Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trolls, Ogres and Gnomes, Oh My! by Shirley Raye Redmond

Some years ago, I was hired to write a book on Norse mythology as part of Lucent Books’ Mythology and Culture Worldwide series. I had fun collecting the tales of Odin, Thor, Freya, and the other Norse gods and goddesses often associated with the Vikings, the fearsome sea raiders that plundered coastal settlements throughout Europe and even North America during the ninth through twelfth centuries A.D.

But the mythology of the Norse existed long before the Vikings ruled the seas. Some scholars believe it may go back as far as the Scandinavian Bronze Age, which lasted for over a thousand years between 1600 and 450 B.C.

And it’s surprising how much Norse mythology and culture have influenced our own customs, language, literature, and laws. In fact, our word law comes from an Old Norse word. Many other English words, such as husband, sky, anger, low, window, take, ugly, die, beer, anchor, and happy, have Scandinavian origins too. Thrall was the ancient Viking word for slave. It is the origin of our English word enthrall.

I learned some rather surprising historical facts too. For instance, did you know that the swastika, or hooked cross, is associated with the worship of Odin, the chief Norse god? The ancient symbol was found on Norse sword hilts and scabbards. It was believed to bring victory in battle. In the 20th century, the Nazis adopted it as their own symbol of power and victory.

The Maine Penny, a tiny Norwegian coin, is the only confirmed item of Viking origin that has been found in the United States. It was minted by King Olaf Kyrre between A.D. 1067 and 1093. Archeologists discovered the coin near the mouth of Penobscot Bay in Maine in 1957.

Trolls, ogres, gnomes, elves, and dwarves—common in the mythology of northern Europe—have long been a part of our own fairy tale heritage. British writers J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were heavily influenced by the Norse myths. So was Hans Christian Andersen, of course. He was Danish after all.

Do you have a favorite book or perhaps a movie based on Norse or other mythological characters?

An award-winning writer and frequent conference speaker, Shirley Raye Redmond is the author of three inspirational novels, PRUDENCE PURSUED, VIPER’S NEST, and AMANDA’S BEAU, as well as two dozen children’s books, including LEWIS & CLARK: A PRAIRIE DOG FOR THE PRESIDENT (Random House), which was a Children’s Book of the Month Club selection. Shirley Raye holds an M.A. in literature and teaches through the Institute of Children’s Literature. She has been married to her husband Bill for over forty years. They live in New Mexico and are blessed with two grown children and three adorable grandchildren. Touch bases at shirleyrayeredmond.com or Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. I am familiar with the Norse god Thor. Thanks for an interesting post.