3

What I'm looking for is stories that do not derive from the Eddas.

Oral tradition and textual records of oral tradition are ideal, but I will accept accounts of these figures in popular literature so long as the works are "cultural phenomena" in the sense of being nearly universally known.

All sources should derive from the general regions out of which the deities originate, in the sense of being part of the culture of that held belief in these deities.

  • 1
    Can you clarify this at all? I think I know what you want, but I'm not entirely sure. – C. M. Weimer Mar 2 '17 at 21:55
  • Thanks for the pointing out the potential ambiguity. Clarified! – DukeZhou Mar 2 '17 at 22:08
  • 1
    I think this is still unclear. How do you define "primary sources"? Folk tales could still be considered a primary source, especially when it deals with material not found in other sources. Is something like Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða (an Icelander saga where a horse dedicated to Frey is the reason behind the customary feuding) a primary source for the purpose of this question? – andejons Mar 3 '17 at 12:16
  • 1
    Well, I'm still not sure since I don't know exactly what kind of answer you would like - is it stories, or any kind of mythological material? Some ways to be clearer would be to either give a cut off in time, or to specifically exclude Snorri, scaldic poetry, Saxo, and any other sources you would consider relevant. The sagas have a little material which deals with the gods, but I don't remember any stories with gods as protagonists. – andejons Mar 3 '17 at 20:00
  • 1
    As another example, I know of a an early medieval story of how Odin came to influence a battle for one last time. Relevant? Place name etymology can give important information. Relevant? Image stones from Gotland sometimes depict legendary material. Relevant? – andejons Mar 3 '17 at 20:07
5

Well, "folklore" is a very broad concept. Since "Not of the Eddas" still leaves quite a few important sources which I don't think were intended to be included, I'll briefly list them and move on:

  • Saxo's Gesta Danorum, which contains independent retellings, but which seldom is used in interpretations, particularly non-scholarly ones.
  • Scaldic poetry not actually part of Snorri's Edda, or the collection known as The Poetic Edda.
  • Snorri's Heimskringla, in particular the first parts of the Ynglingasaga.

Beyond this, there are other important sources but which does not relate to stories as much as things like cultic practice.

Anyway, on to actual stories:

The Wild hunt

The most well-known and varied story is probably that of the Wild hunt. The general myth appears all over Europe, with several different figures as leaders of the hunt, but in Scandinavia (as well as in souther Germany and Switzerland), it is lead by Odin. In Germany, it also appears to sometimes to be lead by Frigg or Freya.

Odin's last battle

While I could techinally exclude this on the grounds that it is actually older then Snorri's Edda, it is roughly contemporary with the story it tells, so I will include it:

In the Bagler Sagas, which mostly deals with Norwegian civil wars 1202-1217, there is an episode where Odin appears to a blacksmith and explains that while he has been busy in Norway for a while, he will now leave for Sweden. Four days after this stood The battle of Lena, in which Eric Knutsson of Sweden defeated the disposed king Sverker the older, who sought to return with Danish aid.

Loka Táttur

Loka Táttur is an interesting piece: a medieval Faroese ballad, it tells a story of how a farmer lost a bet with the giant Skrymir, who demanded his son as payment. The farmer asked three gods for help: first Odin, then Hœnir, and finally Loki. The first two manage to barely keep the boy safe for a day by hiding him first as an ax in a field of crop, and then as a feather on the head of a swan, but the giant almost get to him. Loki, in turn, hide him in the roe of a flounder. The giant catches this flounder, but Loki has prepared a trap, and manages to kill the giant and return the boy to his father.

Odin, aiding and abetting

Well, this is kind of borderline, but I include it because I find it interesting. In October 1484 in Stockholm, a thief named Ragvald "Odinskarl" confessed that he for several years had been forsworn to Odin, who had helped him to break into and steal for churches. Ragnvald was executed.

Thor, slayer of giants

Again, not much of a story here, but some mythological remnants of Thor collected in Sweden: first, that thunder and lightning were for a long, long time connected with Thor, and second, a belief that giants and trolls were once real, but that they had all been killed by Thor.

Freya, maker of mischief

This is a folk belief from Småland in Sweden: according to it, during the night before Christmas day (generally a dangerous night according to folk belief), Freya would cause mischief: she would shake the fruit trees, and if a farmer had forgotten his plow or harrow outside, she would sit on it and make it useless.

Sources

  • The story of Odin and the blacksmith, before the battle of Lena, can be found in Till 1700-årsminnet af slaget vid Lena in Fornvännen by Frits Läffler (1908)
  • Loka Tattir can be found in Faroese and with English translation here.
  • The ideas about Thor I found in Swedish Wikipedia, in turn citing Folklorist Ebbe Schön.
  • For the story of Ragvald Odinskarl, here is an online source quoting the original source with an English translation.
  • The story of Freya I found in Britt-Mari Näsströ, Nordiska gudinnor
  • 1
    I have not included popular culture, since it would make the answer even longer and make it lose what focus it has. I could probably write something on how the Norse gods have been used by later poets, but that would probably be a better fit on the literature SE. – andejons Mar 4 '17 at 10:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.