Germanic Myths and Legends

Germanic Myths & Legends

This course puts the myths and legends of the medieval Germanic world in their wider cultural and historical contexts.

DURATION: 12 weeks
ID: LITC 5305

Disclaimer: The information on this page is provided as an overview. The course outline, readings, and assignments may be subject to change in the final syllabus as determined by the lecturer and/or preceptors.


Paul Peterson
Director of the Graduate School of Language and Literature; Lecturer; Preceptor
Carl Edlund Anderson
Carl Edlund Anderson
Lecturer; Preceptor
Nelson Goering
Nelson Goering
Lecturer; Preceptor
Larry Swain
Larry Swain
Board Member Faculty Representative; Lecturer; Preceptor

This course introduces the myths and heroic legends of the medieval Germanic world, ranging from Beowulf, the Eddas, the Nibelungenlied, the Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, the Saga of the Volsungs, and Waltharius. It focuses on this rich variety of literature by comparing texts from across the Germanic world that cover mythological and related legendary traditions within the textual culture of pagan and Christian medieval Europe. The readings are intentionally drawn from literary giants of medieval Germanic literature (in modern English translation), and the highlight of this course is depth in the traditional philological sense, rather than breadth. The lectures and discussions are intended to contextualize the wider cultural and historical contexts of the texts, including reflections of these works across a large time, space, and tradition.

Weekly Schedule

This course includes two live 90-minute lectures per week with one 60-minute discussion session as assigned.

Course Schedule

Week 1

  • Survey of the Literature of the Medieval Germanic World
  • The Germanic Speaking World to the 13th century

Week 2

  • Introduction to Old English Literature and the Place of Beowulf
  • Beowulf in Philology

Week 3

  • Beowulf and Tradition
  • The Anglo-Norse Scyldings and Skjöldungar

Week 4

  • The Saga of Hrolf Kraki
  • Sources for Norse Mythology

Week 5

  • Norse Cosmology: The Beginning of the World
  • Norse Cosmology: The End of the World

Week 6

  • The Poetic Edda and Norse Poetry
  • Old Norse Myths and Legends in the Poetic Edda

Week 7

  • Old Norse Religion
  • The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson

Week 8

  • Myths of the Prose Edda
  • Norse Gods and Goddesses

Week 9

  • Heroic Legends in the Eddas
  • The Saga of the Volsungs

Week 10

  • The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok
  • The Nibelungendlied

Week 11

  • Comparison of the Nibelungenlied with Other Traditions
  • Gothic Legends in Old Norse and Old English Literature

Week 12

  • Waltharius
  • Taking Stock of the Medieval Northern Mythic and Heroic Traditions

Required Texts

Students may use the print, e-book, or free online texts for most required texts. Where noted, the print and e-book translations linked are preferred and encouraged, but free online alternatives are also acceptable. Further required and suggested readings will be provided by the course instructors in the final syllabus.

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Germanic Myths and Legends
Fall 2019Dr. Paul Peterson & Dr. Carl Edlund Anderson