German 1500:
Germanic Myths,
Legends, and Sagas

Spring term 2002-2

Disability Statement

If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Disability Resources and Services, 216 William Pitt Union (412) 648-7890 (412) 383-7355 (TTY) as early as possible in the term. DRS will verify your diability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.

Reading and viewing assignments

Monday, January 7. General Introduction. Assignment: Examine this website carefully, then print out the syllabus (complete with assigned texts and visuals). This should take you approximately one half hour. Scan related links.

Wednesday, January 9. Introduction. The storytellers and the gods.

Friday, January 11.

Monday, January 14.

Wednesday, January 16.

Friday, January 18.

Monday, January 21. Martin Luther King Day. University Holiday.

Wednesday, January 23.

Friday, January 25.

Monday, January 28.

Wednesday, January 30.

    1. The first poem describes the activities of valkyrie-like sorceresses called "the Idisi" who have the power to bind or to free battling warriors. Following the narrative are the words of a brief incantation or charm chanted to free captured warriors.
    2. The second poem tells how a number of goddesses unsuccessfully attempt to cure the injured leg of Balder's horse. Wodan, with his unfailing magic, knows the right charm, and the horse is healed. The narrative concludes with the actual words of an incantation used to heal broken limbs.

Friday, February 1. Beowulf, chapters 1-14.

Monday, February 4. Beowulf, chapters 14-26.

Wednesday, February 6. Beowulf, chapters 27-42.

Friday, February 8. Review.

Monday, February 11. Exam 1.

Wednesday, February 13.

Friday, February 15.

Monday, February 18.

Wednesday, February 20.

Friday, February 22.

Monday, February 25.

Wednesday, February 27.

Friday, March 1.

Monday, March 4 - Friday, March 8. Spring recess.

Monday, March 11.

Wednesday, March 13.

Friday, March 15. Njal's Saga, ch. 1-18.

Monday, March 18. Njal's Saga, ch. 19-35.

Wednesday, March 20. Njal's Saga, ch. 35-56.

Friday, March 22. Njal's Saga, ch. 57-75.

Monday, March 25.

Wednesday, March 27. Njal's Saga, ch. 121-132. Review.

Friday, March 29. Exam 2.

Monday, April 1. The Saga of the Volsungs, ch. 1-12.

Wednesday, April 3. The Saga of the Volsungs, ch. 13-24.

Friday, April 5. The Saga of the Volsungs, ch. 25-33.

Monday, April 8. The Saga of the Volsungs, ch. 34-44.

Wednesday, April 10. The Nibelungenlied, ch. 1-8.

Friday, April 12. The Nibelungenlied, ch. 9-16.

Monday, April 15. The Nibelungenlied, ch. 17-30.

Wednesday, April 17. The Nibelungenlied, ch. 31-39.

Friday, April 19. Review.

Tuesday, April 23. 12:00-1:50. (CL G24). Final exam.

Supplemental World Wide Web Sites

Click on one of the items below for a cyberleap into the world of mythology and storytelling.

General Background

Specialized Topics

Vikings in America. Information about the Norse settlement in Vinland, including photographs of the reconstructed way station at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada.

Viking Ship Home Page. Illustrations, stories, facts, and links concerning the ship culture of the Vikings.

Summary of Pictorial Materials

After viewing a picture, you can return to this site by pressing the "Back" button on your browser.



Relevant Course Readings

Dolmens in Denmark

Ancient stone graves or monuments from various Danish locations.

Giants in Denmark from the Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus. Saxo believed that these monuments proved the former existence of giants in northern Europe.

The Fertility God Frey

A small copper alloy statue discovered at Rällinge, Södermanland, Sweden, and currently housed at the Swedish Statens Historiska Museet, Navavagen.

There are numerous references to Frey's powers as a fertility deity in the Eddas. Further, the account of the Heathen Temple at Uppsal written by Adam of Bremen between 1072 and 1076 describes an obscene statue of Frey sporting "an immense phallus."

Holger Danske

Statue of the sleeping hero in Kronborg Slot (Hamlet's Castle) in Helsingør (Elsinore), Denmark.

The sleeping hero migratory legend Holger Danske, as recorded by H. C. Andersen.

Odin One-Eye

A small statue of copper alloy found at Lindby, Skåne, Sweden, and now kept at the Statens Historiska Museet at Navavagen. Because the figure appears to have but one good eye, it is interpreted as a representation of Odin.

In Snorri's Edda we learn how Odin traded an eye for wisdom from the giant Mimir.

Picture Stone of Stora Hammars

A picture stone discovered at Stora Hammars, Lärbro, Gotland, Sweden. It is now kept at the Statens Historiska Museet at Navavagen.

The scenes on the stone cannot be identified with certainty.

Odin and Sleipnir

Detail, showing a rider on an eight-legged horse, from a picture stone found at Tjängvide on the Swedish island of Gotland. The picture stone is now kept at the Statens Historiska Museet at Navavagen, Sweden.

The conception of Sleipnir is described in Snorri's Edda. Odin and Sleipnir ("the best of all horses") are mentioned repeatedly in various myths and sagas.

Odin approaching Valhalla

Odin, Sleipnir, Valkyries, a fallen warrior, and Valhalla. The bottom half of the stone features a Viking warship.

Various passages in Snorri's Edda.

The Sigurd Portal

Doorposts from a stave church in Hylestad, Setesdal, Norway, that have been carved with figures illustrating various scenes from the story of Sigurd the dragon slayer. Compare the Swedish Sigurd Runestone, listed below.

This famous story is recorded in The Saga of the Volsungs, chapters 18-20, and Snorri's Edda.

The Sigurd Runestone

A large outcropping of rock in Sweden that has been engraved with figures illustrating the death of the dragon Fafnir and of the treacherous swordsmith Regin at the hand of Sigurd. Compare the Norwegian stave church doorposts carved with similar motifs and listed above.

This famous story is recorded in The Saga of the Volsungs, chapters 18-20, and Snorri's Edda.

Sutton Hoo

An artist's rendition of the famous ship burial in about 625 of a Saxon king near the present-day village of Sutton Hoo in England.

The funeral of Balder (Baldr), as recorded in Snorri's Edda, and King Scyld's funeral, as recorded in the prologue to Beowulf.

Thor, seated

A small copper alloy statue of Thor discovered at Eyrarlandi in northern Iceland. The seated figure is perhaps asleep. His beard appears to grow into the hammer-like object resting upon his knees.

Numerous stories tell of Thor and his hammer. Further, this statue may connect Thor with the various sleeping hero legends told throughout northern Europe.

Thor's Hammers

A collection of photographs of Thor's hammer amulets.

Various passages in Snorri's Edda and the Poetic Edda.

Thor's Hammer / Christian Crucifix Mold

This tenth-century soapstone mold, found at Trendgården, Jylland, Denmark, could be used to cast either heathen or Christian amulets.

Numerous sagas and historical accounts refer to the conflict between heathenism and Christianity.

Thor and the Midgard Serpent

This bottom picture on the narrow face of this runestone at Altuna, Uppland, Sweden, depicts Thor, his feet protruding from a boat, capturing the Midgard Serpent.

This episode is told in Snorri's Edda.

Course description

Required texts

Course requirements



Revised January 3, 2002.