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PREFACE.

THE Mythology of the ancient Scandinavians, respecting which so much curious information has been brought to light, of late years, by the researches of many distinguished writers, in Germany, Denmark, and Sweden,' has hitherto excited but little attention in this country, although the subject is well calculated to awaken our interest, not only as the source of most of our popular superstitions, from whence the favourite authors of our early childhood and of our maturer age have drawn their witches, their fairies, their dwarfs, their giants, and their ghosts; but in an historical point of view also,

More especially Suhm, Schoning, Nyerup, Grundtvig, Thorlacius, Rafn, Finn Magnussen, Müller, Grater, Abrahamsen.

2 This observation applies peculiarly to Shakspeare. The ghost in Hamlet, the witches and apparitions in Macbeth, the fairies in the Midsummer's Night's Dream and Tempest,

for a short retrospect will suffice to shew, that the religion of Odin must have exercised a great and lasting influence on the character and institutions of the inhabitants of Great Britain. The Jutes, Anglians and Saxons, who in the course of the fifth and sixth centuries, effected the conquest of the greatest part of this island, were worshippers, and their principal leaders reputed descendants of Odin. In process of time these heathen invaders were converted to Christianity, but the old worship died away by degrees and slowly, and not without leaving permanent traces on the manners and habits of their descendants. England had scarcely begun, under Egbert, to recover from the troubles of the Heptarchy, when her Christian inhabitants were once more engaged in a struggle for existence with their kinsmen, followers of Odin, and were compelled, despite the genius and courage of Alfred, to divide the land with them, and that for no brief period of

are closely painted after their Scandinavian originals. From whence Shakspeare derived his information is less certain, perhaps in part from Saxo Grammaticus, in whose history he might have found the tale of Hamlet.

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time. It is well known that this great king, notwithstanding his signal and repeated victories, deemed it politic to compound with the vanquished Danes, by leaving them in possession of the kingdom of East Anglia, of the whole of England, North of the Humber, and of the best part of Mercia, including the five cities of Derby, Leicester, Stamford, Lincoln, and Nottingham. These Danes or Northmen were fierce idolaters, and the ruthless destruction with which they visited whatever came within their power connected with the Christian worship, affords too good evidence of their zeal for Odin and for Thor. No king, before the Conquest, ever possessed more substantial power in England than Knudt or Canute the Dane. He, as his father Sweyn before him, was a Christian, his grandfather, Harald, of the blue tooth, a sanguinary tyrant, having found it convenient to embrace Christianity. It was through the exertions of Canute, indeed, that the Christian faith was first firmly established in Denmark. But, although hostile to the ancient superstitions of his countrymen, Canute was essentially a Dane, and during his vigorous reign of twenty-eight years, contributed not a

little to implant amongst the higher classes in this country the manners and the feelings of the Northmen. The sway of the Danish kings in England ended in 1041. Twenty-five years later a new tide of Northern institutions and habits was poured in upon England, from a different quarter, it is true, and somewhat modified, but of the same character and from the same original source as those which preceded. Quaintly but truly saith old Robert of Glo'ster,

"Of Normans beth these high men that beth in this land, And the low men of Saxons."

Robert of Glo'ster's Chronicle. and both nations were, for centuries, the worshippers of Odin.

It would not be difficult to shew, although this is no place for the enquiry, that most of the still existing peculiarities in the institutions and manners of the nations of Gothic descent, which distinguish them from the Greeks and Romans in what may be assumed as a parallel state of civilization, can be traced directly to the fluence of the religion of Odin. The trial by twelve, the deference paid to the female sex, and the point of honour maintained by the

practice of duel, are prominent instances in support of this assertion.

It is the object of the present work to give a plain account of the ideas entertained by the inhabitants of North-Western Europe, during a period of long duration, respecting the nature and power of the various deities and good and evil spirits, in whose existence they believed, as preserved in the Eddas, and explained and elucidated by the writers alluded to above. Its form was suggested by a similar work, "Die Nordiske Mythologie," published in Germany in 1827, by E. L. Heiberg, whose example has been followed, more especially in the insertion, by way of illustration of frequent free translations from Oehlenschläger's poem, "The Gods of the North." The introductory chapter and the supplementary essay in the appendix, the materials of which are drawn chiefly from the works of Professors Finn Magnussen and P. E. Müller, of Copenhagen, were intended to shew generally the state of society which prevailed in the three Scandinavian kingdoms contemporaneously with the religion of Odin. The first chapter contains a general view of the whole system of the Scandinavian Mythology, which,

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