The book entitled “Norse Mythology” by Karl Mortensen, is the book I chose to read for my first book report for this semester. The book was translated from the Danish by A. Clinton Crowell. Karl Mortensen was a doctor of philosophy whom attended the University of Copenhagen. The first part of the book is the general introduction. Here, you find the author’s meaning of “Norse mythology” and where he got his information.
He says, By “Norse mythology” we mean the information we have concerning the religious conceptions and usages of our heathen forefathers, their faith and manner of worshipping the gods, and also heir legends and songs about the gods and heroes. The importation of Christianity drove out the old heathen faith, but remnants or memories of it long endured in the superstitious ideas of the common people, and can even be traced in our own day. In the general introduction, the author tells us why we teach Norse mythology.
He tells us that for us, Norse mythology has in any case the advantage of being the religion of our own forefathers, and through it we learn to know that religion. This is necessary if we wish to understand the history and poetry of our antiquity and to comprehend what good characteristics and hat faults Christianity encountered when it was proclaimed in the North. Finally, it is necessary to know the most important points of the heathen faith of our fathers in order to appreciate and enjoy many of the words of our best poets. “Norse Mythology” is comprised of four main sections.
The first section contains the creation myth, which is extremely confusing because it talks about brother’s aunt’s cousin’s children from second marriages and what importance they were in those golden times. It’s quite hard to understand, and I had to read it over twice to make sure I understood. The second part of the first section iscusses the creation of the gods and the stories of their lives. And the last part is entitled Ragnorak, which stands for the enemies of the gods. All of this was quite interesting to read. The second section of the book talks about common popular belief.
It says that our forefathers, like other heathen people, found one of the plainest proofs of the soul’s independence of the body and its ability to take a hand in the affairs of living men in the nightmare and dream, as they lacked all other means of explaining those things. They therefore took it for granted that they were spirits, usually in the form of animals or men. Through the smallest crack or crevice the nightmare slips to the sleeping one, and torments and troubles him so sadly that he becomes ill or that it causes his death.
It is felt as an oppressing weight upon the breast or throat; the mare “treads” or “rides” the sleeping one from his legs up to his body and thrusts his tongue into the victim’s throat to hinder him from crying out. The Northern people have clung this very day to their belief in the “mare” as a supernatural female being, and many legends about it have arisen. A “mare” can slip out only by the same way that it came in; if one stops up the opening, it is caught. The same thing happens if one names its name.
In the Ynglinga Saga it is told of King Vanlandi, who had betrayed his Finnish bride, Drifa, that he in punishment for that had been killed by a ‘mare’ with which the magic arts of the Finns had tormented him. He became suddenly sleepy and lay down to rest, but when he had slept a little he cried that a ‘mare’ was treading him. The king’s men hastened to his assistance, but when they turned to his head, the ‘mare’ trod upon his legs so that they were nearly broken, and if they went to the legs, she was directly occupied at the head; and so the king was actually ortured to death.
Also found in the second section are chief gods and myths of the gods. Here, there are stories told of Thor, Odin, Frey and Njorth, Heimdall and Baldur, and Loki. It comments on the various thresholds crossed by these great gods, and the things that they accomplished. The third section is rather short, but it is solely focused on the forms of worship and religious life. It tells of the Norse temples, or Hofs, which means in general “a holy place. ” The Hofs were large square, occasionally round, houses, built in the same style and of the same kind of material as the common dwelling houses.