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The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 31, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0140447552 ISBN-10: 0140447555 Edition: Penguin Classics

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Penguin Classics edition (January 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447552
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241) was the son of an upstart Icelandic chieftain. He rose to become Iceland’s richest and, for a time, most powerful leader.

Jesse Byock is a professor of Icelandic and Old Norse studies at UCLA. He is the translator of The Saga of the Volsungs and The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki for Penguin Classics.


Jesse Byock is a professor of Icelandic and Old Norse studies at UCLA. He is the translator of The Saga of the Volsungs and The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki for Penguin Classics.


Jesse Byock is a professor of Icelandic and Old Norse studies at UCLA. He is the translator of The Saga of the Volsungs and The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki for Penguin Classics.


Jesse Byock is a professor of Icelandic and Old Norse studies at UCLA. He is the translator of The Saga of the Volsungs and The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki for Penguin Classics.

Customer Reviews

This section is a treasure trove of poetic lore as well as important Norse stories.
Mithridates VI of Pontus
There are helpful notes, and a very useful index, giving proper Icelandic forms, including variants, for the usually Anglicized names.
Ian M. Slater
I found the book very interesting and was surprised at how much Tolkien had used in his stories.
Michael Rawling

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

222 of 227 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater on February 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jesse L. Byock, who has written some splendid works on medieval Iceland and the Sagas of the Icelanders, and translated two of the legendary sagas, as "The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer" and "The Saga of Hrolf Kraki," the latter two both available as Penguin Classics, here offers a new translation of the most famous and entertaining parts of another Icelandic work, "The Prose Edda." The prose is lively and clear, and the translations of verse made with attention to the use made of the passages in the surrounding text. There are helpful notes, and a very useful index, giving proper Icelandic forms, including variants, for the usually Anglicized names.

I have to wonder why Penguin waited so long (2005 in Britain, officially January 2006 in the U.S.) to add a translation of this important, and very enjoyable, medieval work to its catalogue, but, given the present result, it was a fortunate lapse.

Byock's selection, actually subtitled "Norse Mythology," is comparable in scope to the old (1954) translation by Jean I. Young, "The Prose Edda: Tales from Norse Mythology," which has been available from the University of California Press for decades. Byock's rendering is, in my opinion, superior in style, and is not marred by unacknowledged bowdlerization of references to body parts and functions. So Byock's version is probably ideal for the beginner, although perhaps not for general school use -- Young is less likely to provoke outrage from sensitive parents over exactly how Loki got Skadi to laugh! (Note that Amazon originally managed to confuse the titles, and attached reviews of Young to Byock, and of Byock to Young.)

I would expect serious students to want the new Penguin Classic as well.
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117 of 124 people found the following review helpful By diakritikos on June 11, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Be forewarned! If you plan on purchasing this translation of the Prose Edda, while it is attractive and reasonably priced, it contains mutilated versions of the important books Skáldskaparmál and Háttatal. Therefore, despite the title, you're actually only getting a small portion of the Prose Edda. Skáldskaparmál in particular is loaded with unique information about the gods and lore that you don't find elsewhere-crucial for anyone interested in the subject. You're essentially missing around 3/4ths of the Prose Edda when you buy this edition.

Otherwise, you do get a very readable and uncensored (well, as uncensored as Snorri gets) translation of Prologue and Gylfaginning, conveniently titled and sorted chapters, a could-be-better and simplistic (but accurate enough) little map showing the Nine Worlds and Yggdrasil, and some of the figures associated with Norse cosmology, a suitable introduction, acceptable footnotes, some family charts, and a map of the Scandinavian cultural sphere at the time.

However, before you get this, know that an edition that is just as good (if not better) that *includes* Skáldskaparmál and Háttatal is available to you for the same price. It's Anthony Faulkes's translation of the Prose Edda, which he has unfortunately just titled "Edda" (a regrettable decision given the advent of the search engine).

