Dr. Rasma Lazda

GN 250

Germanic Mythology

Last update: 03/20/19

Spring 2019

TR 12:30 - 1:45, 110 B.B. Comer

Office hours:
220 B.B. Comer T 9:30 am - 10:30 am, R 8:30 am - 9:30 am, and by appointment.

Phone: (205) 348-6954
E-mail: rlazda@ua.edu

Prerequisite: None

Course webpage:

Course wiki:

Required Texts:
Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda. Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Jesse L. Byock. Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-140-44755-2
The Saga of the Volsungs. Translated with an Introduction, Notes and Glossary by Jesse L. Byock. Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-140-44738-5
John Lindow, Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-515382-8

Course Description
The Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda along other Old Icelandic sagas are the most important sources if we wish to learn more about old Germanic cosmology.  The ancient world with the central world tree Yggdrasil has an immense influence on popular culture up to today. From Wagner's Ring Cycle (Der Ring des Nibelungen) from the 19th century to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings from the first of half of the 20th century to the Vikings TV series and the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe today: References to old Germanic mythology is abundant in art, films, TV shows, video games, music and more. In the early 20th century, the Heinrich Himmler and the Nazis glorified a "Germanic past" with archetypes they idealized. They envisioned themselves as heroic warriors, a modern version of ancient gods, and it is no surprise that Neo-Nazi groups in return pick up symbols of Germanic mythology. In this course we will explore the original sources of Germanic mythology.

Key questions we will answer are: What is Germanic? What is Germanic Mythology? What is a myth? What is the function of a myth? The course will address a variety of aspects of Germanic mythology: From theories of myth to stories about Northern gods to modern reception and interpretations in history and popular culture - together we will explore aspects in a collaborative way. As a point of departure we will read the The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson and the Völsunga Saga. Student interests will guide further readings and explorations. Everything we learn in this course will be presented in a course wiki on Germanic mythology. We will be learning for and from each other. We will come to realize and understand the ongoing influence of Germanic mythology in our contemporary culture.

Learning Outcomes
The course will first focus on the stories about the Norse / Germanic gods and
heroes, their attributes, their accomplishments, and how they were perceived and worshiped. By analyzing the fascination with Germanic mythology today we will examine the function of myth and how it relates to human thought.

Students will

• learn about the world of the Germanic gods.

• gain an understanding of how myths may be transformed from generation to generation.

• recognize the presence of motifs and imagery from Germanic mythology in contemporary culture.

• realize the influence Germanic mythology had in more recent history and continues to have in popular culture.

• realize this influence on politics, warfare, literature, art, music, video games, but also on belief systems such as neopaganism.

• gain an understanding of how myths may be re-appropriated for political purposes.

• recognize and identify the importance of myth and myth making in everyday life.

• learn to discern critically between reliable and less reliable information for their collaborative projects.

• develop skills in collaborating with other students for a meaningful project for the here and now

• gain an understanding of how a wiki works.

• strengthen effective written and oral communication skills.




Test, Quizzes 20%
PowerPoint Presentation


Overall Course wiki Contributions




Final 20%


Participation and preparation count as 10 % of your grade. Be prepared when you come to class. I will check from time to time your reading comprehension with small mini-quizzes.
You will have an initial 28 points in your participation/preparation account. For every session you come prepared you receive participation/ preparation credit for that class session. For every session you miss, I will deduct one point. You cannot earn preparation/participation credit if you have not prepared your homework or if you are absent.

Attendance Policy
If you miss more than 20 % of class time, you will receive an automatic "F", regardless of the quality of your work. Regular attendance is essential.

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
THERE ARE NO MAKE-UPS for missed quizzes and other assignments. On rare occasions when absence is unavoidable due to serious illness or family emergency, I may require proof of your reason of absence before we discuss the possibility of make-up work.

Test / Midterm / Final

There will be one test, a midterm exam (two parts) and a take home final. The tests and the final will consist of two parts: a first section will have questions requiring short answers; the second section will be an essay question. The two tests will be based on the two main readings for the course.

Power Point Presentation
You will prepare a Power Point presentation of about 15-20 minutes in length. For your presentation you will choose a topic of interest that you will discuss with me and that has to be approved. We will discuss possible topics in class. Be ready to talk for about 20 minutes. You will be evaluated on content, delivery, and the presentation overall.
Here are some hints:

-You must cover the major content points.
-Follow a clear and logical outline.
-The information has to be researched, reliable, and correct.
-You may not simply read from the slides or slide notes.
-Slides should be a backdrop for your presentation.
-Make use of photos, illustrations, maps etc. in your slides.
-Make sure that your presentation does not contain any spelling or grammar errors.
-Rehearse your presentation.
I will provide you with a rubric so that you can see my criteria for grading your PowerPoint presentation.

Course wiki
We will work on a collaborative course wiki on PBworks. The course wiki will provide us with a variety of background information relating to Germanic mythology, such as languages, Old Norse, literary forms, cosmology, characters, places etc.

