Behold! A wondrous page filled with resources, links, and answers to frequently asked questions!
I’m curious about Norse mythology, but don’t know where to start. What do you recommend?
Go directly to the ‘original’ sources available on Norse mythology, the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda. It is best to read lore as unfiltered as possible, at least the first time around.
Start with the Prose Edda. It is an easier read and will familiarize you enough with the lore to help you grasp the poems of Poetic Edda. I recommend beginning with Anthony Faulkes’ translation, which can be found online through the Viking Society for Northern Research, or can be purchased as a book. Both editions are the same. If this translation is not for you, however, I also recommend Jesse L. Byock’s translation. While it is not a complete edition, since the more technical sections of the Prose Edda have been excluded, it includes headings, which may be helpful to some.
After you have gone through the Prose Edda, move on to the Poetic Edda. I recommend Carolyne Larrington’s translation. It is reliable and straightforward, making it ideal for someone who is new to the lore. If you would like something that is a bit more poetic, try Lee M. Hollander’s translation, but I do not advise starting with this one.
If you think an academic text would be helpful to accompany you, try John Lindow’s Guide to Norse Mythology, either while reading or after you have read the Eddas for yourself.
I’ve already read the Eddas. What else can I read?
After reading the Eddas, I encourage folk to read the Sagas. I recommend starting with either The Saga of the Volsungs or The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, which have both been translated by Jesse L. Byock. If those grab your attention, try picking up a collection of similar sagas called Seven Viking Romances. But I also highly encourage folk to read some of The Sagas and Tales of Icelanders, as well; they are my personal favorites!
Where can I learn Old Norse?
Start with Jesse L. Byock’s Viking Language 1, if you are able to. It is where I learned my Old Norse from. Once you have finished that, move on to his Reader, which is essentially a workbook for additional translation practice. If you need a study aid while you are working through his books, I made a Memrise course that may be helpful. I study there myself! I also advise getting a separate dictionary as well, for which I highly recommend Geir T. Zoëga’s concise Old Icelandic dictionary. I also have a basic Old Norse dictionary here at Fjorn’s Hall, which grows a little bit every week.
If you are tight on money, there are several online resources that can help you get started on Old Norse for free. The Viking Society for Northern Research has a PDF that will introduce you to the language, which includes several other resources to consider investigating for yourself. They also have an online book on grammar, as well as a reader to accompany it. There are also videos on YouTube by Dr. Jackson Crawford that are great to consider. He has playlists for Old Norse lessons, pronunciation, language history, and even runes. If those do not suffice, for whatever reason, I do occasionally post Old Norse lessons myself, which are free to read here at Fjorn’s Hall.
Where can I learn to read Runes?
You can learn the basics from Jesse L. Byock’s Viking Language 1 and his Reader, but the truly passionate student seeking more about runes would be left wanting. I know someone who works with runes quite a bit, and he has a wonderful resource page that I highly recommend folk pay a visit to. He goes by Thorraborinn online, and he is more than happy to answer questions about runes.
Where can I learn Icelandic?
Since Modern Icelandic is still so similar to Old Norse, a lot of people decide to pick it up as well. I recommend starting with Icelandic Online, which is offered for free by Háskóli Íslands (University of Iceland). Start with the survival course, even though it may be tempting to jump right into the Icelandic 1 module. As for books, I recommend Hippocrene’s Beginner’s Icelandic, along with their practical dictionary. But if your money is a bit tight, there is an online dictionary hosted by the University of Madison-Wisconsin. If you want to search in English, make sure you set it to “Entire Entry” rather than “Headword Only.”
If you have the coin and are able to take the time off, there are also immersion programs offered by Háskólasetur Vestfjarða (University Centre of the West-Fjords).
I want to learn about the Vikings, where should I begin?
I recommend starting of with a light read that is filled with visuals: The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings, by John Haywood. If that is not enough, try The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, edited by Peter Sawyers. Either of those texts will certainly help you get familiar with the topic. For more thorough overviews, I recommend reading either John Haywood’s Northmen: The Viking Saga or Anders Winroth’s The Age of the Vikings.
After that, I recommend getting a few readers. For primary sources, get the Viking Age Reader by Angus A. somerville and R. Andrew Donald. If you are into literature (like me), make sure you get A Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture, edited by Rory McTurk. Once you have those, and have at least read one of the introductory texts I recommended, you are ready for some more detailed histories. I recommend Jesse L. Byock’s Feud in the Icelandic Saga and Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas, and Power. There is also William Ian Miller’s Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland.
I also have plenty of history lessons here at Fjorn’s Hall, which are free to read and enjoy. I am currently working to move them directly onto this website, but in the meantime I have a page full of links to each lesson that has been posted on the blog. Of course, I always cite the information that I use to craft each lesson, so feel free to explore those resources as well.
I am a fellow Historian. What resources do you think would help my research?
If you are looking for digitized Icelandic manuscripts, check out handrit.is, which is affiliated with the Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum (The Arni Magnusson Institute for Icelandic Studies). If you are interested in the Fornaldarsögur (Legendary Sagas) in particular, try “Stories for all time,” a project hosted by the University of Copenhagen. You can look through a relevant manuscript catalog there.
There are also a few places to view medieval texts online (without having to look at the manuscript itself), such as on the Medieval Nordic Text Archive. You may also have some luck over on snerpa.is, but not every text is in Old Norse (sometimes they are in Icelandic instead). As for useful articles, a great place to look is on the publications page for the Viking Society for Northern Research. Also, if you are ever in need of old editions for hard-to-get texts, try browsing Septentrionalia.
For a resource concerning skaldic poetry, the Skaldic Project Database is a great place to keep in mind.
What about medieval Celtic material?
There are certainly a few must-read Celtic sagas that I know about. For Irish sagas, I recommend reading Thomas Kinsella’s translation of The Táin first. If that proves interesting to you, read Jeffrey Gantz’s collection of Early Irish Myths and Sagas. As for a good Welsh saga, I recommend reading The Mabinogi, translated by Patrick K. Ford. You may also find more Celtic sagas on The Celtic Literature Collective, which are free to read. Some helpful sources to know about are CELT, a corpus of electronic texts pertaining to Celtic studies, and eDIL, an online medieval Irish dictionary.