Germanic Myths and Legends

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.

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

Note on the Schedule: The summer 2022 semester will include a one-week summer break which will fall on the week of June 20, 2022.

Course Schedule

Week 1 (Paul Peterson & Carl Anderson)

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

Week 2 (Nelson Goering)

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

Week 3 (Paul Peterson & Carl Edlund Anderson)

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

Week 4 (Carl Edlund Anderson & Paul Peterson)

  • The Saga of Hrolf Kraki
  • Sources for Norse Mythology

Week 5 (Carl Edlund Anderson)

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

Week 6 (Nelson Goering & Paul Peterson)

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

Week 7 (Carl Edlund Anderson & Paul Peterson)

  • Old Norse Religion
  • The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson


Week 8 (Carl Edlund Anderson & Paul Peterson)

  • Myths of the Prose Edda
  • Norse Gods and Goddesses

Week 9 (Nelson Goering & Paul Peterson)

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

Week 10 (Paul Peterson & Larry Swain)

  • The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok
  • The Nibelungendlied

Week 11 (Paul Peterson & Nelson Goering)

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

Week 12 (Larry Swain & Paul Peterson)

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

Required Texts

Where noted, the print and e-book translations linked are preferred and encouraged, but online alternatives in the public domain are also acceptable. The Amazon links are provided for convenience only, and we encourage students to purchase texts wherever they wish. 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.

Summer 2022Dr. Paul Peterson & Dr. Carl Edlund Anderson
Summer 2019Dr. Paul Peterson & Dr. Carl Edlund Anderson
Germanic Myths & Legends

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

START: May 2, 2022

DURATION: 12 Weeks

ID: LITC 5305