Guidelines for wiki entries

Follow the formatting of the sample article for the cow Audhumla.

1. You have to provide your references; web references alone are NOT acceptable, unless from a reliable source (museum web page, university web page, etc.) or game related. 
2. Your references have to follow MLA style.
3. When using sources and references, rephrase in your own words.
Exact quotes have to be indicated by quotation marks.
4. All information has to come from a reliable source (printed book, museum web page, university web page, etc.).
5. You may not simply cut and paste from an existing webpage; if doing so, you commit plagiarism.
6. Make use of the primary sources (Prose Edda, Saga of the Völsungs and/or others).
7. Provide at least one representative and appropriate quote from a primary source.
8. Add appropriate picture(s) unless not available.
9. Provide the source of the picture(s).
10. Make sure your entries are accurate - you have to verify your information.

Length of wiki entries - Categories

Very short entry. Example: Ratatosk.
Short entry. Example: Audhumla;
Medium size entry. Example: Baldr (?)
Long entry. Example: Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (?)




Possible Pts Pts
A Contribution (number and/or extent of edits) 0-10  
B Content (research, analysis and evaluation) 0-10  
C Writing and Resources (convention and MLA style) 0-10  
D Presentation (organization and appearance) 0-10  
E Collaboration (discussing and working together) 0-10  
  TOTAL 0-50  

You will be evaluated based on the above guidelines. You have to reference these sources. You may not simply copy and paste from other web pages. This constitutes plagiarism.

Evaluation of course wiki
Since this is a collaborative project, your grade will be based on your contribution to the completed project. In a first step you will assign yourself a grade (from a total of 50 points) by following a rubric. It is crucial that you are honest in grading yourself and others. I will then combine your grade with my grade according to the rubric. Your final grade will be most likely an average of the grades.

The Grading Scale is the standard +/- scale used by the university.

A+ 97-100 A 93-96 A- 90-92 B+ 87-89 B 83-86 B- 80-82
C+ 77-79 C 73-76 C- 70-72 D+ 67-69 D 63-66 D- 60-62
F 59 below          


The instructor will make every effort to follow the guidelines of this syllabus as listed; however, the instructor reserves the right to amend this document as the need arises. In such instances, the instructor will notify students in class and/or via email and will endeavor to provide reasonable time for students to adjust to any changes.


Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Code of Academic Conduct provided in the Online Catalog.

All students in attendance at The University of Alabama are expected to be honorable and to observe standards of conduct appropriate to a community of scholars. The University of Alabama expects from its students a higher standard of conduct than the minimum required to avoid discipline. At the beginning of each semester and on examinations and projects, the professor, department, or division may require that each student sign the following Academic Honor Pledge: “I promise or affirm that I will not at any time be involved with cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or misrepresentation while enrolled as a student at The University of Alabama. I have read the Academic Honor Code, which explains disciplinary procedure resulting from the aforementioned. I understand that violation of this code will result in penalties as severe as indefinite suspension from the University.”

See the the official Code of Academic Conduct for more information.


Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

If you are registered with the Office of Disability Services, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss any course accommodations that may be necessary.

If you have a disability, but have not contacted the Office of Disability Services (ODS), please contact ODS or visit 1000 Houser Hall (across Ferguson Center) to register for services. Please note: Students with disabilities must be registered with the Office of Disability Services before any accommodations may be provided.


Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

The safety and well-being of our students, employees and visitors is our highest priority at The University of Alabama. Please be familiar with UA’s severe weather guidelines and be prepared to quickly move to safety if severe weather occurs.
Some students and employees commute from adjacent counties. These counties may experience weather-related problems not encountered in Tuscaloosa. Individuals should take the necessary precautions to ensure personal safety. Whenever the National Weather Service issues a warning, people in the path of the storm (tornado or severe thunderstorm) should take immediate life-saving actions.

Personal safety should dictate the actions that students and employees take.

Remember, when severe weather strikes and the warning sirens sound:

If a tornado warning is issued for the campus, students, employees and visitors will be notified using the methods listed below. If you receive notification of a tornado warning through any of these methods, move to safety immediately.

UA issues emergency notifications using the following methods:

Additional information regarding the University’s Emergency Management Program is available at: https://ready.ua.edu/.


Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.


Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.


The UAct website provides an overview of The University's expectations regarding respect and civility.

Assignments listed on the syllabus are to be prepared for the day they are listed.

January 10

1. Introduction
What is myth? What is Germanic? What is Norse?

January 15
2. What is myth? What is Germanic? What is Norse?
: Tacitus, Germania
January 17

3. Read: John Lindow, Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs, 1-30.

January 22

4. Read: John Lindow, Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs, 30-45. Old Norse Online: Series Introduction.

