The Land of Song and Saga

If one will reflect for a moment on the deeper meaning of these few lines—and these are only eight out of several hundred of Hávamál—I think he will reject the Hollywood image of the Viking, our Scandinavian ancestor as a rather brawny but brainless savage, dressed in wolf or bearskins, wandering aimlessly and stupidly around looking for someone to run his spear into. I suggest, indeed, that these few lines—and I emphasize again that they represent only an infinitesimal portion of the complete poem—have an ethical, almost a religious message for us today, one that we in the second half of the twentieth century can take to heart and use to bring greater significance and purpose to our lives. I propose to return to this message a little later, but first let me explain how it came about that this and other great poems of our pagan ancestors happened to be preserved and handed down to posterity.

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