Recently I’ve been reading about Norse Mythology. My interest lies more in symbols that would work in a carving so with hope of finding something interesting I checked out a number of books from the library and ended up reading about the Viking gods.
Today I ran across the creation story in the Time Life book “Sagas Of The Norsemen: Viking & German Myth” published in 1997 by Duncan Baird Publishers, London. It’s a fair book and is an easier read than the original by Snorri Sturluson. (Snorri Sturluson is considered the first to write down the Norse myths. He was born in Iceland toward the latter part of the 12th Century.)
The Time-Life interpretation of Snorri’s Creation story left me puzzled. Here is what was written:
“…at the beginning of time, before the earth had been formed, there was nothing in existence-just a gaping void called Ginnungagap. To the south of this was Muspell…..”
Explain to me how there can be nothing in existence, but something can be south of it? (Let alone how there can be a void within nothing.)
“The Prose Edda”, by Snorri Sturluson (translated from the Icelandic by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, Ph.D.). The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York. 1916.
“Erst was the age when nothing was: Nor sand nor sea, nor chilling stream-waves; Earth was not found, nor Ether-Heaven, – A Yawning Gap, but grass was none….
Then said Jafnharr; “It was many ages before the earth was shaped that the Mist-World was made….”
“Yet first was the world in the southern region, which was named Muspell…..”
Snorri’s original (as translated by Brodeur) makes a tad more sense to me. Granted, Earth does not yet exist, but there’s an explanation that other things were created beforehand and that they came together to create Earth.
Time-Life then translates that man and woman were formed in the sweaty armpit of a giant as he slept. (Pleasant, I’m sure.) At least the 1916 translation (with what I assume is Victorian Age sensibility) has man and woman formed under the giant’s sweaty left hand. Happily, when the giant arose from his slumbers, he used his right hand to become upright thereby not crushing these new little humans under his massive palm.
The Norse are an interesting breed and I think I best read the 1916 translation completely for I think Time-Life may not have translated Snorri Sturluson accurately.