January 24
5. Read: Edda, Introduction, p. IX-XXX; Old Norse Online: The Farmstead, Author Introduction, beginning of Reading and Textual Analysis.
Decide on topic for your Power Point Presentation.
January 29
6. Read: Edda, Introduction, p. 3-45.
Submit ONE entry to the course wiki.
Check out the MLA Overview and Workshop how to paraphrase and avoid plagiarism and how to cite correctly.
January 31

7. Read: Edda, p. 45-69 (with notes in back).
Submit to the course wiki either three very short, two short, one medium size or work on one long entry to the course wiki.

February 5
8. Read:Edda, p. 69-86 (with notes in back)
Submit to the course wiki either three very short, two short, one medium size or work on one long entry to the course wiki.
February 7

9. Read:Edda, p. 86-94 (with notes in back).

February 12
10. Read:Edda, p. 95-118 (with notes in back).
February 14

11. Read:Edda, p. 119-134.

February 19
12. PowerPoint:Paige
: Poetic Edda, Völuspá ("The Wise Woman's Prophecy")
February 21

13. Review for Test
Test Prose Edda
READ: Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies:
Culture; The Origins of the Icelanders; Old Norse Religion; Norse Discoveries.

February 26

14. Submit Midterm:
Either six very short, three short, two medium size or one
long entry to the course wiki.
Very short entry – Ratatosk
Short entry – Audhumla, Asgard
Medium size entry – Baldr
Long entry – probably twice the size of the 'Baldr' entry

PowerPoint:Shannon, Runestones 

February 28

15. NO midterm essay, BUT read all wiki entries and leave a short comment.

March 5
PowerPoint: Morgan, Christinization
Christina, Mjosfell

March 7
16. Read: Saga of the Volsungs, Introduction, p. 1-32.
PowerPoint:Sloane: The Figure of Odin
March 11-15
March 19

17. Read: Saga of the Volsungs, p. 35-50 (with notes in back).
PowerPoint: Kallen: Trickster Figure, Adrian: Wolves

March 21

18. Read: Saga of the Volsungs, p. 50-71 (with notes in back).
PowerPoint: Jacob: Thor; Alberto: Ring Cycle
March 26
19. Read: Saga of the Volsungs, p. 71-96 (with notes in back).
Dana: Women
March 28

20.  Read: Saga of the Volsungs, p. 96-109 (with notes in back).
PowerPoint: Megan: Germanic Languages
April 2
21. Movie Discussion
Die Nibelungen - Dark Kingdom; read review from the NY Times
April 4

22. Submit to the course wiki either three very short, two short, one medium size or work on one long entry to the course wiki.
Tommy, Third Reich and Germanic Mythology

April 9

23. Submit to the course wiki either three very short, two short, one medium size or work on one long entry to the course wiki.
April 11

24. Read: Campbell, Power of Myth
Jed: Modern Paganism

April 16
 25. Submit to the course wiki either three very short, two short, one medium size or work on one long entry to the course wiki.

Nick: Comparison with other Mythologies
April 18

26. Read: Csapo, Theories of Mythology

April 23
 27. Submit to the course wiki either three very short, two short, one medium size or work on one long entry to the course wiki.
April 25

28. SUBMIT questions for Final
10 questions  for FINAL (with answers) from your contributions (all entries should be represented); submit via email by beginning of class. I will post the questions at the latest by Friday 10 am.

April 29

FINAL - SUBMIT BY 10:30 AM Monday, April 29


Tacitus, Germania from the Medieval Sourcebook, Engl. translation.

Varusschlacht from the Museum und Park Kalkriese in Germany, information also in English. Excellent resource for the history of the Varus battle, Germanic tribes associated with the battle, and the myth Arminius - Hermann.

The Poetic Edda Engl. translation by Henry Adams Bellows (also Old Norse).

The Prose Edda online edition, based on 1916 edition

The Prose Edda edition from 1916

The Prose Edda translation from 1956, pdf file

Merseburg Incantations early Old High German incantations

Germanic Myths, Legends, and Sagas by Professor Ashliman, with several links.

Beowulf entire text (English).

Beowulf modern English translation.

North Mythology with an excellent overview, provides sources and references.

North Mythology with a genealogical chart of the principal gods and short articles, but lacking sources.

Museum of National Antiquities’ Vikings exhibition -Historiska Museet in Stockholm, with basic information and artifacts from the Viking period.

Runestones in Sweden Click on geographic location and find photos of Swedish runestones.

Runes and Pronunciation brief guide.

Old Norse Online from the Linguistics Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, for the serious student of Old Norse.

Iceland and Icelanders from the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavík; follow links and you will find excellent information on Iceland and its cultural history.

The Mosfell Archeological Project International research project to construct a comprehensive picture of human adaptation and environmental change in the Mosfell region of southwestern Iceland beginning in the Viking Age.

Jesse Byock's Viking Site from Professor Byock from the Department of Germanic Languages at UCLA.

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