You can find it here:
Edda (Everyman's Library)
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Mithridates VI of Pontus VINE VOICE on June 8, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) was a famous Icelandic author, statesman, and one of Iceland's wealthiest men. During Snorri's time Iceland was increasingly dominated by Norway and Norwegian culture. Snorri's Prose Edda was written in response to these new trends as a handbook for those "aspiring Icelandic skalds [poets] who wanted to master the traditional forms of verse and the older stories essential to the imagery of Old Norse Poetry" (xi). The Prose Edda's stories were based on the oral tradition from the Viking Golden Age (800-1000). The Edda is divided into four parts (the Prologue, the Gylfaginning, the Skaldskaparmal, and the List of Meters). Sadly, this volume only includes a sample stanza of the List of Meters due to its dense didactic content. For me the Prologue is by far the most interesting part of the entire Edda. Firstly, Snorri might not have been the author which raises some interesting questions about later additions to his text. Secondly, the Prologue consciously attempts to reconcile Norse myth with Christian beliefs. For example, the Prologue states that after the Fall Norse myth was developed in an attempt to understand the world and that they "understood all matters in an earthly way because they had not been granted no spiritual wisdom (ie. of the Christian God's existence)" (4). Also, Graeco-Roman myths are fitted into the Norse mythology and pantheon for the author states that Odin was descended from the Trojans.

The second section, the Gylfaginning, consists of a dialogue between King Gylfi and the Aesir (Mysterious God people). King Gylfi asks questions to the three manifestations of Odin about the All Father, The Primeval Cow Audhumla, the origins of the Gods, Ice Giants, the Birfrost bridge to Heaven, etc.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kirialax on March 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
As this is a primary source, I am only reviewing the edition. Given some excellent other reviews available I see no point in reiterating the basics of what the book is about. It should also be noted that I have no experience with Old Norse, and thus I am unable to comment on the finer points of the translation.

While this is a very fun book to read, made all the more so by the readable translation, this book really shines on account of its appendices and notes. Penguin Classics are usually just that - the classic itself. Typically, the support material is rather bare, although this seems to have been changing over the last few years. The recent edition of Anna Komnene's 'Alexiad' is one of these new texts, and so is this one. Some of the earlier texts like Tacitus' 'Annals' and Suetonius 'Twelve Caesars', although revised and given the new black jacket, are still extremely bare bones, and in the case of Tacitus, aren't even equipped with a competent index. This edition is a radical departure for that, and I can do nothing other than praise the material provided within. Even though the Prose Edda is one of the major foundational texts for understanding Norse literature, much lies under the surface and these support materials are absolutely essential for understanding the text. Beyond having good notes, this edition has several excellent appendices on the Norse cosmos, the language of the skalds, and the sources used in the 'Gylfaginning'. There are genealogical tables and a generous glossary that all aid in the understanding of the text. The introduction is excellent and provides a firm basis for reading the Edda. My only complain lies along the lines of the notes. As Penguin inserted them as end notes, there is a lot of constant flipping to the back to see what insights Byoxk has provided. Given how important these are to understanding this text, it was a real nuisance that they were not foot notes. Still, this is a minor complaint for an overall fantastic edition.
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More About the Author

Jesse Byock is Prof. of Old Norse and Medieval Scandinavian Studies at the University of California(UCLA) and Prof. at UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. He directs the Mosfell Archaeological Project in Iceland.

He is author of: Viking Age Iceland (Penguin); Medieval Iceland (UC Press); and Feud in the Icelandic Saga (UC Press). His translations from Old Norse include The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology (Penguin), The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse epic of Sigurd (Penguin), The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki (Penguin), and Grettir´s Saga (Oxford). Download a -FREE ANSWER KEY- to Viking Language 1 learn Old Norse, Runes, and Icelandic Sagas at www.vikinglanguage.com

The Viking Language Series is a new method for learning Old Norse, runes, and Icelandic sagas. It concentrates on the most frequent words in the sagas, and beginners to advanced learn quickly. For two MP3 download audio albums with clear pronunciation of sagas and runes, search on Amazon Jesse Byock under All Departments or MP3 Music: Viking Language 1 Audio Lessons 1-8 (Pronounce Old Norse, Runes and Icelandic Sagas)-- and -- Viking Language 1 Audio Lessons 9-15.

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