Snorra Edda

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Print edition of the Snorra Edda from 1666.

The Snorra Edda (also called Prosa Edda or imprecise Younger Edda ) is a manual for skalds that was originally only titled Edda . The name is used to better distinguish it from the song Edda .

The Snorra Edda is primarily intended as a work of mythography and poetry, but it is also an important source of Old Norse poetry and mythology from the 13th century. It was written by Snorri Sturluson , an Icelandic poet and historian who lived in 1178 or 1179 Lived until 1241. It is a compilation of Old Norse traditions, which is said to have originated between 1220 and 1225. Snorri's motivation for writing this handbook was his fear that in the course of the far-reaching Christianization of the north, the knowledge of Norse mythology necessary for an understanding of the Scaldic metric forms could be lost. The Snorra Edda pursues didactic and preservative goals. Snorri's endeavors were aimed at the transmission of the skald strophes that were mainly orally present in his time.

Tradition and manuscripts

Snorri compiled the Nordic myths , some of which he borrowed from the Edda of Songs, some of which are no longer known sources, with the intention of making a handbook available that describes the Old Norse metrics and poetics and the materials of the poems from which the poetic paraphrases were taken are documented.

The Snorra Edda was preserved in four manuscripts. None of these copies were made by Snorri himself or during his lifetime, so it is not known whether everything was written by him:

  • The oldest manuscript, the Codex Upsaliensis (U, Codex DG 11 ), was created around 1300.
  • The best preserved Codex Regius of the Snorra Edda (R, Gks 2367, 4to ), probably from 1325.
  • The Codex Wormianus (W, AM 242, fol. ), Which was created around 1350.
  • The Codex Trajectinus (T, Utrecht 1374 ), which is a copy on paper from around 1600. The parchment template could have originated in the 13th century.

The name Edda

Snorri is said to have given his Norse mythography, including the Skaldic textbook, the name Edda, which was then transferred to the collection of the poems of the so-called Song Edda, which contains most of the poems from which Snorri built his Snorra Edda.

The oldest manuscript from around 1300 is entitled “This book is called Edda”. The meaning and etymology of the name Edda is controversial. The meaning intended by his contemporaries may have been poetics . In the course of research history, four different options have been discussed to this day:

  • Old Icelandic edda describes the great-grandmother - because of the antiquity of the text, as a mythological original mother
  • A derivation of the old Icelandic word óðr (poetry, poetry) - as poetry
  • Derived from the Latin edo (I preach, communicate, also poetry)
  • A dedication to the place name Oddi , where Snorri lived - The Book of Oddi.

With these speculations it should not be forgotten that the name does not come from Germanic tradition, but from the group of learned Icelandic early history, which was entirely Christian.

Texts from the Snorra Edda

The Snorra Edda is divided into three main parts plus a preceding prologue:

  • The Snorra Edda prologue
  • The Gylfaginning (Gylfi's deception: the main part of the Snorra Edda, which, in the framework of the legendary King Gylfi, offers a didactic outline of Norse mythology)
  • The Skáldskaparmál (Language of Poetry: a poetics of Skaldic poetry that includes Kenningar's theory and practice as well as a list of poetic synonyms)
  • Das Háttatal (list of verse forms, contains a detailed commentary by Snorri)

When writing Gylfaginning and Skáldskaparmál, Snorri used Latin models of didactic dialogue and medieval school books of poetology and rhetoric .

Meaning of the Snorra Edda

The individual texts of the Snorra Edda are related to one another in a certain way:

  • The prologue of the Snorra-Edda (old Icelandic. Fórmali ) places the pagan-Nordic worldview presented by Snorri in the framework of Greco-Roman medieval scholarship - it presents ancient Icelandic scholarly prehistory. The Germanic gods are rationalized ( euhemerized ) as human heroes of the Trojan War , who migrate to the north after the fall of the city of Troy and are accepted there as kings; the title Æsir ( Asen ) is traced back to Asia (Asia Minor).
  • Snorris Gylfaginning unfolds Nordic mythography in a contemporary garment, she hands down the primeval sources from which the songs of the gods come, unfolds the cosmogony and cosmology of the Nordic-Germanic culture from its beginning to its end in Ragnarök .
  • The Skáldskaparmál offers budding skalds a style apprenticeship. The texts cited in it refer on the one hand to the mythical prehistoric times, but on the other hand are related to historical skalds and princes.
  • The Háttatal contains the Skaldic verse doctrine as Snorri considered it to be binding for his present.

Despite its differently designed parts, the Snorra Edda in its entirety is a textbook for skalds.

Another work by Snorri

In addition to his prosaic Edda, we owe Snorri other texts that were considered historical in the understanding of ancient Icelandic scholarly prehistory, and whose historical value is still discussed:


Web links

Wikisource: The Edda (Simrock 1876)  - Sources and full texts