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Edda - From Ashes to Majestic

This post is twofold. Enjoy the photos, history, and Ainsley Bloomer’s article.

#1 - A short post with pictures about the new EDDA House by Sunna Furstenau.

#2 - A short article, “What Does the Word Edda Mean?” by IR member Ainsley Bloomer.

#1: Becky Byerly-Adams and I recently visited a majestic new building at the University of Iceland. This state-of-the-art building called Edda will feature research, storage of precious artifacts and ancient manuscripts, a library, classrooms for university students and post-doctorates, and more. The staff of the Árni Magnússon Institute and the Centre for Icelandic Studies will now work here.

Edda - the new Centre for Icelandic Studies and Árni Magnússon Institute

Árni Magnússon (1663-1730) was born in Iceland and lived much of his life in Denmark. He was a professor, librarian, translator, and scholar who collected antique manuscripts and was instrumental in the work of the 1703 Iceland Census and the Jarðabók (Land Register). During the ten years of this work, he collected books and manuscripts from the Icelandic people. His collection was the largest and most important for saving Icelandic documents, sagas, manuscripts, and more.

Norse mythology Óðinn and Sleipnir image from an Icelandic manuscript at the Árni Magnússon Institute.

A devastating 1728 fire left about 28% of Copenhagen in ashes, including the home of Árni. He and others saved some of the most precious and oldest vellums, skins, and manuscripts. Because a complete inventory of his holdings had not been taken, experts believe that many important documents and writings were lost in the ashes.

In 1971, after much negotiation, the first manuscripts, “The Codex Regius of the Poetic Edda” and “Flateyjarbok”, were returned to Iceland. The Poetic Edda is a vellum manuscript and an Icelandic National Treasure that dates from about 1270. It is known as the most important source of Norse mythology and Germanic legends.

Professor Guðrún Nordal has been the Director of the Árni Magnússon Institute since 2009. Guðrún and Research Professor and Head of the Folklore Department, Gísli Sigurðsson, gave us a wonderful tour of the new EDDA. They will be having their grand opening next month and I cannot wait to go back again.

Sunna IR# I525607 , Becky - # I534403, and Guðrún Nordal # I303934. August 2023
Gísli IR# I98369 and Becky # I534403 - They are 3rd cousins once removed

More 2023 photos are found below.

#2: What Does the Word Edda Mean?

By Ainsley Bloomer, Winnipeg

When I taught Old Norse Mythology, one of the questions people asked was: What does the word Edda mean? It’s a good question and to be honest, I really do not know, but scholars have many ideas about where the name Edda came from.

The Old Norse language declines. This means the form and spelling of a word can change in order to fit its grammatical content, yet the meaning of the word stays the same. The Scandinavian countries that spoke the Old Norse language evolved and changed over time, and the language declensions were dropped. Iceland was the exception, as the island was relatively isolated and the settlers who spoke the Old Norse tongue kept the declensions. Therefore, the language stayed relatively the same. Today the tongue is known as, Icelandic.

While researching the word Edda, there can be found a number of possible meanings and associations:

1. Edda may be a declension of the word amma or foremother, meaning grandmother, theorizing that these were tales from a grandmother or great-grandmother.

2. Edda may be a declension of the word Oddi, the proper name of the place/school where the writings were housed in the Oddi library.

3. Edda may be a declension of the Icelandic word kredda, meaning creed or superstition, theorizing that this is a book of ancient beliefs.

4. Edda may be a declension of the word ódr, meaning spirit, mind, poetry, theorizing that the word may reference Odin, the chief of the Old Norse Gods, (a spirit) who captured, drank, and shared the special mead of poetry.

5. Edda may be a declension of an abstract noun meaning poetics.

6. It has been suggested that Snorri may have invented the term Edda from the Latin word edo, meaning “I compose,” theorizing that Snorri named his manuscript as something he composed.

7. Edda: the book is named after a woman, as Edda is a proper name for a woman, and many Icelandic women are named Edda.

8. Edda may be possibly derived from the Latin word credo, meaning “I believe,” theorizing a documentation of the Old Norse beliefs.

9. Edda was applied to the collection of anonymous poems and prose stories, the Poetic Edda and Edda.

10. Birds are very prominent in Iceland and in the past manuscripts were given the names of birds. For example: the book of laws is called the Grágás or grey goose, another manuscript is called; Gullfjǫðr meaning: gold feather (possibly referring to a quill or the means of writing a manuscript), and the manuscript called; Hryggjar-stykki is named after a species of a duck. With this idea in mind, it may be that Edda was named from the word æðr, or a little eider duck.

11. Edda is name given to a publishing company.

12. And -- Edda is the name given to the new building shared by the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies and the Faculty of Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Iceland.

Edda Library
The Light, Angles, Spaces, and Overall Design make this building Majestic!
One cross section of the main floor of Edda

Sunna continues the story: "Imagine the effort Árni Magnússon spent collecting and preserving these precious vellums, skins, and artifacts and how the devastating fires of 1728, 1795, and again in 1807 created ashes of Copenhagen where they were held. Explaining with words and a few photos, the thoughtful design and beauty of the new EDDA house cannot be compared to the actual experience of being inside her walls.

Congratulations to everyone involved in making the majestic Edda a reality and preserving our shared Icelandic history for generations to come. Many thanks to Guðrún and Gísli for the fabulous tour. Becky and I appreciate your precious time and knowledge. Until next time -- við sjáumst! (I'll see you)

Sources and further reading:

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