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General Bardic Studies 1, Requirement 4

Bardic Figure: Describe the life, fame and general techniques of a historical or mythical bardic figure in a (preferably ancient) Indo-European culture. (300 words each)

Snorri Sturluson

Snorri Sturluson is, when we discuss bards from IE cultures, often overlooked, which is a shame because he did more for preserving Pagan lore than any other bard in an IE culture did alone. Perhaps the most odd part of this is that Snorri was not a Pagan at all, but a Christian aristocrat, deeply involved in politics and diplomacy, and a rich man to boot. (Sturluson, xii).

Snorri's primary contribution to lore and history is a book called "The Prose Edda". The Prose Edda is a collection of tales designed specifically for the education of poets and skalds in an effort to keep as much cultural knowledge in circulation as possible. As a scholar trained in Latin, Snorri possibly saw that more and more, poetry and literature that was not native to Iceland was becoming popular around him, and he sought to prevent the loss of cultural information. The Prose Edda was his way of providing a sort of textbook to prevent the loss of this information and to pass it along to new poets and skalds who wished to learn and compose in the traditional oral styles. (Sturluson, xiii)

The Prose Edda is one of the few poetry primers written in vernacular about vernacular verse (Sturluson, xiv). Though no schools were ever founded to teach poetry, it is obvious that the work was transmitted throughout the Norse world, and that much was retained in this particular work. The kennings (a poetic device, in a piece called Skaldskaparmal) alone represent a huge section of knowledge about what occurred in the lore. The gem of the work, though, is the Gylfaginning, describing the creation of the world and its eventual destruction. It is clear that we are dealing with particular and exact source material.

The amount of information Snorri provides us cannot be overlooked or stressed strongly enough. For a man who did not believe in the heathen gods, who was decidedly Christian, he has transmitted us the broadest single stroke of information ever painted by a single hand about Paganism in the ancient world. Though Snorri's fame in life came from his political and diplomatic work, his name will ever be remembered as one of the great bards of history.


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