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University of Colorado Boulder

Old Norse Mythology in the Sources

University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera


This course is an introduction to the religion of the Vikings as it is recorded in Old Norse and Scandinavian literature from the medieval period. You will learn about the different written sources and what they can teach us about pre-Christian religion in northern Europe in the Viking Age. The course surveys the primary collection of Old Norse poetry about the pre-Christian Scandinavian gods, the Poetic Edda. We will also work with the main collections of stories about the Old Norse gods in prose: Snorri Sturluson's Edda and Saxo's History of the Danes.


  • Introduction
    • In this module you will learn about the history and background of Old Norse mythology. You will gain insight into the source background to Old Norse mythology, the relevant historical developments in Scandinavia and Northern Europe, and the interplay between pre-Christian religion and Christian interpretation in the sources. You will be introduced to the Old Norse sources that inform our understanding of pre-Christian and Viking Age religion in Scandinavia: Eddic poetry, skaldic poetry, Snorri's Edda, and runic inscriptions.
  • The Eddic Poems
    • In this module you will learn about the primary family of gods in Norse mythology, the Æsir. There are many Æsir but very few of them have stories attached to them. You will learn about the ones that appear most in Snorri Sturluson's Edda and in the Eddic poems: Odin, Thor, Loki and a few others.
  • Additional Sources
    • In this module you will learn about the secondary family of gods in Norse mythology, the Vanir. They are hardly to be considered less important than the Æsir, but especially in Snorri's Christianized version of the mythology, the Vanir's role is diminished. Here you will learn about the primary Vanir: Njörðr, Freyr and Freyja.
  • Final Assessment
    • In this final assessment module you will demonstrate that you have learned the important aspects of the course in Norse mythology.

Taught by

Mathias Nordvig

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