Asgard Stories: Tales from Norse Mythology by Mary H. Foster & Mabel H. Cummings
Decided to become more familiar with Norse mythology after being exposed to the Marvel version of Thor. I previously knew a little, but I’m not as familiar with the goings-on in Asgard as I am the soap opera that is Olympus. I certainly wasn’t offered half a dozen classes in Norse mythology in college. Which is a shame.
Foster & Cummings point out in this slim volume’s preface that Norse mythology rings truer with northern children than “southern” mythologies. I’ve experienced my share of pretty cold winters, so I see their point. These myths are not concerned with making war over a pretty face, but with surviving until spring. Battles cost resources; instead the Aesir generally hold contests of strength and wits to gain from the frost giant, the dwarves, each other. Sacrifice is rewarded and united fronts are the order of the day. These are the stories made by people struggling against the elements first and reflect those morals. Of course, if you’re too busy surviving, you don’t don’t have the leisure time to grow a civilization the way the Greeks, etc. did.
This isn’t saying that Asgard doesn’t have it’s soap-operatic moments. Seems like every frost giant wants an Aesir bride and Loki always manages to provide. Gods are always people in the end. No storyteller yet has managed to not anthropomorphize god(s).
My main criticism of this book is that it’s clearly written for children. While I’m not accusing the authors of bowdlerization, I feel that probably the most didactic stories were chosen. I’m hoping that it’s a good jumping off point for the Poetic Edda, which I’ve been meaning to read.
Point of interest: I had never heard of Ellewomen, or huldra, before. This is an intriguing concept to me.
When these women first came to her, Iduna was surprised to see that they were not ugly or stern-looking, and, when she looked at their fair, smiling faces, she hoped they would be friendly and pitiful to her in her trouble. She begged them to help her, and, with many tears, told them her sad story; but still they kept on smiling, and when they turned their backs, Iduna saw that they were hollow. These were the Ellewomen, who had no hearts, and so could never be sorry for any one.
Cummings, Mabel H.; Foster, Mary H. (2011-10-09). Asgard Stories Tales from Norse Mythology (p. 68). . Kindle Edition.