Germanic Legends, Myths and Sagas
Germanic myths have helped shape many of our modern myths and legends. Popular movies like The Lord of the Rings and Thor have roots in the old Germanic stories of the Völsunga saga, as do most modern fairy tales. Germanic myths have influenced everything from modern storytelling to Halloween costumes, enduring in the imaginations of creators hundreds of years after they were first told.
What Makes Up the Germanic World?
The Germanic world consists of people who speak Germanic languages, including English, German, Dutch, Norwegian, and Swedish, as well as older languages, dialects, and variants, like Scots, Anglo-Saxon, and Yiddish. The history of Germanic peoples can be traced back to 2000 B.C. They started in Denmark, northern Germany, and southern Scandanavia, and after the fall of Rome in the 5th century, they expanded into modern-day Italy, Spain, North Africa, and England.
Monuments of the Ancient Germanic World
The Dolmens in Denmark: This site shows graves and adornments from the pre-Christian Germanic culture. The Germanic people left many examples of these types of structures.
Runes From Scandinavia: See galleries of stone artwork and writings from Germanic history.
The Sigurd Portal: Wood carvings on the doorpost of a church in Norway tell the story of Sigurd from the Völsunga saga.
The Sigurd Runestone: This famous runestone found in Sweden shows the story of Sigurd and his battles against Fafnir and Regin.
Altars, Graves, and Other Stone Monuments From the Ancient Germanic World: Ancient Germanic peoples erected many stone monuments, examples of which still exist today.
Pre-Christian Germanic and Norse Gods
Balder: Son of Odin and Frigg and brother of Thor, he is most famous for his death, which started Ragnarok, the end of the world.
Frey: Twin brother of Freyja, he is the god of virility and prosperity.
Gefion: The goddess of plowing and the Danish island of Zeeland, she may have also been the inspiration for Grendel's mother in Beowulf.
Odin: One of the most highly revered gods in Germanic lore, he is the father of Thor and Balder and husband of Frigg. He is the god of wisdom, death, healing, the gallows, war, victory, poetry, sorcery, and the runic alphabet.
Ostara: Ostara was the Germanic goddess of spring and fertility; her name is where the word "Easter" comes from.
Rígsþula: The Lay of Rig: This is the story of how the first humans were created in Germanic myth.
Thor: Son of Odin, he is the god of thunder. Thor is one of the most popular Germanic gods in modern popular culture and wields a hammer called Mjolnir, which is powerful enough to destroy whole mountains in a single blow. The Thor of myth is much different from his on-screen counterpart; even his hair color was changed from red in mythology to blond in the recent movies.
While Viking Halloween costumes almost always include helmets with horns, it's unlikely that real Vikings ever wore them. That image came from works created in the 1800s by Scandinavian artists.
Vikings in the New World: Germanic explorers made it all the way to the Americas in the late 900s, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus set sail. They had settlements in Greenland, Iceland, and Newfoundland.
Viking Ships: Viking ships were renowned for being able to travel great distances and only required shallow water to maneuver. This allowed them to get into and out of ports quickly.
Viking Sea Travel and Conquest: Viking ships and technology allowed them to rule the sea. How they used this technology helped shape the face of the ancient world.
Nordic Myth: Take a look at the mythology that grew out of early Germanic stories and how it shaped the lives of the Vikings.
Norse Mythology: Norse mythology is one of the most famous parts of early Germanic history. Learning about the Norse pantheon is very important to understanding many Germanic stories.
The Vikings: The History Channel takes a look at the era of the Vikings here.
Who Were the Vikings? Many factors outside of the Germanic world helped change the way that Vikings interacted with other cultures.
Mythology and Legends
Encyclopedia Mythica, Edited by M. F. Lindemans: This site is a resource for information about mythologies around the world.
Fairy Mythology: Find a collection that tells the stories and myths of fairies, both from the ancient world and in modern mythology, on this site.
Folklore and Mythology: This resource includes many different stories from folklore and mythology, including Germanic myth.