Norse Code

Reader Logo by Ann Giles

I seem to have lost my Norse gods. Or perhaps I never had them? It was only recently that I realised I ought to have had more of a Norse background than I appear to have managed.

And because I didn’t know why, I had to ask the husband. He’s good with stuff you can’t find, so I suspected he might know something about this lack of gods. I was correct about that, as he came back with an answer pretty quickly.

The answer is Snorre Sturlasson. And once I heard this well known name mentioned after all these years I knew he had nailed it.

Many of you will now be wondering what the question was in the first place. I chat to many authors of primarily children’s books. Most of them are British, or at least from English-speaking backgrounds. Whether or not they write about the Norse gods themselves, they do know a lot about what I almost consider to be my gods. They also know about other deities, be they Greek or from some other near or far flung place.

When I began sifting through my brain for godly knowledge I had to admit that whereas I have always thought of Thor and Odin in the familiar way you do friends and acquaintances, I did seem to know far more about Greek gods. That’s without me knowing all that much about Zeus & Co. It’s a mere matter of comparison.

I don’t always remember who did what, but most classical myths seem familiar when encountered again and again. But what did Thor and Odin ever do for me? Other than name two days of the week? My mind was pretty blank. Thor gets angry and hence we have thunder. What else?

Besides, where on earth do you really come from if you are Norse? When speaking English it sounds sort of Norwegian, doesn’t it? And the recent trend for talking about Nordic literature hasn’t got much to do with Norse. I think. And those Icelanders. Where do they fit in, with their Ragnarök?

Vikings. We are all Vikings. Are they Norse? Nordic? Scandinavian? Or just really fierce people who have nice boats and go invading in all directions.

So, these English-speaking authors, some of whom claim to have been fascinated by Norse mythology from childhood, where did they read about it? And why didn’t I know those same books, seeing how much closer to the source I was?

I can only deduce that there were actually some fairly accessible books on Norse mythology for English children. There certainly are quite a few now, including newly written fiction, featuring Odin and his people.

But what is there for Swedish children and why didn’t I seem to know about it? Even if I was lazy or simply not interested, surely I would have been aware of classics that my friends might be reading.

Snorre Sturlasson could well have been it. I’m sure someone would have read him. I didn’t, though, and more of my friends were into Nancy Drew than Norse deities.

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