What’s an Edda?

You ask a good question.

You’ve seen it now on the cover: The Song of the Ash Tree — First Edda.  And maybe you’ve scratched your head.

I’m here to help.     

The term edda is taken from the Poetic and Prose Eddas, works written down in the 13th century in Iceland and containing traditional material from the Viking Age.  They pretty much ARE the Norse myths.

As to what edda means, that’s really up in the air.  I’m certainly no expert, but apparently there are several theories.  One is that it is an Old Norse term meaning great-grandmother.  A second theory suggests it has something to do with the Old Norse óðr, which means poetry.  A third branches out further and says something along the lines of this: edda comes from Latin edo, or I do, and credo, or creed.

I chose to venture down this brambly, shadowy road of etymology and include edda in the naming of The Song of the Ash Tree because I like all of these meanings.

Take great-grandmother.  I’m not talking a sweet old lady knitting pink sweaters with a head full of hot rollers.  I’m talking a bad-ass former shieldmaiden with scars up to her neck and serpents tattooed behind her ears.  And wrinkles.  And white hair.  Tied up in eighteen braids.

That’s what I picture, at least.

And this great-grandmother has a horde of stories in her head.  They’re oozing out of her pores.

As for óðr, that one should be obvious.  I didn’t write poetry or epic verse, but one of the muses lurking in my head was Homer and if I managed to splash any semblance of The Iliad or The Odyssey onto my pages, I’m a happy camper.  But along with that is the fact that óðr is tied to Odin, the chief of the Norse gods.  Odin was the god of poetry…among other more grisly things…and he gave the gift of poetry to humans.  I happen to like Odin.

Finally, the idea that this is some sort of creed harkens to the belief of the Norse people, their relationship with these gods, these flawed gods with an inescapable, grim fate.  Is this my creed?  No.  But am I setting this story forth, delivering it, performing it, bearing it.  To you.  And while I’m no Latin scholar, I think edo has something to do with all of that.  I am doing this, with a capital D O I N G.  It is my act and mine alone.

So what do I take from that?  A story-telling grandmother with a direct link to Odin and a flair for Latin?  Sure.

Simply speaking, you can think of edda in this context as book, chronicle, saga, etc.  But I hope some of these other meanings have infiltrated your brain.  I hope you will carry them with you, let them enrich you, when you read.

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