Northern Myths and Legends • Indo-European and Germanic Peoples

Northern Myths and Legends
• Indo-European and Germanic Peoples
– Other groups: Celts, Finns, Saami, Slavs, “Skraelings”
• Prehistory and History of Germanic Tribes
– Chieftains, warrior-farmers, and slaves
– Heroic cultural identity
– Völkerwanderung as their “Age of Legend”
• Oral Literature and Lore (verse ballads)
• Art forms, cultural means of representation
• Germanic Mythology and Ritual
Northern Myths and Legends
• History and Legend
• Transformation of Oral to Written Literature:
Pagan to Christian world view
Public to private consumption of literature
Familial/Tribal to Courtly context of literature
Flexible narration to fixed and polished text
Personal History to impersonal, factual history
• Massive changes in the understanding and
expectations of literature.
Northern Myths and Legends
• Myth
• The World of the Gods, the Cosmos, the
Beginnings and Endings of all Things
• Legend
• The World of Heroes, of Kingdoms and
Dynasties, Superhuman Deeds and Events
• Saga
• The World of Men, of Families and Settlements,
Feuds and Marriages, Battles and Voyages
Northern Myths and Legends
Medieval History (1100-1400)
New Society, new culture, new religion
Old Cultural Traditions still important!
Germanic Legends adapted as Literary Epics
for new audiences:
• Volsunga Saga – Icelandic, local, prose
• Nibelungenlied – German, courtly, verse
Northern Myths and Legends
• Early Modern Period (1400 – 1600)
• New Society, new culture, new religion!
• Printing Press (1450) – new understanding
of literature and its social role and value.
• Folklore can also generate legends, but of a
very different kind:
• Faust and Eulenspiegel – simple prose,
bourgeois audience, contemporary
concerns, moral utility now important!
Northern Myths and Legends
Romantic Period (1790 – 1850)
German Cultural Identity and Nationalism
German Language and Literature
Brothers Grimm and Folklore Studies
Fairy Tales as the “Voice of the People” –
Lower Class uncorrupted by foreign influences,
reflect ancient cultural traditions and values,
preserve “unique” German lore in changing
social and political environment.
Northern Myths and Legends
Romantic Period (cont.)
German Nationalism (Bismark, 1871)
Cultural Focus and National Identity
Political Use of Legend and Myth
• Hermann, the Germanic Hero!
• Richard Wagner and The Ring Cycle
• Nazi Appropriation of Legendary Material in
the Third Reich.
Northern Myths and Legends
• Modern Period
• New society, new culture, new media!
• Entertainment and Escapist Fantasy:
• “The Hobbit” and Shire – innocence and virtue.
• “Conan the Barbarian” – sex and violence.
• New Media allow new forms of presentation
of ancient cultural material: comic books,
animation, silent and feature films, board games,
and interactive computer games.
Northern Myths and Legends
• Review Session on Final Class Day
Monday, 27 April 2009
1:00 – 1:50 p.m. in Rm. 105
• Final Exam
Thursday, 30 April 2009
1:30 – 4:00 p.m. in Rm. 105