“Brothers shall fight /and fell each other,
And sisters’ sons /shall kinship stain;
Hard is it on earth, /with mighty whoredom;
Axe-time, sword-time, /shields are sundered,
Wind-time, wolf-time, /ere the world falls;
Nor ever shall men /each other spare.”
One of the most fascinating elements of Norse cosmology is the fact that its end is foretold in crushing detail. This end of times will come about in a mighty battle called "Ragnarök", an event translated as either "the Fate of the Gods" or (in Richard Wagner's re-imagining) "the Twilight of the Gods." Moreover, not only is the event foretold, but the characters of this drama seem to know of its coming.
The actual description of Ragnarök appears best in the medieval prose text, the Gylfaginning, and the prophetic poem the "Völuspá", but Ragnarök’s antecedents are equally fascinating and present a catalog of crimes and errors that led to the fated twilight of the gods. This idea of destiny, of fate, is key to understanding the culture behind these strange tales.
Many of the allusions to characters, objects, and events in the sources available today are still mysterious to historians. Much has been lost to the abyss of time, but, although these references and connections often bemuse people, there is still enough poetic majesty in the sources that have survived to captivate readers and give a sense of what the medieval Scandinavian mindset was. Many people today believe that the Ragnarök is the tale of where all good fails, ushering in a future devoid of hope in which the gods, the supposed progenitors of goodness, ultimately lose. However, an analysis of the legend and its origins makes this viewpoint less tenable.
Ragnarök: The Origins and History of the Apocalypse in Norse Mythology looks at the story and the legendary Norse mythology behind it. Depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about Ragnarök like never before.
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