The Poetic Edda:

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Translated from the Icelandic text with an introduction and notes


Henry Adams Bellows


Princeton University Press: Princeton

American Scandinavian Foundation

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



The General Introduction mentions many of the scholars to whose work this translation owes a special debt. Particular reference, however, should here be made to the late William Henry Schofield, Professor of Comparative Literature in Harvard University and President of The American-Scandinavian Foundation, under whose guidance this translation was begun; to Henry Goddard Leach, for many years Secretary of The American-Scandinavian Foundation, and to William Witherle Lawrence, Professor of English in Columbia University and Chairman of the Foundation's Committee on Publications, for their assistance with the manuscript and the proofs; and to Hanna Astrup Larsen, the Foundation's literary secretary, for her efficient management of the complex details of publication.

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