CAPTION. Thor is a prominently mentioned god throughout the recorded history of the Germanic peoples since Julius Caesar's times, and here is a hammer associated with Thor, made and worn by Norse people.
Cast in bronze, and likely plated with silver, tin and gold, this 1,100-year-old pendant found in Købelev, on the Danish island of Lolland, shows that Thor's myth deeply influenced Viking jewellery. "This is the only hammer-shaped pendant with a runic inscription. And it tells us that (such pendants) in fact depict hammers," Henrik Schilling, a spokeperson at the National Museum of Denmark, told Discovery News. For its runic text translates to "This is a hammer". Featuring an interlacing ornament on one side of the hammer head and the short runic inscription on the other, the newly discovered Mjöllnir amulet is believed to have been made by a local craftsmen. Fragments of silver needles and a mould for making pendants indicate that the jewellery was produced in a silversmith’s workshop on Lolland island.
A thousand quite smilar amulets found across Northern Europe are known as Mjöllnir amulets. Mjöllnir is the name of Thor's hammer: In Norse mythology, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing and fertility. Thor is prominently mentioned throughout the recorded history of the Germanic peoples, from the Roman occupation of regions of Germania, to the tribal expansions of the Migration Period, to his high popularity during the Viking Age. [৺Source]
The content of this Internet adapted, re-designed version of Peter A. Munch's Norse Mythology differs only little from the translation of Sigurd Bernhard Hustvedt from 1926.
There are other books on Norse mythology and related topics on the market than this notable textbook. Find a selection at the bottom of this page. As for the unfamiliar names and words among the Norse, a dictionary is supplied. There is a not very intrusive link to it at the left bottom of a page like this one.
The changes of this internet version are for making the work more enjoyable: What are now rather old-fashioned words, like thou, whence, thence, hither, and thither, are replaced. Several errors of spelling are corrected. Also, to accommodate better to the Internet medium, text notes of 1922 by Magnus Olsen are put at the back of each section, and not, as in the book, at the bottom of each page. The book's extensive end notes are here placed at the rear of the sections in the text; this arrangement makes for easier reading, and corresponds to several later Norwegian editions of the work, but not the last one of 1996. Page numbers are put in these brackets [} in the running text to make the text run with less interruptions, and to separate page references from note references in the text. Thus, [13} marks the top of page 13 in the book from 1926, and  is the third text note of a section.
All the notes of the work have been kept, even though some of them contain material that is not included in later Norwegian editions. Most of the notes are OK anyway.
The present text stems from the edition that Gabriella at http://www.vaidilute.com has put online. I would like to thank her for the good work! At her address you find the 1926 English translation to compare with or look up, as you like. Amazon.co-uk sells a hardcover edition from 2008, most likely a reprint, and Amazon.com has the 2007 paperback edition. The latest Norwegian edition is Munch, P. A. Norrøne gude- og heltesagn. Revised edition by Jørgen Haavardsholm. (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget 1996). That edition too keeps Munch's main text intact.
Myths border on tall tales and some kinds of folktales, but not all of them. And tall tales and myths from many countries and eras have elements in common for some reason or other.
In Norse literature we read that Gylfe was king of Sweden, and a celebrated magician. When a colony of Asiatics arrived in his country, he assumed the form of an old man, and journeyed to Asgard, an enchanted castle. Also, among the Norse, giants appear both in the mythology and in stories that border on seeming historical, such as the Orkneyingar Saga and Ynglinge Saga. At least one royal line claims it stems from a troll, another line - that of Harald Fairhair (Harfager) claims to stem from gods who came to the north as "violent-goddish" immigrants from around the Black Sea, says the Ynglinga Saga rather crudely.
It appears to be an inborn human drift that good tales get transmuted into more fantastic tales as the decades go by. Many religious legends of the East and West confirm it.
At any rate, Nordic mythology has plenty in common with mythologies of the east. Similar feats abound in the Arabian Nights and other Asian tales. Many stories of Homer contain such elements too. Thus, how Ulysses preserved himself from the charms of Circe is very similar to what happens in the story "Beder and Giauharê" in the Arabian Tales; and the fable of the Cyclops is found in the third voyage of Sinbad the Sailor Cf.
Myths are made. The craft of Norse mythmaking does not differ from that of making Greek myths and older myths too. First, the myth is a story, a narrative. Main characters tend to be deified (called gods and maybe kings too), and the action often contains fantastic parts - exaggerated, glorified persons and tools,, attractive women, and so on. Boasting is not much different, but tends to be far easier to see through.
Many neat parts of old myths may be interpreted figuratively. Freudianism has done that to some old Greek myths, to speak of problems that some contemporary men and women face too. The same may be done to Norse myths, they are suitable for some interpretation work, in part because they - just as their forerunners among Greek myths - tend to be obscure, tend to have many versions, and may blend several versions or texts or sources.
Old gods wane and newer ones wax - that is a typical side to old myths. The origins of some still kept gods may be retold and changed to suit the contemporary public and its living conditions better, and so on. Much simplified, the deeds and tools and other helpers of Norse gods show the desires of Norsemen, and much appears to be rooted in lacks too.
