As I started to gather together information about recent publications in medieval Scandinavia, from material people have kindly sent me and from trawling through Amazon’s catalogue, it became clear that 2011 has seen a really impressive number of relevant and interesting books published. I’m going to try to run through as many of these as I can over the next couple of weeks. As ever, if you see something that catches your eye, buying it from Amazon through the link on this site will pay me a tiny commission that I put towards server costs. Don’t forget to recommend these to your local library, too: not all of them are as reasonably priced as Myths of the Pagan North (which I’ll now shut up about). Having said that, our first two titles are both relatively friendly on the pocket. They also feature, in different but I imagine complimentary ways, mythological women.
I can recommend The Norns in Old Norse Mythology, by Karen Bek Pedersen personally, since I’ve already had a chance to read it–and it’s excellent. If you want to know anything about the Norns, frankly, you’d be crazy to look elsewhere for your information. Here’s what the publishers say about it:
Nornir or norns were a group of female supernatural beings closely related to ideas about fate in Old Norse tradition. Karen Bek-Pedersen provides a thorough understanding of the role played by norns and other beings like them in the relevant sources. Although they are well known, even to people who have only a superficial knowledge of Old Norse mythology, this is the first detailed discussion of the norns to be published amongst the literature dealing with Old Norse beliefs. Surprisingly little has been written specifically about the norns. Although often mentioned in scholarship treating Old Norse culture, the norns are all too often dealt with in overly superficial ways. The research presented in this book goes much deeper in order to properly understand the nature and role of the norns in the Old Norse world view. The conclusions reached by the author overturn a number of stereotypical conceptions that have long dominated our understanding of these beings. The book has a natural focus on Old Norse culture and is especially relevant to those interested in or studying Old Norse culture and tradition. However, comparative material from Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Classical traditions is also employed and the book is therefore of interest also to those with a broader interest in European mythologies.
Of related interest, but with a focus well beyond Scandinavia, I see that Philip Shaw has published Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of Matrons:
This book considers evidence for Germanic goddesses in England and on the Continent, and argues on the basis of linguistic and onomastic evidence that modern scholarship has tended to focus too heavily on the notion of divine functions or spheres of activity, such as fertility or warfare, rather than considering the extent to which goddesses are rooted in localities and social structures. Such local religious manifestations are, it is suggested, more important to Germanic paganisms than is often supposed, and should caution us against assumptions of pan-Germanic traditional beliefs. Linguistic and onomastic evidence is not always well integrated into discussions of historical developments in the early Middle Ages, and this book provides both an introduction to the models and methods employed throughout, and a model for further research into the linguistic evidence for traditional beliefs among the Germanic-speaking communities of early medieval Europe.
Lots more book announcements to come, so watch this space: one really gets the feeling that this might go down as a bumper, and probably vintage, year for books in our field. Please let me know via the comments or contact page if you know of any other recent publications that readers should know about.