The term Edda refers to two key collections of medieval
Icelandic literature, frequently distinguished
by age as well as genre. The Elder Edda, also called
Poetic Edda, is a collection of poems composed by
a series of anonymous poets between 800 and 1100
and written down in Iceland between 1150 and
1250. The surviving manuscript, which dates to
1270, contains 33 lays, or poems, describing figures
and events from Norse mythology (see MYTHOLOGY,
NORSE). Though some of the material is not Scandinavian,
these poems, which were originally written
in Old Icelandic, vividly portray the heroic and
frequently violent world of the pre-Christian Scandinavian
The Younger or Prose Edda (ca. 1220) is a guide
to early Scandinavian poetry and mythology.
SNORRI STURLUSON composed this Edda in an effort
to preserve the art of Icelandic poetry. Together,
the three books—“The Tricking of Gylfi,” “The
Language of Poetry,” and the “List of Verse
Forms”—provide a systematic review of the poetic
rules and forms in addition to a comprehensive
discussion of Norse beliefs on the creation and end
of the world as well as the doings of various Norse
gods. Part of his discussion contains advice on
kennings, a poetic device that uses a compound
descriptor to convey the qualities of a person or
thing. The kenning often serves as a striking
metaphor, for instance calling the sea the “whaleroad,”
a person’s speech a “word-hoard,” and chest
The Poetic Edda shares material with the Icelandic
Volsunga Saga and the German Nibelungenlied,
while tales of Norse gods and heroes
contained within the Prose Edda have inspired
artists for centuries. German composer Richard
Wagner (1813–83) based his Ring of the Nibelung
on the Poetic Edda, and writer J. R. R. Tolkien
(1892–1973) drew widely from the Norse myths
for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
English Versions of the Edda
The Poetic Edda, 2d ed. Translated by Lee Hollander.
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986.
The Poetic Edda. Translated by Carolyne Larrington.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Sturluson, Snorri. Edda. Translated by Anthony
Faulkes. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 2002.
———. The Prose Edda: Tales from Norse Mythology.
Translated by Jean L. Young. Berkeley: University
of California Press, 2002.
Works about the Edda
Acker, Paul and Carolyne Larrington. The Poetic
Edda: Essays on Old Norse Mythology. New York:
Garland Publishing, 2001.
Wawn,Andrew.Northern Antiquity: The Post-medieval
Reception of Edda and Saga. London:Hisarlik Press,