Ellis Hilda Roderick - The road to hel

Author : Ellis Hilda Roderick A study of the conception of the dead in Old Norse literature
Title : The road to hel
Year : 1968

Link download : Ellis_Hilda_Roderick_-_The_road_to_hel.zip

Preface. In the literature of Old Scandinavia we meet with something unique in mediaeval Europe: a great and rich literature composed before the thirteenth century; clear incisive prose, and poetry whose stormy music can deal fittingly with the tales of gods and heroes; and a remarkable clarity of vision, showing itself in understanding of human strength and weakness and full awareness of the greatness of the issues involved. Comparison with the literature of Ancient Greece is not unfitting; the mingling of humour and tragedy in the Icelandic Sagas recalls the world of Homer while it foreshadows Shakesperian drama. But the appreciation of mighty issues in the lives of simple folk which we find in them is something as new as the perfect mastery of a narrative prose style; neither was to appear again in Europe for centuries. The religion of a people who could produce such a literature as this must be worthy of study, especially as we can see the results of northern heathenism developing until the end of the tenth century without interference either from Christian thought or from the Latin culture so closely bound up with it. The doors between Scandinavia and the East were still open when this literature came into being, and memories of a pre-Christian Celtic culture yet remained alive. It is a setting of another kind from that to which we have grown accustomed, that of Mediterranean influences impinging early on the Germanic world; and there are great riches awaiting the explorers of the realm of thought in that complex and vigorous age about which all too little is known. Of men’s attitude to life the literature tells us much, and we must recognise the strength amid sanity of it; how much can it tell us of their thoughts concerning death and the soul? This work is an attempt to begin the answer to this question, and if it can reveal something of the variety and richness of the lost religion of the North it will have served its purpose. Originally this book formed Part of a thesis accepted in 1940 for the degree of Ph.D. in the University of Cambridge. It was while holding a research studentship from Newnham College that I completed the greater part of the work, and my first acknowledgment must be to the College for the generous help it has provided. To Professor and Mrs. Chadwick I owe more than can be easily expressed: the discovery of both the inspiration and discipline of research, and unfailing help, both with practical advice and encouragement, the whole of the way. I would like also to thank Mr. and Mrs. J. M. de Navarro and Mr. G. N. Garmonsway for many suggestions and for their sympathetic interest; and Miss G. D. Willcock, who read the book in manuscript, and Miss Helen Brown, who read the proofs and assisted with the index, for their helpful criticism and support. Finally my thanks are due to the Syndics of the University Press for undertaking the publication of this book, despite the difficulties of war-time, and to its Staff for the courtesy and efficiency they have shown throughout. H. R. ELLIS December 1942. ...

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