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Essay/Term paper: Norse mythology

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Papers

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The book entitled "Norse

Mythology" by Karl

Mortensen, is the book I chose to read for my first

book report for this semester. The book was

translated from the Danish

by A. Clinton Crowell.

Karl Mortensen was a doctor of philosophy whom

attended the University of Copenhagen.

The first part of the book is

the general

introduction. Here, you find the author's meaning

of "Norse

mythology" and where he got his

information. He says,

By "Norse mythology" we mean the


we have concerning the

religious conceptions and usages

of our

heathen forefathers, their faith and

manner of worshipping the gods, and also

their legends and songs

about the gods

and heroes. The importation of

Christianity drove out the old heathen

faith, but

remnants or memories of it

long endured in the superstitious


of the common people, and can even be


in our own day.

In the general introduction, the author tells

us why we teach Norse mythology. He tells us that

for us, Norse mythology

has in any case the

advantage of being the religion of our own


and through it we learn to know that

religion. This is necessary if we

wish to

understand the history and poetry of our antiquity

and to comprehend

what good characteristics and

what faults Christianity encountered when

it was

proclaimed in the North. Finally, it is necessary

to know the

most important points of the heathen

faith of our fathers in order to appreciate


enjoy many of the words of our best poets.

"Norse Mythology"

is comprised of four main

sections. The first section contains the creation

myth, which is extremely confusing because it talks

about brother's

aunt's cousin's children from

second marriages and what importance they

were in

those golden times. It's quite hard to understand,

and I had

to read it over twice to make sure I

understood. The second part of the

first section

discusses the creation of the gods and the stories


their lives. And the last part is entitled

Ragnorak, which stands for the

enemies of the gods.

All of this was quite interesting to read.

The second section of the book talks about

common popular belief. It says

that our

forefathers, like other heathen people, found one

of the plainest

proofs of the soul's independence

of the body and its ability to take a

hand in the

affairs of living men in the nightmare and dream,

as they

lacked all other means of explaining those

things. They therefore took

it for granted that

they were spirits, usually in the form of animals

or men. Through the smallest crack or crevice the

nightmare slips to the

sleeping one, and torments

and troubles him so sadly that he becomes ill


that it causes his death. It is felt as an

oppressing weight upon

the breast or throat; the

mare "treads" or "rides" the sleeping one from


legs up to his body and thrusts his tongue into the

victim's throat

to hinder him from crying out. The

Northern people have clung this very

day to their

belief in the "mare" as a supernatural female

being, and

many legends about it have arisen. A

"mare" can slip out only by the same

way that it

came in; if one stops up the opening, it is caught.


same thing happens if one names its name.

In the Ynglinga Saga

it is told of

King Vanlandi, who had betrayed his

Finnish bride, Drifa, that he in


for that had been killed by a

'mare' with which the magic arts

of the

Finns had tormented him. He became

suddenly sleepy and lay down to rest,

but when he had slept

a little he cried

that a 'mare' was treading him. The

king's men hastened to his assistance,

but when they

turned to his head, the

'mare' trod upon his legs so that they

were nearly broken, and if they went to

the legs,

she was directly occupied at

the head; and so the king was actually

tortured to death.

Also found in the second section

are chief gods

and myths of the gods. Here, there are stories told

of Thor, Odin, Frey and Njorth, Heimdall and

Baldur, and Loki. It comments

on the various

thresholds crossed by these great gods, and the


that they accomplished.

The third section is rather short, but it is

solely focused on the forms of worship and

religious life. It tells

of the Norse temples, or

Hofs, which means in general "a holy place." The

Hofs were large square, occasionally round, houses,

built in the same

style and of the same kind of

material as the common dwelling houses.

Just inside the door of the Hof

stood the posts of the high seat, in

which were fixed

great nails, but the

meaning of these is not known. At the

opposite end (the Korrunding or apse)


the images of the gods, and in

front of them or under

them the

splendidly ornamented Stall, which one

of the Icelandic sagas compares with the

Christian altar.

Upon its iron-covered

upper side burned the sacred fire which

must never be extinguished, and there

also lay

the open silver or gold ring

upon which all oaths must be sworn.


ring was moistened in the blood of the


and on all festive occasions the

Gothi had to wear it upon his

arm. Upon

the Stall stood also a large copper bowl

with a sprinkler (hlautbolli and

hlauttein). In the

bowl the blood of the

victim_animal or man_was caught and

sprinkled over those who were present.

The Stall

also, perhaps the whole

interior of the temple, was reddened

with it. The statues of the gods were

most often

clumsy images carved from

wood, and were set up on the Stall


upon a pedestal, and dressed in


with the festal costume of

the period. That there was always


hammer in the hand of Thor's image there


be no doubt.

The last section of the chosen book is full of

hero sagas. You'll find the stories of The

Volsungs, the Helgi sagas, Volun

the Smith, The

Hjathningar, and Beowulf. These are great stories


beautifully follow the hero cycle.

The conclusion of the book talks

about how

these stories reflect on us. It comments on our


and our weaknesses. It also refers to the

people's beliefs concerning death,


respect, and faith.

I absolutely love this book. It's extremely

old_copyright 1913! It really made me look deep

into myself. I am of

Norwegian origin and it was

quite interesting to learn about what my

forefathers believed and how they worshipped. My

absolute favorite Norse

hero has to be Thor. He

represents power. He's extremely powerful and

courageous. He also doesn't have too much

compassion for his enemies.

He never hesitates to

crush them with his almighty hammer. Thor is my

hero_let his stories live long!

[Do I recommend the book?


You can find it at

the OSU library. It's on the

main floor and the call


is BL860. Be careful with it,

though, the pages are falling



ù Mortensen, Karl. "Norse Mythology." Thomas

Y. Crowell

Company, New York, NY. 1913. 

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