Ragnarök

Ragnarök

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök (IPAEng|rɑgnɑrɔk, Old Norse "Final destiny of the gods"Simek (2007:259).] ) refers to a series of major events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures (including the gods Odin, Thor, Freyr, Heimdall, and the jötunn Loki), the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water. Afterwards, the world resurfaces anew and fertile, the surviving gods meet, and the world is repopulated by two human survivors. Ragnarök is an important event in the Norse canon, and has been the subject of scholarly discourse and theory.

The event is attested primarily in the "Poetic Edda", compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the "Prose Edda", written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In the "Prose Edda", and a single poem in the "Poetic Edda", the event is referred to as Ragnarökr or Ragnarökkr (Old Norse "Twilight of the Gods"Simek (2007:260).] ), a usage popularized by 19th century composer Richard Wagner with the title of the last of his "Der Ring des Nibelungen" operas; "Götterdämmerung".Lindow (2001:254).]

Etymology

The Old Norse word "ragnarök" is a compound of two words. The first part is "ragna", which is the genitive plural of "regin" ("gods" or "ruling powers"), from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic term *"ragenō". The second part is "rök", which has several meanings, such as "development, origin, cause, relation, fate, end". The traditional interpretation is that prior to the merging of /ǫ/ and /ø/ (ca. 1200) the word was "rǫk", derived from Proto-Germanic *"rakō".See e.g. Bjordvand and Lindemann (2007:856-857).] The word "ragnarök" as a whole is then usually interpreted as something like "final destiny of the gods." In 2007, Haraldur Bernharðsson demonstrated that the original form of the second word in the compound is "røk", leading to a Proto-Germanic reconstruction of *"rekwa" and opening up other semantic possibilities. [Haraldur Bernharðsson (2007:30-32).]

In stanza 39 of the "Poetic Edda" poem "Lokasenna", and in Snorri's "Prose Edda", the form "ragnarök(k)r" appears, "rök(k)r" meaning "twilight". It has often been suggested that this indicates a misunderstanding or a learned reinterpretation of the original form "ragnarök".See e.g. Bjordvand, Lindeman (2007:856-857).] Haraldur Bernharðsson argues instead that the words "ragnarök" and "ragnarökkr" are closely related, etymologically and semantically, and suggests a meaning of "renewal of the divine powers". [Haraldur Bernharðsson (2007:35).]

Other terms used to refer to the events surrounding Ragnarök in the "Poetic Edda" include "aldar rök" ("end of the world") from stanza 39 of "Vafþrúðnismál", "tíva rök" from stanzas 38 and 42 of "Vafþrúðnismál", "þá er regin deyja" ("when the gods die") from "Vafþrúðnismál" stanza 47, "unz um rjúfask regin" ("when the gods will be destroyed") from "Vafþrúðnismál" stanza 52, "Lokasenna" stanza 41, and "Sigrdrífumál" stanza 19, "aldar rof" ("destruction of the world") from "Helgakviða Hundingsbana II" stanza 41, "regin þrjóta" ("end of the gods") from "Hyndluljóð" stanza 42, and, in the "Prose Edda", "þá er Muspellz-synir herja" ("when the sons of Muspell move into battle") can be found in chapters 18 and 36 of "Gylfaginning".

Attestations

"Poetic Edda"

The "Poetic Edda" contains various references to Ragnarök:

"Völuspá"

In the "Poetic Edda" poem "Völuspá", references to Ragnarök begin from stanza 40 until 58, after which the aftermath of the events are described for the rest of the poem. In the poem, a Völva recites information to Odin. In stanza 44, the Völva says:

Jansson (1987) notes that at the time of the inscription, everyone who read the lines would have thought of Ragnarök and the allusion that the father found fitting as an expression of his grief.Jansson (1987:141)]

Theories

"Muspille", "Heliand", and Christianity

Theories have been proposed about the relation to Ragnarök and the 9th century Old High German epic poem "Muspilli" about the Christian Last Judgment, where the word "Muspille" appears, and the 9th century Old Saxon epic poem "Heliand" about the life of Christ, where various other forms of the word appear. In both sources, the word is used to signify the end of the world through fire.Simek (2007:222-224).] Old Norse forms of the term also appear throughout accounts of Ragnarök, where the world is also consumed in flames, and, though various theories exist about the meaning and origins of the term, its etymology has not been solved.

Proto-Indo-European basis

Parallels have been pointed out between the Ragnarök of the Norse pagans and the beliefs of other related Indo-European peoples. Subsequently, theories have been put forth that Ragnarök represents a later evolution of a Proto-Indo-European belief along with other cultures descending from the Proto-Indo-Europeans. These parallels include comparisons of a cosmic winter motif between the Norse Fimbulwinter, the Iranian Bundahishn and Yima.Mallory, Adams (1997:182-183).] Víðarr's stride has been compared to the Vedic god Vishnu in that both have a "cosmic stride" with a special shoe used to tear apart a beastly wolf. Larger patterns have also been drawn between "final battle" events in Indo-European cultures, including the occurrence of a blind or semi-blind figure in "final battle" themes, and figures appearing suddenly with surprising skills.

