From roughly 800 to 1100 CE, Scandinavian pirates/explorers/traders/colonizers exploded out of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden terrorizing people and lands from the British Isles to France, Spain, Italy, Russia, Byzantium and the Islamic Mediterranean. The Vikings were the last of Iron Age Europeans to resist the rising tide of Christianity and Roman-style governance.
Their outlook on the world centered on a pantheon of gods, first of all the one-eyed, shaman-like Odin, god of battle. The gods, champions of order, struggled mightily among themselves and with a panoply of chaos creating giants, elves, trolls and other supernatural creatures. Life for the gods, as well as for humans, was unending struggle and fated to ultimate destruction at Ragnarök, the twilight of the gods.
If this scenario reminds you of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Wagner’s Ring Cycle, it should -- it was their inspiration.
Though Viking culture was oral, its Europeanized successors managed to record much of its poetry, mythology, and sagas while memories were still fertile. In this course, we will read a contemporary retelling of the adventures and antics of the old gods as well as source material. A second focus will be on Viking mythology as the lived philosophy of elite warriors. A third track will be the historical realities of Viking trading, settlements, and colonization.
Instructor: The Rev. Dr. Arlin Larson has taught at philosophy, religion, and history classes at Senior College since 2007. He has also served on the Board of Directors and as president. He holds degrees in religious studies from the University of Redlands and from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. Arlin & Sharon now live in Newnan, Georgia.
Neil Gaimon, Norse Mythology, W.W. Norton & Co.
Daniel McCoy, The Viking Spirit: An Introduction to Norse Mythology and Religion
Jackson Crawford, translator, The Poetic Edda, Hackett Publishing Company
Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda, translated by Jesse Byock, Penguin Classics
Neil Price, Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings, Hatchett Book Group