Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Neighborhood of the Gods, Part Three

Click here for Part Two.

Njarðargata (Njörð's Street) was named in 1919 for the father of Frey and Freya. Njörð is one of the Vanir, the tribe of Norse gods who are associated with fertility - as opposed to the more warlike Æsir. Njörð's home is Nóatún ("ship-enclosure"), but his street doesn't quite go down to Reykjavík's docks. It does, however, run by the airport, which is where Iceland's modern Vikings depart from.

Njarðargata (Njörð's Street)

In 1924, Mímisvegur (Mimir's Way) was named for the god etymologically linked to "memory." He is associated with the Well of Wisdom and advises Odin, even after being beheaded (thanks to magic herbs and incantations). Mímisvegur was meant to be a path for medical professors to travel between the hospital and the proposed site of the University of Iceland, but the school was built at a different location.

Mímisvegur (Mimir's Way)

Hnitbjörg, the Einar Jónsson Museum, lies at the corner of Freya's Street and Njörð's Street. Built between 1916 and 1923, it is named for the mountain where the giant Suttung hides the Mead of Poetry until Odin seduces his daughter and steals the intoxicating and inspirational drink. The museum's garden features the sculpture of Jónsson (1874-1954), much of which is based on Norse myth.

Hnitbjörg - Einar Jónsson Museum

Icelandic saga is closely tied to Norse myth, and streets named for its figures lie near the Neighborhood of the Gods. Egilsgata (Egill's Street) honors the protagonist of Egil's Saga, Egill Skallagrímsson. A brilliant warrior-poet and master of runes, he had a conflicted relationship with Odin, who inspired his poetry. Since 1913, the Egill Skallagrímsson Brewery has provided a different kind of inspiration.

Egilsgata (Egill's Street)

Njálsgata (Njál's Street) is named for the hero of The Saga of Burnt Njál, the longest of the Icelandic sagas. The tale features prophetic dreams, the appearance of fylgjur (protective spirits), dead heroes singing in burial mounds and visions of Valkyries choosing the slain as they weave "the web of the spear" on a loom strung with men's entrails weighted with severed heads.

Njálsgata (Njál's Street)

Eiríksgata (Erik's Street) is two streets over from Egill's Street. Erik the Red has his own saga; it tells of the Norse settlement of Greenland and exploration of Vínland in North America. It also features a detailed account of a ritual in which Þorbjörg Lítilvölva ("little seeress") predicts the future while sitting on a high-seat and wearing a blue cloak, a black lamb-skin hood and white cat-skin gloves.

Eiríksgata (Erik's Street)

Between Erik's Street and Egill's Street is Leifsgata (Leif's Street), named for Leif Erikson (son of Erik the Red). Both The Saga of Erik the Red and The Saga of the Greenlanders tell of his journey to North America. Although he is Christian, his expedition includes a follower of the Old Way named Thorhall, who crows at one point that "Redbeard [Thor] has got the better of your Christ! I have done this by my poetry which I made about Thor, in whom men trust."

Leifsgata (Leif's Street)

I'll conclude our walking tour of the Neighborhood of the Gods (and the Streets of the Sagas) at my favorite intersection - Karlagata (Karl's Street) and Snorrabraut (Snorri's Course). I was pleasantly surprised to find that a street with my name on it (spelled with a k, naturally) intersects one named for Snorri Sturluson, the author of the Edda. As a Norse mythologist, I'm definitely following Snorri's Course!

Intersection of Karl's Street and Snorri's Course


Sorn said...

Thanks for an enjoyable series. My wife and I are thinking of visiting Iceland this summer, and if we do, we'll be sure to visit the neighborhood.

Just finished voting for your blog at the bloggies, BTW. Good luck!

Alex said...

Hi! I am in a social media class in college, and we are all making blogs. Mine is about the supernatural and mythology. I am required to link to other similar blogs, and I've linked to you! I just wanted to let you know, and say that I enjoy your website!

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