Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Eddas and the Albatross

It's Day 5 (for real this time!) of 30 Days of Fade, and today is all about poetry!

I have to say that I freaking love poetry, particularly those epic poems of old. The Divine Comedy (Dante) and Milton's Paradise Lost both have a permanent spot on my coffee table, and The Iliad has long been one of my favorite reads, as has Beowulf. I know they're not particularly loved by most young readers forced to pour over them for class, but I'm a literature nerd at heart and they are beautifully written (and so much less annoying than Aeschylus's play, Agememnon, which I still resent having to endure in Classic Lit. in high school).

Another favorite poem (or collection of poems) for me is the Poetic Edda. I've already introduced you to the Poetic and Prose Eddas, the two major sources of Norse mythology known today, but here's a refresher:

The Eddas are the first (as far as we know) written records of the oral tales of the Nordic tribes, and are dated to somewhere between 1100 and 1300 CE.  The Poetic Edda is also one of the most fantastical and fantastic poems around, and is well worth the read. One of the most popular translations of the Poetic Edda is that by Henry Adam Bellows and can be read online here.

The Prose Edda, translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur in 1916 is a collection of legends from the Norse tribes, first recorded by Snorri in the 1200s, and can be read here. If you have a little time to explore Norse mythology, the Eddas should be your first stop. If epic poetry is your thing, the Poetic Edda is a must read.

My favorite book of the Eddas is Voluspo, in which a wise-woman relates to Othin (Odin) the history of the Gods, and the prophecy of their eventual demise during the Twilight of the Gods (Ragnarok). During the course of Fade, Arionna briefly considers a stanza (45) of the Voluspo. It's the one below and discusses the role of man in the end of the world:

Brothers shall fight | and fell each other,
And sisters' sons | shall kinship stain;
Hard is it on earth, | with mighty whoredom;
Axe-time, sword-time, | shields are sundered,
Wind-time, wolf-time, | ere the world falls;
Nor ever shall men | each other spare.

Basically, the wise-woman tells Odin, when Ragnarok happens, men will break their ties to one another, and brother will be pitted mercilessly against brother as the world falls. It's pretty grim stuff, and as Arionna suggests in Fade, pretty dang sad, too. I won't fan-girl over the Poetic Edda anymore than that, but yeah. Read it. :)

Another poem that comes up during the course of the story is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge, which you can read here. This poem relates the tale of a sailor upon his return from voyage, who has had quite a few misfortunes after shooting an albatross and invoking the rage of spirits who wreak havoc on the ship and crew. Two of the most popular modern phrases around actually came from this poem:
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink
The other is the proverbial albatross around an individual's neck... In the course of the poem, the sailor is forced by his crewmates to wear the albatross that he killed (and thus caused all of the trouble for the ship) around his neck in penance for what he's done. His troubles continue when his crew is killed and he alone remains. The sailor is eventually cursed to wander the earth and share his tale of woe as punishment for what he's done, and as a reminder to others that one should love all of God's creatures. 

It's a great poem, and well worth the read. I'm not going to spoil all the fun and tell you how it relates to Fade, but I will say that, beyond the quote Arionna provides, specific themes from the poem (and the Eddas, of course) make an appearance throughout the story. :)

Your nerdy author,


  1. I may have to track down those poems. I usually don't do poetry because I need more of a story, but in this case, I think I can make an exception. Thanks for enlightening me.

    1. Jaleta, I hope you enjoy them when you get a chance to read. The stories told within each piece of poetry (Poetic Edda and The Rime) are really fascinating if you can handle it being told poetically instead of in traditional prose form. :)


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