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GODS OF THE ANCIENT NORTHMEN Hardcover – January 1, 1973


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: University Of California Press; First Edition edition (1973)
  • ASIN: B001Z76DMQ
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,364,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cristiano Nisoli on September 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
I will not attempt to review the merit of this treatise in which Dumézil details a seminal application of his proposed tripartite structure of the indo-european religions and societies. The author started working on this in the middle of the twenties, but reached his conclusions only in the late thirties. I believe this edition is based on a 1958 revision. Notoriously, Dumézil's approach, questionable as it might be to some, revolutionized the field of Indo-European studies, and therefore it is not in my capacity to offer a criticism; only a taste of this brief yet insightful and profoundly influential book.

While Dumézil tries to find sense in the struggle between the Asi and Vani, the two "tribes" of scandinavian mythology, as it is depicted by relatively recent icelandic records, he unveils strikingly similar yet much older structures in Indian Vedic literature (Gods against Nsatya) as well as in the epics of the Italic people (Latini against Sabini) and, less frequently, Celts. After about fifteen years of research, the author discovers "the great connections that induce one to ascribe to the Indo-Europeans, before their dispersion, a complex theology centred upon the three functions of sovereignty, force and fertility". Odhinn and Tyr would occupy the first level in Scandinavia; Mitra and Varuna in Vedic India; Jupiter and Dius Fidius (eventually adsorbed into Jupiter) in central Italy.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ishraqi on February 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
It's a shame no one else has reviewed this books because it's really a classic. The works of Dumezil are still THE standard in comparative Indo-European religion. I can't even begin to guess the number of books I've read that make reference to his works in their footnotes. If you have heard of "trifunctionalism"** it's probably due to the influence of Dumezil. This book is a great read and very informative.

** The theory that Indo-European societies were traditionally structured in a tripartite manner and are patterned after the divine order and the various roles of the gods themselves.

1. Maintenance of Cosmic and Juridical Order. ( Priestly caste and Juridical powers.. Varuna and Mitra or Wotan and Tyr)
2. The exersize of physical prowess ( the warrior caste , Thor or Indra)
3. The promotion of physical well being and producers (farmers, craftsmen.. Frey and Freya.)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christopher R. Travers on June 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dumezil largely founded the discipline of tracing themes and stories across Indo-European traditions. His work was pioneering and often lead to a rough framing of ideas which other scholars would later fill in to some extent. His arguments are sound, and his logic solid.

This does not mean that the book does not contain ideas which may miss the mark (I am somewhat unconvinced of his arguments relating to the murder of Baldr and the parallels in the Mahabharata), but the general theories and framework are still very much accepted.

I would highly recommend this work as an introduction to Dumezil's work, as well as an important look into Norse mythology in general.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kittykins on January 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
Gods of the Ancient Northmen is a classic in the field. Georges Dumezil is one of the most respected scholars on Indo-European religion ad his work is still an invaluable resource today. He originated the idea of a tripartite functioning of the gods and goddesses and of the members of society. Though some have said this idea may be related to fascism in France, such accusations can't be proven and should not get in the way of his scholarship and the importance of his work in this area,

This particular book focuses on Norse society and religion, giving one a look into their particular ideology and the structure of Nordic society. It's a comprehensive and fascinating overview of the subject and imparts invaluable information to the reader. Though it could be said that this is more a rough outline and a starting point for a deeper exploration of the topic, which does not in any way detract from the work itself. In fact, it recommends it more highly as it allows you to get a good idea of what this society and religion is like before you delve deeper.
Anyone with any interest in Norse society and religion, or an ideas of such in the greater context of Indo-Europeanism, will find this book to be a great resource that you'll refer back to time and again as you explore this most interesting of subjects.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mjare on May 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
Author offers us a very good comparative study on the Norse mythology. This book is very short but it is also a very informative source of knowledge about the religions of Indoeuropean people. It is worth mentioning that Georges Dumezil was a real and scrupulous scholar, whose mind was not affected by the ''political correctness''. This fact makes this book really good and highly recommended.
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