This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Saturday Rave: The Beguiling of Gylfi by Snorri Sturluson

What do you do if there is a new and powerful religion in the land, and you are afraid that the glories of the old (if false) one will be discarded and forgotten?

If no one makes a record of the old religion it will all be lost - but being the author of such an account is likely to make you very very unpopular.

The Icelander Snorri:

Snorre Sturluson-Christian Krohg.jpg
illustration by Christian Krohg

 (called Snorri Sturluson by those who feel uneasy about someone having a name with no surname or patronym attached) solved this problem, in the Iceland of the 1220s, by writing The Beguiling of Gylfi, or Gylfaginning, where the old lore is inserted into the story of a king who stumbles upon the hall of the old gods.

The format is odd - a section of prose followed by a few lines of verse. Admirers of Tolkien will hear the echoes of his work in it - and those who can't stand Tolkien can admire it just for what it is.

Surtr fares from the south / with switch-eating flame, --
On his sword shimmers / the sun of the War Gods;
The rock-crags crash / the fiends are reeling;
Heroes tread Hel-way; / Heaven is cloven.

The Beguiling of Gylfi forms part of Snorri's Younger Edda. It's 20,000 words long, and the reason it's called the Younger Edda is that there might have been an older one, which, very sadly, has been lost. 

Thank every heaven that Snorri saved this treasure for us all.

Word To Use Today: Edda. This word might be to do with the place in Iceland called Oddi; it could be something to do with the fact that edda means great-parent, and therefore suggests that the work holds the wisdom of the old; it could be because of the Latin edo, meaning I write, suggests poetic art.

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