The role of the giants in Norse mythology
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The following thesis is a survey of the roles that the giants play in Norse mythology. It involves examination, criticism and interpretation of the mythological poems of the Elder Edda and mythological information preserved in Snorri's Edda. All passages in Old Icelandic have been translated as literally as possible in footnotes. Relevant archaeological evidence is examined and evaluated. The first chapter deals with the cosmological giant Ymir, from whom the land, sea and sky were formed. Many giant-names seem to be associated with Ymir's characteristics, and the implications of these potential associations are discussed at length. Chapter 2 concerns Odinn's involvement with the giants. In his pursuit of wisdom he encounters giants, giantesses and those who are arguably associated with giant-kind. They play the role of both obstacle and source for knowledge and wisdom. The third chapter concerns Thorr's relationship with the giants who pose a threat to the gods and man. Thorr's role is that of the heroic defender of Asgardr and Midgardr. In these myths the giants seem to serve as devices to demonstrate the personality and various characteristics of Thorr. Chapter 4 deals with Gerdr and Skadi, two giantesses who marry into the circle of the Aesir. Having become involved with the Aesir in this way, they too become goddesses or the equivalent thereof. Previous studies have tended to focus more on the roles of the individual gods and goddesses, but this thesis aims to shed some light on their enemies.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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