How did the Viking Norse tell a story as important as Ragnarok (the end of the world) in poetry, and then in prose? What does prose require that poetry does not, and vice-versa, and especially when the accounts we have are separated by centuries of historical change, and religious conversion?
In this third episode on Norse Mythology (listen to the first two here), I read the story of Ragnarok from the Prose Edda (dating to c. 1220), and then its corresponding section in the poem Voluspa (c. 1000) in the Poetic Edda. Each section is preceded by the story of the death of Odin’s son, Balder, which in many ways precipitated Ragnarok. I also read from a later poem, Balder’s Dreams (c. 1300).
The translation of the Poetic Edda (and Balder’s Dreams) that I read from is by Andy Orchard, and the Prose Edda by Anthony Faulkes. The commentary I read from throughout the episode comes from the translation and commentary by Ursula Dronke.
The essential reference books on Norse myth that I will be using for this series are John Lindow’s Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals & Beliefs, Rudolf Simek’s Dictionary of Northern Mythology, and Andy Orchard’s Cassell Dictionary of Norse Myth & Legend.