The Eddic poems are composed in alliterative verse. The language of the poems is usually clear and relatively unadorned. Kennings are often employed, though they do not arise as frequently, nor are they as complex, as those found in skaldic poetry. Authorship Edit Like most early poetry, the Eddic poems were minstrel poems, passed orally from singer to singer and from poet to poet for centuries. None of the poems are attributed to a particular author, though many of them show strong individual characteristics and are likely to have been the work of individual poets. While scholars have speculated on hypothetical authors, firm and accepted conclusions have never been reached.
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This translation of the Poetic Edda is titled "The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore", and the material contained within is frequently referred to as "viking lore" throughout. Referring to these poems as "viking lore" may have been a marketing decision intended to move units, but it is unfortunately misleading; the lore in question primarily dates from the Viking Age, sure, but elements of the compositions date at least as far back as the Migration Period the 5th to 9th century CE and other elements are from a few hundred years after the Viking Age ended the Poetic Edda was compiled in the 13th century and the Viking Age is held to have ended in the 11th century.
Further, famous as the vikings are, they made up a small fraction of Scandinavian society at their greatest. Daily life among the vast majority of the North Germanic peoples was focused squarely on matters pastoral and agricultural and had little to do with this specific class of Norsemen.
Anyway, a minor gripe, but it needs to be pointed out. The introduction essay is considerably more hairy. Orchard makes it seem as if the English days of the week are of Old Norse origin p. In actuality, these weekday names were put in place by way of a process known as interpretatio germanica.
This occurred in nearly all recorded Germanic languages and well before the Viking Age. As a result, the English weekday names are not a product of Old Norse influence but arose natively, and so bear the names of native Anglo-Saxon deities. Why Orchard offers this muddled commentary rather than simply pointing out how closely related the English and the Norse were I do not know. It would have likely have whetted the interest of the reader to point out that, as is the case with all Germanic languages and mythologies, the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse were fellow siblings of a Proto-Germanic mother.
Later in his introduction, Orchard offers up some curious personal commentary as simple fact. The first incident of this occurs when Orchard discusses women in the mythological poems contained within the Poetic Edda.
According to Orchard, "in the mythical world of the Codex Regius [the most important Poetic Edda manuscript], women are largely scheming and suspect, when they are not simply victims or the objects of unwanted sexual attention" xx.
Orchard might have pointed out the strong female component found in our records of Germanic paganism and its mythology. Beginning with veneration of Nerthus as recorded by Tacitus in 1 CE Germania on to repeated references to a strong tradition of powerful, intelligent seeressess wielding power throughout the records of the heathen Germanic peoples such as Veleda, Albruna, Waluburg, Ganna, and Gambara , and reaching all the way up to our records of Norse mythology, it is clear that women were no lesser beings to the pre-Christian Germanic peoples.
Orchard says these two flaws were that Norse pagan beliefs were "fragmented" and also "had an uncertain future". Regarding his first point, Orchard claims that since Germanic or specifically Norse paganism appears to have been fragmented and non-unified, it was destined to be replaced by Christianity.
However, what he neglects to mention is that while few surviving sources on continental Germanic paganism exist, these sources frequently seem to closely parallel the Old Norse material i.
This is problematic for multiple reasons, but the primary reason is that the Germanic afterlife beliefs were clearly nowhere near as simple as Orchard here says which the Poetic Edda alone makes perfectly clear. It is further crucial to mention that, despite the Christianization process, elements of these beliefs continued to live on in folklore and folk practice, where deity names are recorded as in use until as late as the 19th century in Germanic-language speaking areas, sometimes exactly in the context of Old Norse attestations!
These beliefs have also been the source in modern times for modern reconstructionist Germanic pagan groups. And they are hardly alone. Groups inspired by Germanic paganism now exist in every country in Europe, throughout the United States, South America, and as far away as Australia.
Why does this sizable cultural shift get no mention here? While Orchard does mention that the Poetic Edda has had much literary influence through the years, it is by no means an overstatement to say that the Poetic Edda has been influential well beyond those dusty circles, and that the work remains a potent cultural force.
Moving on to the "A Note on Spelling, Pronunciation, and Translation" section, Orchard details some of his translation choices. Unfortunately, Orchard has decided to arbitrarily and inconsistently translate some of the proper names in the text to whatever he has most preferred. Mind-bogglingly, Orchard admits that this practice is "frankly indefensible" p.
What exactly does this mean for the reader? Well, for example, the proper name Gullveig is rendered as "Gold-draught" p.
Additionally, since these are proper names that may have been archaic in their time, this practice is a lot like referring to your 20th century pal Alfred as "Elf-Counsel", yet with far more etymological certainty than is available in most of the etymological troublesome proper nouns Orchard handles in his translation.
Besides, the source text is entirely unclear how "giant" any of these beings were considered at any given time. This poor practice should have been discontinued long ago, even if, yes, a minor note about what the scary, scary word may mean would be required. I mean, do we gloss "valkyrie" as "fury" or "Odin" as "Jupiter"?
Fortunately not, and these culturally-specific concepts should be treated with the same level of respect. Additionally, it is an entirely bare-boned affair, free of any special media or aesthetic treatment, and the Old Norse is not included a low-priced dual-edition translation remains unavailable for all current English translations. The inclusion of any of these elements would have set it apart from all other modern English translations. On the up side, it is useful for its footnotes--which, with the issues outlined above as examples, one would do well to eye with caution--and is also mildly useful as yet another translation to compare prior Poetic Edda translations to.
Whatever the case, the wait for a definitive English Poetic Edda translation continues. I am not advising the reader to avoid this translation. Both translations are in the public domain. Lee M. Otherwise, tread with care.