the dictionary of norse mythology


ICELAND An island nation in the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans, about 570 miles west of norway. Iceland is considered part of scandinavia and the Nordic nations, and as such it shares lan-guage and cultural histories with Norway, sweden, and denmark. Norwegians settled this volcanic island in the middle of the ninth century a.d. The settlers took with them their old religion and the stories of the gods and goddesses of the norse. In their isolation, the peoples of this rugged land main-tained their beliefs in the old gods longer than their relatives in Europe, who converted to Christianity in the 10th century. Iceland became a Christian land during the 11th century however, for some rea-son unclear to modern historians and literary experts, the stories of the old Norse gods thrived in Iceland until well into the 13th century, long after they had faded from the cultures of Norway, Swe-den, and Denmark. Most of the surviving manuscripts about the mythology of the Norse were created by artists living in the ninth and 10th centuries and recorded by scribes living in Iceland in the 13th, 14th, and later centuries. The great stories in the poetic edda were composed by anonymous poets and later writ-ten down by people skilled in the new art of writing and manuscript creation. These poems are part of the codex regius, a manuscript written in the late 13th century and found in a farmhouse in Iceland in the 17th century. snorri sturluson, the author of the prose edda, was a scholar, historian, and chief-tain in Iceland who wrote his works in the early 1200s in an effort to preserve the stories for later generations. He based his work on older poems and prose sagas, stories of heroes from Scandinavia that provide clues and details concerning the beliefs of these people. The language of these manuscripts, known as Old Norse or Old Icelandic, is closely related to the modern languages of Scandinavia, particularly modern Icelandic. Very little archaeological evidence of the beliefs in the aesir and vanir gods remains in Iceland, for it was settled late in the age of the Nordic people. While rock carvings and burial sites in Norway, Swe-den, and Denmark from the Bronze Age 3500-1000 b.c. and later provide scientists with additional evi-dence of the beliefs of these people, very few such carvings exist in Iceland.

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