It says that mythmaking as a living tradition is not a finalised thing, but a process that incorporates new heroes and gods, and let older ones get more or less into the shadows of tale-telling.
Norse myths were written down about a thousand years ago, and gives a "snapshot" of how things were said to be "high up" back then. Much of the material is entertaining, at least to Scandinavians. Originally much of the Norse material was in verse form, and stories were enacted too, for example stories of Thor.
- T. Kinnes
The Norwegian original on which the present translation is based was written by Peter Andreas Munch, the founder of the Norwegian school of history. Munch's scholarly interests embraced also many related subjects, such as general history, archaeology, geography, ethnography, linguistics, and jurisprudence. His varied labors have in large part stood the test of time. His most important work, the "History of the Norwegian People" (Det norske folks historie, 8 vols. 1851-63) covering the period of Norway's ancient independence ending with the Kalmar Union of 1397, still remains a source book and a point of departure for historians. The great significance of Munch's scholarship lies in its influence upon the modern renascence of Norwegian culture. In the middle of the nineteenth century he was the most conspicuous intellectual force in the country, as Wergeland had been before him and as Bjørnson came to be after him. The national spirit in Norway, which has steadily gained strength, owes a heavy debt to the gifted leaders of an earlier generation, not least among whom was Munch. As an historian, as an editor of Old Norse poetry and saga, as a recorder of the venerable myths and legends of the race, he did yeoman service in establishing a sense of historical continuity between the Norway of the past and the Norway of the present. Since his day, Norwegians have labored in the fields of history, folklore, and related subjects, deepening and strengthening that fruitful sense of national consciousness which he did so much to awaken. [xii}
Munch's handbook of Norse Mythology, which first appeared in 1840, was originally written as a supplementary volume to a school text on the history of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. As a book for students and as a work of general reference it has maintained its popularity. The third edition (1922) from which the translation is made, was prepared by Professor Magnus Olsen of the University of Oslo, in response to the demand for an up-to-date treatment of the entire subject. He found it advisable, however, to revise Munch's work rather than to attempt a wholly original book, since he was thus able to incorporate the results of later research in a volume which had long enjoyed both popular and scholarly approval. The value of Munch's work has been greatly increased through Professor Olsen's revision.
The English translation is intended as a companion volume to two other books published in the SCANDINAVIAN CLASSICS series, The Prose Edda, translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, and The Poetic Edda, translated by Henry Adams Bellows. Norse Mythology will serve alike the student of Old Norse literature, and the general reader who seeks an authoritative guide through the world of Northern myth and legend.
My thanks are due to Professor Magnus Olsen for permission to translate the work, and to Professor William Witherle Lawrence, of Columbia University, Chairman of the Publications Committee of the American-Scandinavian Foundation, for many valuable suggestions.
S. B. H.
The mythology of our forefathers, as we know it from Norse mythical poems and from the records of ancient writers, has not come down to us in its genuine pagan form. It is extant only in a later form, dating from a period when its devotees had begun to lose their absolute faith in the older divinities, had begun to harbor doubts and to catch intimations of a consolation nobler and better than that which the ancient divinities had been able to give them. We learn to know it, furthermore, in the sources designated, as it manifested itself in Norway during the centuries just preceding the introduction of Christianity and as it appeared, something more than a hundred years earlier, upon its transference into Iceland by the Norwegian emigrants. In its main outlines it was at that time common to all the so-called Germanic tribes: on the one hand, to Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes; and on the other hand, to Goths, Franks, Saxons, Swabians, Frisians, Anglo-Saxons, and other peoples. Yet in the nature of the case, as the Germanic tribes gradually diverged with respect to language, customs, and modes of living, and each thus entered upon a separate development, it followed of necessity that mythology and cult took on a distinct character in each of these tribes; even in early prehistoric times, moreover, external influences proceeding from the more cultivated of neighboring non-Germanic peoples must have been at work, and also mutually operative influences [xiv} as between the Germanic tribes themselves. The ancient Norse religion was thus far from being identical with the mythology and worship of the other Northern or Germanic peoples. Evidence to this effect is to be discovered even in a cursory comparison with the few available accounts of religious conditions among the various German tribes during the pagan era. The pagan beliefs of the Swedes and the Danes, of which little is known through direct tradition, must also have differed in many particulars from those prevailing in Norway and Iceland as paganism drew toward its end. According to the plan of the present work, the Norwegian-Icelandic myths will have the most prominent place; it is these which particularly concern us, and only by means of these is it possible to reconstruct anything like a complete mythology. So far as it is practicable, nevertheless, reference will be made to the religious survivals of the other Germanic peoples.
