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Old Norse Mythology

John Lindow

Publication Date - December 2020

ISBN: 9780197554487

248 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches

Retail Price to Students: $24.95

An innovative and accessible overview of how ancient Scandinavians understood and made use of their mythological stories.


An innovative and accessible overview of how ancient Scandinavians understood and made use of their mythological stories.

Old Norse Mythology provides a unique survey of the mythology of Scandinavia: the gods Þórr (Thor) with his hammer, the wily and duplicitous Óðinn (Odin), the sly Loki, and other fascinating figures. They create the world, battle their enemies, and die at the end of the world, which arises anew with a new generation of gods. These stories were the mythology of the Vikings, but they were not written down until long after the conversion to Christianity, mostly in Iceland. In addition to a broad overview of Nordic myths, the book presents a case study of one myth, which tells of how Þórr (Thor) fished up the World Serpent, analyzing the myth as a sacred text of the Vikings. Old Norse Mythology also explores the debt we owe to medieval intellectuals, who were able to incorporate the old myths into new paradigms that helped the myths to survive when they were no longer part of a religious system. This superb introduction traces the use of the mythology in ideological contexts, from the Viking Age until the twenty-first century, as well as in entertainment.


  • New perspective on Norse mythology
  • Emphasis on the use and users of the mythology, not on the myths themselves
  • Historical sweep: the mythology from its sacral contexts to modern contexts

About the Author(s)

John Lindow is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Scandinavian at the University of California, Berkeley.


"The format of Lindow's book is novel and, for this reader, a welcome innovation in a presentation of a written mythology.... Old Norse Mythology is the inaugural volume of a new series, World Mythology in Theory and Everyday Life, edited by folklorists Tok Thompson and Gregory Schrempp. With the publication of John Lindow's book, the series is off to an auspicious start." -- William Hansen, Journal of Folklore Research

Table of Contents

    Chapter 1: Introduction
    Chapter 2: Old Norse mythology from cosmology to eschatology
    Chapter 3: ONM as oral sacred text
    Chapter 4: ONM and learned medieval speculation
    Chapter 5: ONM and modern national and racial ideology
    Chapter 6: Conclusion
    Suggestions for Further Reading

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