, Viking Adventures, and More!

Thor’s Day Alert #5: Secrets to Reading Norse Myth

Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!

As promised in my last Thor’s Day post, here’s some info about Norse myths that you might find useful in moving forward. Ja, I said moving forward. Awesome though “The Forging of the Treasures” myth is, I’ve probably spent enough time on it. Still, I think some of the points in the following wrap-up will help you better enjoy other tales of the gods.

Plus I get to try out some neat WordPress features like ordered lists:

  1. In Norse myth or saga, when you see the letter “j” it is usually pronounced as a “y”. If you didn’t already know this, then I bet Mjollnir is a bit easier to say now, ja?
  2. If you come across Dark Elves and dwarves in the same tale — as we did in The Forging of the Treasures — consider these beings to be one and the same race, that race comprising the now traditional Tolkienian concept of dwarves. The Dark Elves have their own place — literally — but that’s a topic for a future post.

[Okay, so the ordered lists feature sucks for this sort of writing. Ooh . . . but there’s an unordered lists feature too! And here I thought the icon simply meant bullet points. Here goes . . . ]

  • A word regarding Odin’s golden ring, Draupnir, from which eight identical rings drop every ninth night. Now this is NOT a ring of Tolkien tradition; it is a ring of Viking tradition — an arm ring. Silver arm rings were given by chieftains and kings to honor the warriors in their service. Some warrior traits deserving of such reward include: loyalty, bravery, fierceness in battle, and booty hauling (and by that I don’t mean sailing really fast or bringing loose women to the feast, I mean surrendering to the chieftain piles of loot gained while pillaging in his name).

[Enough of the unordered lists, er, bullet points. Like ordered lists, not enough white space. Plus bullet points remind me of work and the real world, of which we all get too much!]

So in Draupnir we have the original gift that keeps on giving. In a culture where gift-giving and generosity are held in high esteem, what better trinket for the host of hosts to own? What better treasure for Odin, Allfather and ultimate king of gods and man, to have? With Draupnir Odin can easily and frequently honor warriors by giving them not only arm rings, but golden arm rings.

At the end of this myth which I’ve doubtless over-analyzed, you might remember a nonsensical passage wherein Loki tries to get out of paying his lost-bet debt by handing over the very thing he wagered with the dwarves: his head. Here’s the line:

Then Loki offered to redeem his head but the dwarf said that he could not expect to do that.

Huh? I’m no scholar, but I’m guessing something got lost in translation here. I checked another source and its author used “ransom” instead of “redeem”. If anyone can make sense of this line, please let me know. Otherwise . . .

Don’t get too hung up trying to decipher nonsensical lines like these; they happen from time to time in Norse myth. There’s probably some nuance of Icelandic that doesn’t come through in English, or perhaps it’s something as simple as an 800-year-old typo.

Something tells me Sturluson and other ancient scribes didn’t report to (and enjoy the benefits of having) an editor.

The good news? Such skalds were geniuses and their mistakes were rare indeed.

Thanks for stopping by! See ya next Thor’s Day — if not before. I just might, MIGHT, post some more art.

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