Among the various Germanic tribes the pagan mythology was gradually driven back as Christianity spread abroad: first of all in France, about five centuries after the birth of Christ; thereafter in England, a century or two later; and still later in Germany, where the Saxons, who received the new faith at the hands of Charlemagne about the year 800, stood last of the pagan tribes. In the North paganism held its ground more stubbornly; in Iceland it did not loose its hold before the beginning of the eleventh century, in Norway and Denmark thirty years later, and in Sweden probably not before the year 1150. [xv}
Farther to the south the ancient faith was so thoroughly uprooted that scarcely a reminiscence survived. Only a small number of the early writers have set down so much as an occasional comment on the pagan divinities; their references lack fullness and exactitude and bear the clear stamp of prejudice and contempt. In more southerly lands, even those occupied by German tribes, there existed no such deep need and desire for the preservation of ancestral traditions as marked the North; or, if these tendencies had once prevailed, they had been smothered by the growing influence of the Catholic clergy. Furthermore, such writers as took any interest in recording the memories of the past were almost without exception ecclesiastics, who held it sinful to mention the ancient gods more than was strictly necessary. The situation was different in the North; there the pagan faith maintained a firmer footing, the general interest in searching out old traditions and listening to tales of ancestral prowess had struck deeper roots, and, what is more important, the clergy had never gained so complete an ascendancy as in the South. The chief reason for these conditions, at any rate in Norway and Iceland, was that the people held fast both in writing and in speech to the mother tongue, so that Latin, the language of the church, never became well established. The Norse historian would have found little profit in using Latin after the manner of the southern clergy, since few would have been able to read what he might write. Historical composition thus came to be the province of the laity rather than of the clergy. Moreover, our [xvi} forefathers were inordinately fond of skaldic poetry and song. The skalds made their verses in the vernacular; and since they drew most of their figures and similes from the old mythology, study of the myths was necessary both for the poets and for those who listened to their lays. The skald Hallfred, for example, upon his baptism made the unequivocal statement to king Olaf Tryggvason that he would neither deride the ancient gods nor refrain from naming them in his verse.
Through these various means a knowledge of the older mythology was maintained in Norway and Iceland; and for a long time nothing more than a visit to the neighboring kingdom of Sweden was required to discover a land still wholly pagan. In Iceland the common interest in poetry and history remained so vigorous that, even after medieval Christianity had run a good part of its course, two comprehensive and otherwise remarkable source books of Norse mythology made their appearance, namely Snorri's Edda and the so-called Sæmund's Edda. Snorri's Edda is a veritable handbook for skaldic poets, written about the year 1220 by the illustrious Snorri Sturluson; the first part of the work contains a full account of the ancient system of divinity, and in addition a number of separate stories about the gods and their deeds. The designation of Edda, which doubtless means "great-grandmother," probably became attached to the book because its contents were drawn from ancient narratives and songs that had come down from the "days of great-grandmother" herself. Sæmund's Edda is a [xvii} collection of poems celebrating the gods and heroes of olden times. Just when the collection originated is uncertain; evidences tend to make it contemporaneous with Snorri's Edda; yet the individual poems are much older and had lived long in popular tradition before they came to be written down. Sæmund's Edda is also called the Elder Edda; Snorri's, the Younger Edda.  Further information about the primitive mythology is to be gathered from numerous early poems, still extant, and bits here and there from the saga narratives; but these sources are as nothing in comparison with the two Eddas. In fine, it is only through Norwegian-Icelandic sources, that satisfactory knowledge of the ancient mythology is to be obtained.
A selection of quite related books:
Crossley-Holland, Kevin, reteller. The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: The Gods of the Vikings. Reprint ed. London: Penguin, 1993.
Daly, Kathleen N. Norse Mythology A to Z. Revised by Marian Rengel. 3rd ed. New York: Chelsea House, 2010.
Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Reprint ed. London: Penguin, 1990.
EB. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Graham-Campbell, James, and Dafydd Kidd. The Vikings. London: British Museum Publications, 1980.
Holm-Olsen, Ludvig, tr. Edda-dikt. 2nd rev. ed. Oslo: Cappelen, 1985.
Hødnebø, Finn and Magerøy, Hallvard eds. Norges kongesagaer. Vols 1-4. Oslo: Gyldendal, 1979 (and later editions, in Nynorsk Norwegian too).
Kvideland, Reimund, and Henning K. Sehmsdorf, reds. Scandinavian Folk Beliefs. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1988.
Looijenga, Tineke. Texts and Contexts of the Oldest Runic Inscriptions. Leiden: Brill, 2008.
Ross, Margaret Clunies. A History of Old Norse Poetry and Poetics. Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 2005.
Smith, Beverley Balley, Simon Taylor, Gareth Williams, eds. West over Sea: Studies in Scandinavian Sea-Borne Expansion and Settlement before 1300. A Festschrift. Leiden: Brill, 2007.
Williams, Gareth, and Paul Bibire, eds. Sagas, Saints and Settlements. Leiden: Brill, 2004.
Winroth, Anders. The Age of the Vikings. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.
WP. Wikipedia encyclopaedia.
Wærdahl, Randi Bjørshol. The Incorporation and Integration of the King's Tributary Lands into the Norwegian Realm c. 1195–1397. Tr. Alan Crozier. Leiden: Brill, 2011.
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