Myths of the Norsemen Summary

Overview

Perhaps as long ago as 8000 B.C., a group of nomadic tribes wandered south into India and westward into central Europe from a homeland somewhere west of the Caspian Sea. These divergent groups shared a common language (Indo-European), a knowledge of farming, and the worship of certain gods. First among their gods was a sky god, probably named something like deva (as in India) or Diu (Zeus) as in Greece. The Romans called him Diu-pater, or father god, which became Jupiter.

The names gradually changed as tribes settled in different places. Among the Germanic peoples of Central and Northern Europe the father-god was called Ziu (Old High-German) or Tyr (Icelandic). He was called Dia by the Irish or Tiw by the British, and from these names is derived "Tuesday." Other northern gods lent their names to the days of the week—Woden's day, Thor's day, and Freya's day.

Although once a unified whole, the oldest myths of the Indo-European gods and goddesses gradually changed and diverged, taking on new meanings in the new lands where the migrant tribes settled. The Norse gods persisted well into the Christian era in Scandinavia and Iceland, and many Norsemen—or Vikings—continued to take pride in the gods and heroes of their pagan past. This attitude enabled the old gods and myths to persist in many places, even though many of the stories were lost.

Unlike the myths of the ancient Greeks, those of the Norse peoples were not written down...

(The entire section is 430 words.)