Prose Edda

A Quote by Jónas Hallgrímsson on lafur the white poet, prose edda, earth, living, ancient, powerful, animated, and alive

On the other hand Ólafur the White Poet --- or whoever he was, the Icelander who wrote the Preface to the Prose Edda --- describes the beliefs of our ancestors in such eloquent and powerful terms that I cannot refrain from quoting them exactly as they stand in his book.

"They pondered and wondered what it meant," he says, "that the earth and the animals and birds had certain characteristics in common, though they were very unlike in form. To take one such characteristic: if you dig into the earth at the top of high hills, you come upon water without needing to delve down any farther than you do in low valleys. Similarly with animals and birds: the blood flows at no deeper level in their heads than in their feet.

"It is another characteristic of the earth that every year she produces plants and flowers which decay and die that same year. Similarly, animals and birds grow hair and feathers every year, then shed them.

"It is a third characteristic of the earth that when she is cut open or dug into, grass will grow on the soil that is turned upward. From this --- and from their interpretation of rocks and stones as being like the teeth and bones of animals --- they drew the conclusion that the earth was animated, was somehow alive, and they realized that she was incredibly ancient in terms of years and quintessentially powerful: she gave birth to all living things and reclaimed everything that died. Therefore they gave her a name and traced their origin to her."

 

Although we know today that the earth is not a living being in the sense that plants or animals are, and that her various parts are not interdependent (as are the muscular and circulatory systems of animals, or the roots and leaves of grasses and flowers), nevertheless the speculations of this ancient sage are so pleasing and vivid that no one should really make fun of them. In his day men had no inkling of the timeless forces that operate to regulate the motion of the heavenly bodies, and though they were actively engaged in mining metals from the depths of the earth, it had not occurred to anyone to investigate the various geological strata lying one on top of the other, or to distinguish between streams of water (whose movement obeys the law of gravity) and the blood of animals and sap of trees (whose flow is regulated by other laws).

Jónas Hallgrímsson

Source: On the Nature and Origin of the Earth. http://www.library.wisc.edu/etext/Jonas/Edli/Edli.html

Contributed by: Meenakshi

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