The Poetic Eddas are the oral literature of Iceland, which were finally written down from 1000 to 1300 C.E. The Eddas are a primary source for our knowledge of ancient Norse pagan beliefs. This translation of the Poetic Eddas by Henry Adams Bellows is highly readable.

The poems are great tragic literature, with vivid descriptions of the emotional states of the protagonists, Gods and heroes alike. Women play a prominent role in the Eddic age, and many of them are delineated as skilled warriors.

The impact of these sagas from a sparsely inhabited rocky island in the middle of the Atlantic on world culture is wide-ranging. Wagners’ operas are largely based on incidents from the Edda, via the Niebelungenlied. J.R.R. Tolkien also plundered the Eddas for atmosphere, plot material and the names of many characters in the Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings.

John Bruno Hare