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What follows are a few Norse words that may be unfamiliar to the reader.
Aesir: the gods that embody the supernatural powers in the world. The Aesir appearing or mentioned in Freyja's Gift are Odin, Thor, Loki, Urd, Idun, Sif, and Tyr. Odin, often called the All-Father, is the seer and sorcerer of the Gods and is usually presented as their chief. Thor, with his hammer Mjollnir, personifies thunder and lightning and is the strongest of the Gods. Loki, part Aesir and part Frost Giant, is the shapeshifter and con artist of the Gods, whose schemes bring the Gods short term gains but long term grief. Urd, the personification of clairvoyance, lives by the spring at the base of Yggdrasill and plots the future for the Gods. Idun has charge of the golden apples that provide the Gods with health and youth. Sif is Thor's wife. And Tyr personifies courage and the fatalism of the Norse (see Appendix III).
Asgard: the home of the Aesir. Asgard is a walled town somewhere in the mountains high above Midgard. It's the place where the Gods live, hold their councils, plot their schemes, and hold their parties. Entry is gained by crossing the Bifrost Bridge, which we, here on Midgard, see reflected in the rainbow. There is one other entrance, not so well known, one going over the mountains and fording rivers, that Thor is obliged to use because his goat-drawn chariot is too heavy to take the Bifrost route. In Freyja's Gift I have changed Asgard into a palace-draped mountain rising out of thin air high above Ancient Scandinavia
Edda: the sacred poetry of the Norse. It is manifested for modern readers in the Poetic or Elder Edda, which is known from the Codex Regius and is attributed to Saemundr Sigfusson, and the Prose Edda, which was composed by Snorri Sturluson early in the Thirteenth Century. The name itself does not seem to have been used before the Eleventh Century, leading many scholars to believe that it simply refers to the parsonage of Oddi, where Saemundr Sigfusson established a center for the preservation of skaldic learning and where Snorri Sturluson learned the Norse myths.
Flyting: an exchange of verbal abuse, a scolding match or vituperative dialogue that served the Norse as a kind of bloodless combat, perhaps as a prelude to the bloodier kind? Such displays of nastiness and insolence must have been fairly common if they are also included in the Eddas. The best example is to be found in Lokasenna (The Flyting of Loki), in which Loki comes to Asgard and challenges all of the Gods until Thor arrives and threatens to end the "debate" with his hammer.
Futhark: this is the name of the Norse alphabet (also called the Runic alphabet) and is simply a pronunciation of the first six letters of that alphabet (just as alphabet comes from the first two letters of the Greek version, alpha and beta). The Futhark comprises sixteen letters, each being a vertical line to which branches are appended to create the specific letter.
Kenning: this word is related to our word "know" and it refers to a special kind of knowledge that is encoded in an alternate name for some thing, the alternate name being taken from some related concept by simile. One common example is the use of "whale's road" to refer to the sea. The similes were not always so obvious because they had stories behind them: "Freyja's Gift" is the example that I use.
Knarr: the stereotypical clinker-built Viking sailing ship. Usually applied to the merchant craft that sailed upon the Atlantic Ocean in the Viking Age, the word seems earlier to have been applied to this type of ship in general. Made by tying overlapping oak or pine strakes to the keel and to each other and then tying them to the ship's ribs, the knarr was highly flexible and, thus, remarkably seaworthy: in 1893 a replica of the ship found buried at Gokstad Farms on the west side of Oslofjord in 1880, interpreted as a Viking queen's private yacht meant only for coastwise travel, was sailed successfully across the Atlantic, from Bergen to New York.
Midgard: the world of men. Located midway between Asgard and Niflheim, Midgard is our Earth as conceived by the Norse. It's flat, of course.
Skald: usually translated as "court poet", this word refers to a man who has developed the skill of devising, without any written aids, the poetry of praise that is highly valued in a barbarian society. In addition to knowing the poetic forms themselves, the skald had to be familiar with the nobles he was praising and their situations, so much so that many skalds were retained by the nobility as advisors. The skaldic tradition lasted until Christianity displaced the old religion and literate clerics replaced the skalds as advisors to the nobility.
Vanir: the gods that embody the natural powers in the world. The Vanir appearing or mentioned in Freyja's Gift are Freyja and Njord. Associated with the sea and the winds, Njord was father to Freyja and her twin brother Frey. Freyja was the personification of fertility and love but was also associated with death and witchcraft.
Yggdrasill: the giant ash tree that comprises the axis of the Norse universe. The name is a kenning for Odin's gallows, a reference to the time when Odin hung himself on a tree for nine days and nights, a sacrifice of himself to himself, to obtain the power of the Runes.
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