Norse and East Indian Lectures

Norse Mythology: comes from the northernmost part of Europe, Scandinavia: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. The mythology of this region is grim, shadowed by long, sunless winters. But the darkness is laced with gleams of grandeur and sparks of humor. The myths depict a universe in which gods and giants battle among themselves in a cosmic conflict fated to end in the destruction of the world.


Major Themes and Myths

Bravery in the face of a harsh fate is one of the main themes of Norse mythology. Even the gods were ruled by an unalterable fate that doomed everything to eventual destruction. A hero who strove to accept his destiny with reckless courage, honor, and generosity might win lasting fame, regarded as the only true life after death.


In Norse* myth and legend, the warrior Sigurd was a member of the royal family of Denmark and a descendant of the god Odin*. He was raised by a blacksmith named Regin, who made him a special sword from pieces of a sword owned by Sigurd’s father.

Sigurd used his sword to kill the dragon Fafnir and so acquire its golden treasure. When Sigurd roasted and ate the beast’s heart, he was able to understand the language of the birds around him. They warned him that Regin was going to betray him, so Sigurd beheaded the blacksmith. Sigurd took the treasure and put a ring on his finger. He was unaware that the ring bore a curse, which brought misfortune to its wearer.

After slaying Fafnir, Sigurd came upon a castle where he awakened the warrior maiden Brunhilde, whom Odin had cast into a deep sleep. Sigurd gave his ring to Brunhilde and promised to return to marry her. But during his journey Sigurd was given a magic drink that made him forget Brunhilde, and he married the princess Gudrun instead.


Norse mythology developed from the myths and legends of northern peoples who spoke Germanic languages. It shares many features with the mythology of pre-Christian Germanic groups. When some of these groups spread into England and Scandinavia, they carried their myths with them. As they converted to Christianity, their traditional beliefs faded. But Christianity did not take hold in Scandinavia until a later date, and the Norse version of Germanic mythology remained vigorous through the Viking era, from about A . D . 750 to 1050.


Modern knowledge of Norse mythology stems from medieval texts, most of them written in Iceland. Descendants of Norse colonists in that country maintained a strong interest in their heritage even after becoming Christian.


A major source of information about Norse mythology is a book called the Poetic Edda, sometimes known as the Elder Edda. It consists of mythological and heroic poems, including Voluspa, an overview of Norse mythology from the creation to the final destructive battle of the world, called Ragnarok. The unknown author who compiled the Poetic Edda in Iceland around 1270 drew on materials dating from between 800 and 1100.

Around 1222, an Icelandic poet and chieftain named Snorri Sturluson wrote the Prose Edda, or Younger Edda, which interprets traditional Icelandic poetry for the audiences of Snorri’s time.


Mahabharata, which Contains “The Birth of Death”

The stories of the Hindu religion are contained in two major epics. These East Indian epics tell of heroes. One epic, the Mahabharata is where our story “The Birth of Death” comes from. The Mahabharata tells the story of an Indian civil war fought between two opposing branches of one ruling family. It is the world’s longest poem, and in it humankind is taught the noble traits of courage, honesty, sacrifice, peace, and love. In it is the “Bhagavad Gita,” which is similar to the Christian Lord’s Prayer. The shorter epic, the Ramayana, tells how Rama, an incarnation of the god Vishnu, rescues his wife, Yana, who was kidnapped by a monster.


In MLA proper submission style: Writing clearly, formally, in your own words, and in no less than 100 words, answer the following:

You might notice that the Norse Creation story and the East Indian story about the birth of Death seem fantastic. In your opinion, why do you think that is?