There are far too many choices when it comes to narrowing down a list of the best books on the Vikings and Norse Mythology. So much has been written on this popular topic yet, all decent and readable books.
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There are a few that have certainly held the test of time. Many get re-released with a new forward, and some are standards on colleges. We understand many people don’t know a lot about the topic, so here is a list suitable for those getting started or with a healthy curiosity on the Norse and Viking mythology.
Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs by John Lindow
Professor Lindow’s Norse Mythology mostly consists of an alphabetical encyclopedia of some of the most important personages, cosmological locations, and other such phrases in Norse mythology.
This book explores the magical myths and legends of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Viking-Age Greenland. It outlines the way the prehistoric tales and beliefs from these regions that have remained embedded in the imagination of the world and still read about today.
It begins with an introduction that helps put Scandinavian mythology into place in history. Then, it continues with a chapter that explains the meaning of mythic time.
The third section takes an in-depth explanation of each of the mythological terms. These selections identify particular deities and giants, as well as the places where they live. It also gives us the varied and wily means by which they had to forge their existence and their battles with one another.
Thor, one of the most powerful gods, specializes in killing giants using a hammer made for him by dwarfs, not to mention myriad trolls, ogres, humans, and a myriad of strange animals.
There is the ongoing struggle between the gods, who create the cosmos, and the jötnar, or giants, who aim to destroy it. These enchanted worlds where this mythology takes place, we have turbulent rivers, majestic mountains, dense forests, plus storms, with harsh winters, eagles, ravens, salmon, and snakes.
These all take place in a land that closely resembles Scandinavia. These stories span from the inception of the universe and the birth of human beings to the universe’s destruction and the mythic future.
Enjoy these tales of creation and destruction, death and rebirth, gods, and heroes. Not only entertaining, but they will offer insight into the relationship between Scandinavian myth, history, and culture.
The Poetic Edda by Jackson Crawford
The Poetic Edda is a work of vision and overwhelming beauty. There are precious few rivals for this book. It’s a collection of Old Norse mythical and heroic poems, all composed by anonymous poets in Iceland or Scandinavia during the Viking Age and shortly thereafter.
Translated into English, these amazing texts from a 13th-century Icelandic manuscript have such historical, mythological, and literary importance. They contain the better part of the information that survives today about the gods and heroes of pre-Christian Scandinavians, their unique vision of the beginning and end of the world, and more.
This modern version of these poems is authoritative and fluent and even very often very gripping. Each one with their own individual headnotes and complementary general introduction, they supply today’s readers with most of what they need to know in order to understand and appreciate the beliefs, motivations, and values of the Vikings.
Taken together, these poems comprise our single most important source of information for Norse mythology and religion.
Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson
This book is ideal for beginners who want a scholarly take on the Norse religion.
This book describes the pre-Christian religion of the Norse and other Germanic peoples in a manner that relies less on the retelling of the stories than on the historical religion of which the tales were only one part.
It paints a picture of pre-Christian Germanic religion that is very thorough and nuanced than most books of this nature — one of the most widely-read books on the Viking Age.
Tiw, Woden, Thunor, Frig are ancient northern deities. Their names are the actual days of our week. This new study, which is one of the first popular treatments of the subject to appear in English for many years.
This fascinating work is that of a scholar who has long specialized in Norse and Germanic mythology. She describes the more familiar gods of war, of fertility, of the sky and the sea and the dead, and also discusses those puzzling figures of Norse mythology – Heimdall, Balder, and Loki.
All these deities were worshipped in the Viking Age, and the author has endeavored to relate their cults to daily life and to see why these pagan beliefs gave way in time to the Christian faith.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Introducing an instant classic by master storyteller Neil Gaiman. His version of the great Norse myths.
Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.
Although he retells only a select few of the dozens of surviving Viking myths, his choices include almost all of the most important ones. These include the creation of the universe and its cataclysmic downfall, as well as some that are particularly odd and funny.
By limiting himself to a particular portion of the myths, he’s able to flesh out those myths in a grand, novelistic form, which is certainly one of the book’s greatest strength. He turns some of the greatest stories in world literature into a great modern novel in its own right.
Gaiman stays true to the myths with the major Norse pantheon: Odin, who is the highest of the heap, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet lacking wisdom of some of the other gods; and Loki, son of a giant and blood brother to Odin, he is a trickster and incredible manipulator.
Gaiman retells these primeval stories that begin with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman, which is difficult with his beard and huge appetite to steal it back.
Also, the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most shrewd of all gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work reaches its end in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people.
Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.
The Viking Spirit: An Introduction to Norse Mythology and Religion by Daniel McCoy
The Viking Spirit gives us an introduction to Norse mythology like no other. Daniel McCoy, the creator of the popular website Norse Mythology for Smart People.
While this book is written to scholarly standards, but in a simple, clear, and entertaining style that’s easy to understand. It doesn’t read like a scholarly textbook, but rather a gripping book of tales. It’s actually ideal for people new to the field who want a great book that covers a lot of ground.
In this book, the author undertakes the retellings of 34 epic Norse myths. Rather comprehensive and more than any other book in the field. There is also a complete overview of the fascinating Viking religion, of which Norse mythology was a major part.
Here you will read all about the Vikings’ gods and goddesses, what their concept of fate was, and their views on the afterlife and their moral code. Also covered is how they believed the universe was structured and how they practiced and understood their religion. There is also a look at the role that magic played in their lives, plus so much more.
With this book’s inclusion of the latest groundbreaking research in the field, The Viking Spirit is the ultimate introduction to the timeless splendor of Norse mythology and religion for the 21st Century. It’s perfect for those wanting to read the stories in a readable and well-written manner.
A Tale as Old as Time
Many of the plots and themes we see today on our televisions and movie screens are simply the retelling of the old mythology tales and stories. The stories themselves have been told and retold, but each of these books offers their own unique perspective and version of the story.
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Some add very modern touches, and some like to add wit and humor to make the characters seem more real and well-rounded. They are not running around in horned helmets and burning ships full of their fresh kills.
While there certainly were a lot of battles and conflict, the real Norse story is far more complex. It takes place on a global stage, from North America to Russian and from the Arctic and beyond.
I’ve been intrigued by my dreams (we’re talking night-time ones) from a young age, and have decided to take some steps to inquire deeper into this fascinating, mysterious realm. Join me?