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Chapter 7

The Prose Edda is a literary work that incorporates a great number of myths from the old Norse tradition, which included much of what is now northern Europe. Because Snorri, the writer, wanted to preserve this knowledge of a belief system that was disappearing, it contains both parataxis (the idea that myths often weave together different stories without logical connection) and rationalization (adding logic to an explanation after the fact), and it exhibits characteristics of both oral and written accounts, as explained in Chapter 2.

This chapter contains excerpts from the Prose Edda describing the pantheon of the pagan gods and the creation of the world—actually, six different accounts based on varying sources. For more from the world of the Edda, see Chapter 14, which tells the story of Ragnarok, the end of the world, from the Prose Edda; Chapter 19, which has stories of Norse heroes from the Prose Edda, and Chapter 31, which has an excerpt from Davidson's Gods and Myths of Northern Europe.

With respect to Snorri's Prose Edda, contests are an important theme to notice. The main part of this work, called "The Deluding of Gylfi," is structured as a contest, and the stories Snorri tells often contain games and contests of various sorts, as well. Look for the old woman Gefjon's laughter at defeating Gylfi, for instance.

While reading the creation stories here, compare the different roles of human beings in the various creation stories you have been reading. The Norse stories in this chapter give more prominence to human beings than does the Greek creation story in Chapter 3.  



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