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Teutonic Mythology by J. Grimm

First, a quick post stolen from Neil Gaiman's blog about a new housing development in Oregon. I am both amused and vaguely frightened.

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Earlier this week, as part of an ongoing project to prepare myself for the independent fiction novel I'm planning to write at the end of the year (once my other deadlines have gone away), I skimmed Teutonic Mythology by Jacob Grimm. I say skimmed because more than half of the book is in German, Old German, Anglo Saxon, Old Norse, and an assortment of other languages that Grimm uses to make a linguistic case for the relationships between Teutonic, Norse, Greek, and even Celtic mythologies. (And yes, Jacob Grimm is, I believe, the same Jacob Grimm of the famous Brothers.)

At any rate, here are the conclusions I came to about Teutonic Mythology :

1) Aside from Beowulf, which I am now compelled to read (no, I haven't, and I apologize to all the other English majors in the world), the Germanic groups didn't seem to have any particular sagas, creation myths, or cycles of their own. They've borrowed a good bit from the Norse and the Greeks. It's possible that the people doing the recording of the mythology (largely Tacitus, c. 56 - c. 117, from his Germania) projected these other mythologies onto the Germanic tribes. But the lack of any original cycles to me indicates that, by the time Tacitus started writing stuff down, a good bit of borrowed material had already made its way in.

2) The Germanic roots for words like temple are similar to the roots for forest, grove, or another group of trees. Grimm suggests that there was a general forest religion, based on the worship of an overgod, before there was a more solid mythology.

3) Aside from borrowed gods, goddesses, and heroes, the most interesting bits of Teutonic Mythology are the half-goddesses. These ladies of mythology seem to be far more important than their half-god counterparts. In some cases, they loom even larger than the goddesses themselves. Swan maidens, wise women, and other manner of powerful ladies seem to me to be fairly unique, and I'm curious about this. Not, unfortunately, curious enough to learn Old German, Old Norse, and all the other languages Grimm uses.


Unfortuantely, I didn't find what I was looking for--a story about the gods going under ground. So, K will be glad to know that I'll be sticking with Celic mythology for my project. Though she's also promised to have lots of insightful things to say about the gods going underground when I next see her, so perhaps I will change my mind.

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Currently rereading: The Fruits Basket manga series, because my brain was working too hard, and Tohru Honda makes everything better.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Nov. 30th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
thank you for your critique of the Grimm book.
I was all set to buy the Teutonic Mythology, but don't have the time to go through passages of German etc. So, I will browse through it at the Public Library.
alanajoli
Nov. 30th, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC)
Re: thank you for your critique of the Grimm book.
I'm so glad to have been of help! It really is a fascinating text, but one that requires better language skills than I have to appreciate thoroughly, I suspect. :) Getting a library copy is definitely a good idea.

Best of wishes on your project!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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