Norse Mythology



Write an in-depth analysis of Norse mythology, using the primary sources: the
Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, which we will also discuss in class. You can also use the Gaiman retelling of
the myths, but it cannot be the only source that you use for the paper.
The accounts of the ancient Norse gods show deities who are not always godlike, heroic, or even effective.
Their limitations may be caused by the authors’ reluctance to be associated with the deities they wrote about.
As the texts were written by Christians (such as Snorri Sturluson, author of the Prose Edda) and the Christians
who copied the Codex Regius, he was writing to preserve the memory of an ancient belief system that was no
longer relevant. Alternatively, the fallibility of these gods may reflect the ritual practices of the old Norse
peoples or the world view of the contemporary Icelandic audience.
In this essay, I would like you to evaluate the Eddic stories (both poetic and prose) as sources for medieval
Scandinavian history. What sorts of character and personality traits do the Norse gods exhibit? What is the
purpose of the text? Can we rely on them as historians? What role can literary and didactic texts play in
historical analysis?
Your analysis should use the techniques set out by the class handout for the assignment “Writing Workshop for
History 323.” You should make an argument about one or more of the more sophisticated elements of primary
source analysis – Purpose, Bias, Absence, Reliability. For instance, you may argue about the biases inherent
in the texts, or about the reliability or lack thereof within the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. You should be
making an historical argument though, and state it clearly in a thesis statement. Please remember to analyze
the texts using close-reading techniques, noting details, connections, and patterns. Essays should be
organized with a clear thesis statement and well-supported with evidence.
Since we will have looked at these texts in class, you already have an advantage for writing a good essay.
However, I am looking for you to take your analysis beyond what we have discussed in class. This means more
in-depth critiques and evaluation of the sources. If you use secondary scholarly works to help formulate these
ideas, you must cite them within your essay as well as on a Works Cited page. No doing so constitutes
academic dishonesty.
Citations should follow Turabian/Chicago Manual of Style footnote or in-text parenthetical methods. The style
guide is: (Links to an external site.)

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