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The Nordic Spirit: Norse Sagas, Viking Mythology, Scandinavian Folktales
The Nordic countries (consisting of the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, as well as Finland, Iceland and Greenland) have a rich storytelling heritage. The earliest written manuscripts are the Norse sagas, stylized narratives of real people and places which were memorized and orated through the generations, and in later centuries recorded in written form, mostly in Iceland. These sagas tell of family feuds, kings, battles, Viking explorations and raids, and other significant events and exploits. A complex blend of historical fact and artistic embellishment, they provide insight to the societal organization and way of life during those early times, and are the subject of intense study by scholars.
Viking mythology is peopled with the gods of the realm of Asgard –Odin, Thor, Freyja, Loki, etc.–and of other characters such as elves, jotunns (giants), dwarves and valkyries, the latter beings responsible for leading the dead to either Valhalla or Hel. The cosmos in which all these beings live is Yggdrasil, the “tree of life”—until the time of destruction, called Ragnarok.
And finally there is the gentler genre of folktales, which serve to explain natural phenomenon and illustrate moral concepts and consequences.
The items listed below represent a mere smattering of the rich body of literature illuminating the ancient and medieval culture of this fascinating corner of the world.
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