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NESP Reviews


Dictionary of Northern Mythology
by Rudolf Simek

Review by Alfta Svanni Lothursdottir

      I have had this book for years and my copy is very well thumbed. In fact I foresee the time coming when I will have to buy another copy because I will have worn the one I now have out. For speakers of English there is no finer reference to the lore than Simek's dictionary. If you want to find out if something is in the lore, this book will tell you. Every entry lists the source in the lore where the information can be found. For instance if we look up Hliðskálf, the name of Othinn's throne, we find that references to it can be found in the prose introduction of Grímnismál and Skírnismál. Where applicable the Old Norse meaning of a word is given. When looking up Hárr, the name of one of the three gods in Gylfaginning whom Gylfi speaks to, we find that it comes from the Old Norse word hár, meaning "High" and thus is taken to mean "The High One." You will probably be surprised at just how many names and terms you will find in this 400+ page dictionary that you have never heard of, no matter what level of knowledge you have of the lore. For many entries he also includes a synopsis of the main scholarly theories concerning that entry. He is prone at times to state a theory as fact a little too often but most theories are clearly labeled as such and if one keeps to the part of the entry that is referenced from the lore, one will never be steered wrong.
       If you have any interest in the lore at all, this book belongs in your library. When a question in the lore comes up, if I don't know it already, this is the book I go to first. One should read the scholarly opinions with a critical eye, including Simek's own opinions but if it is in the lore this book will have an entry that explains it and tells you where it the lore it can be found.

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