The Poetic (Elder) and Prose (Younger) Eddas
The Eddas are the two major works which modern runesters draw upon when seeking to understand and work with the runes and the culture which birthed them. Both originated in Iceland which became a haven for the the ‘pagan’ culture of Northern Europe as it was Christianised.
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The Prose Edda is believed to have been penned by Snori Sturluson (1179-1241, an Icelandic poet, historian and politician although (like the Poetic Edda), it is thought to be a collection of older works which Sturluson drew together. It is because of the Icelandic pride in its history, myth and literature that we have these important texts today.
Then said Gangleri: “Where is the chief abode or holy place of the gods?” Harr answered: “That is at the Ash of Yggdrasil; there the gods must give judgement every day.” Then Gangleri asked: “What is to be said concerning the place” Then said Jafnharr: “The Ash is greatest of all trees and best: its limbs spread out over all the world and stand above heaven. Three roots of the tree uphold it and stand exceeding broad: one is among the Aesir, another among the Rime-Giants, in that place where aforetime was the Yawning Void; the third stands over Niflheim, and under that root is Hvergelmir, and Nidhoggr gnaws the root from below. But under that root which turns toward the Rime-Giants is Mimir’s Well, wherein wisdom and understanding are stored (pg.27)
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The Poetic Edda was discovered in 1643, recorded in the Codex Regius (Royal Book of Iceland). The most popular translation is by Lee M Hollander who says that:
What the Vedas are for India, and the Homeric poems for the Greek world, that the Edda signifies for the Teutonic race: it is a repository, in poetic form, of their mythology and much of their heroic lore, bodying forth both the ethical views and the cultural life of the North during late heathen and early Christian times (General Introduction).
Hollander’s translation includes a useful discussion about the origins of the Edda, extremely detailed annotation and, of course, the beautiful text of the Poetic Edda itself. Its popularity partially stems from Hollander’s preference for retaining a poetic feel to the Edda (rather than faithful and absolutely accurate translation). Carolyne Larrington’s translation The Poetic Edda (Oxford World’s Classics)is more straightforward and faithful to the original.