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The Norse Myths

14 Dec

Few nations have possessed a greater gift of storytelling than the Norsemen or Vikings, the ancestors of the people who today live in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. There are Norse tales of outlaws and heroes, of ghosts and dragons, of sea-kings and peasant farmers, of love and adventure; but perhaps the most interesting of all are the legends of the gods who used to be worshipped in Scandinavia before the coming of Christianity. The same gods, under slightly different names, were once worshipped by many other peoples, including the ancestors of the English and German nations, but here the old pagan faith was swept away by Christian missionaries so early that only scattered traces of it remain. In Scandinavia, especially in the remote island of Iceland, Christianity was not established till the year 1000, or even later, by which time the legends had taken a firm hold on people’s minds, and the Icelanders’ love of a good story made them cling to the old Norse myths even after many converted to Christianity. The fullest and clearest picture of the Viking gods is given in two Icelandic collections of tales called the Eddas.

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