Volcanic eruptions

Hilda Ellis Davidson theorizes that the events in "Völuspá" occurring after the death of the gods (the sun turning black, steam rising, flames touching the heavens, etc.) may be inspired by the volcanic eruptions on Iceland. Records of eruptions on Iceland bear strong similarities to the sequence of events described in "Völuspá", especially the eruption at Laki that occurred in 1783.Davidson (1990:208-209).] Bertha Phillpotts theorizes that the figure of Surtr was inspired by Icelandic eruptions, and that he was a volcano demon.Phillpotts (1905:14 ff.) in Davidson (1990:208).] Surtr's name occurs in some Icelandic place names, among them the lava tube caves Surtshellir, a number of dark caverns in the volcanic central region of Iceland.

Modern influence

Ragnarök has been the subject of a number of artistic depictions and references in modern culture. Some of these depictions include "Ragnarok" (frieze, 1825) by Hermann Ernst Freund, and "Beginn der Götterdämmerung" (charcoal drawing, 1881) by K. Ehrenberg. The event has inspired the creation of two operas: Richard Wagner's 1876 "Götterdämmerung" and David Bedford's 1983 opera "Ragnarok". Ragnarök has had some influence in modern music, including inspiring the name of the Norwegian musical group Ragnarok, and Faroese musical group Týr's conceptual album "Ragnarok" (2006). The South Korean MMORPG "Ragnarok Online" (2001) takes its name from the event, and the ongoing manhwa from which it is based; "Ragnarok" (1995 -).

ee also

* Æsir-Vanir War‎, a war between the tribes of the Æsir and Vanir that results in the unification of the gods also described in "Völuspá".

Notes

References

*Bellows, Henry Adams (2004). "The Poetic Edda: The Mythological Poems". Dover Publications. ISBN 0486437108
*Bjordvand, Harald; Lindeman, Fredrik Otto (2007). "Våre arveord". Novus. ISBN 978-82-7099-467-0.
*Byock, Jesse (Trans.) (2005). "The Prose Edda". Penguin Classics. ISBN 0140447555
*Dronke, Ursula (Trans.) (1997). "The Poetic Edda: Volume II: Mythological Poems". Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198111819
*Davidson, H. R. Ellis (1990). "Gods and Myths of Northern Europe". Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-013627-4.
*Fazio, Michael W. Moffett, Marian. Wodehouse, Lawrence (2003). "A World History of Architecture". McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 0071417516
*Haraldur Bernharðsson (2007). "Old Icelandic "ragnarök" and "ragnarökkr" in "Verba Docenti" edited by Alan J. Nussbaum, pp. 25-38. ISBN 097479273X
*Hunter, John. Ralston, Ian (1999). "The Archaeology of Britain: An Introduction". Routledge. ISBN 0415135877
*Jansson, Sven B. (1987). "Runes in Sweden". Stockholm, Gidlund. ISBN 917844067 X
*Larrington, Carolyne (Trans.) (1999). "The Poetic Edda". Oxford World's Classics. ISBN 0192839462
*Lindow, John (2001). "Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs". Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515382-0.
*Macleod, Mindy. Mees, Bernard (2006). [http://books.google.com/books?id=hx7UigqsTKoC "Runic Amulets and Magic Objects"] . Boydell Press. ISBN 1843832054
*Mallory, J.P. Adams, Douglas Q. (1997). "Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture". Taylor & Francis. ISBN 1884964982
*Orchard, Andy (1997). "Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend". Cassell. ISBN 0 304 34520 2
*Phillpotts, Bertha (1905). "Surt" in "Arkiv för Nordisk Filologi", volume 21, pp. 14 ff.
*Pluskowski, Aleks. "Apocalyptic Monsters: Animal Inspirations for the Iconography of Medieval Northern Devourers" as collected in: Bildhauer, Bettina. Mills, Robert (2004). "The Monstrous Middle Ages". University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0802086675
*Rundata 2.0 for Windows.
*Schapiro, Meyer (1980). " [http://www.jstor.org/pss/3046829 Cain's Jaw-Bone that Did the First Murder] ", Selected Papers, volume 3, Late Antique, Early Christian and Mediaeval Art. Chatto & Windus, London, ISBN 0701125144.
*Simek, Rudolf (2007) translated by Angela Hall. "Dictionary of Northern Mythology". D.S. Brewer. ISBN 0859915131

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