Book Review: Norse Mythological Dictionaries


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    I am aware of two Norse mythological dictionaries in English. The first is Dictionary of Norse Mythology by Rudolf Simek. It was originally published in German in 1984 and appeared in an English translation by Angela Hall in 1993, ISBN 0 85991 369 4. The publisher of the English translation is D. S. Brewer. 425 pages in length and in a usual-size format, this dictionary is extremely thorough. This work covers not only the relatively large corpus of Scandinavian materials, but also the much more sparse mythological remains from the other Germanic areas. The more lengthy entries have a bibliography at the end. There is also a very large bibliography at the end. Thus, it functions not only as a reference tool, but as a guide to in-depth reading. The price inside the dust jacket is 35 British Pounds, but I ordered it by mail 5 1/2 years ago for $20 US. I believe this was a special sale price.

     The Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend by Andy Orchard, published in 1997 by Cassell, ISBN 0 304 34520 2, is also excellent. Despite the title, it also has entries on terms from non-Norse areas of the Germanic world. It is a somewhat larger book in terms of page size, and very nearly gives the impression of being a coffee table book. It is very attractive and is illustrated, howbeit not lavishly, with black and white photos. However, it is only 223 pages in length. It also has bibliographical information after the individual entries, but these are coded and you have to look them up in the back. The cover price is $29.95 US.

     In studying the lore, we come in contact with a great many unfamiliar names, mostly in Old Norse. These dictionaries render one’s studies much more manageable. I recommend that you buy at least one of them!

     I suggest searching for these books online at Barnes & Noble or It may be worth your while to search as well; if Hamilton has either book, you can be assured of a great deal. While you are there, also search such subject terms as “Viking,” “Paganism,” “Runes,” and “mythology.” I built up a considerable proportion of my Heathen library via Edward R. Hamilton at very substantial savings!

       Please contact me with reviews of any other Norse/Germanic mythological dictionaries you may be aware of, be they in English or in other languages. If you are reading this on my web page, please email your review to me and I will post it as an appendix to this article. Please carbon-copy it to The Troth as well, marked “for Idunna.



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last modified 07/21/2003