Noah Tetzner is the host of the widely popular podcast The History of Vikings and he joins us to discuss his newly released book entitled, The Poetic Edda: a study guide. As writers and Viking Age enthusiasts, Noah and I have a common love for all things Norse and I am glad to have him partake in the discussion below.
Noah Tetzner, thank you so much for spending time with us to talk about your podcast, The History of Vikings and your book, The Poetic Edda: A Study Guide. To allow our readers to get acquainted with your work, tell us more about yourself.
Most people know me as the host of a popular podcast called The History of Vikings. The podcast features conversations with scholars and historians about the Viking Age, Norse myth, and the history of medieval Scandinavia and Iceland. I have just released a new book titled The Poetic Edda: A Study Guide which is a no-nonsense, easy to understand, study guide to the most important source of Norse mythology.
Were you always a fan of Norse mythology? What would you say was the defining moment that ignited your passion for it?
I wasn’t always a fan of Norse mythology because I wasn’t always familiar with it. When I was in high school my literature teacher assigned The Saga of the Volsungs as reading for our class. I loved every minute of reading that book for the first time and it sparked my lifelong passion for Norse mythology.
What is it about Viking lore specifically that attracts you the most?
There are many timeless elements associated with Norse mythology which, in my opinion, are attractive to people (including myself) because of their simplicity and primal nature. The idea of telling stories and passing them on throughout generations, preparing for the winter, honoring and loving one’s family – these are all themes that occur throughout the Norse myths.
Some people study Norse mythology academically, others simply get the bug to dig into it just to know more for themselves. What is your academic background and how did it segue way into your passion for the Scandinavian medieval period?
History has always been my sole passion in life. I first started The History of Vikings as a result of this in 2018 when I was still in high school. The Saga of the Volsungs was only the start of my quest to read everything I could grasp about the Viking world. In addition to my own reading, I learned so much from the scholars I talk to on my podcast.
Writing a book is a length process which involves quite a bit of planning, drafting, and revising—much like creating content for a successful podcast such as yours. For you, what came first: establishing the podcast or the desire to write a book?
I knew I wanted to write a book shortly after I created my podcast. I love Norse mythology and had amassed an extensive collection of notes on The Poetic Edda from hosting my podcast. For me, writing a book was the result of everything I had learned through producing The History of Vikings.
Was the study guide a project you always knew you wanted to work on?
Shortly after I created my podcast, I began receiving emails from my listeners asking where to get started with reading the Norse myths. For those unfamiliar with Old Norse literature, The Poetic Edda may seem confusing and overwhelming. That’s when I decided to write a no-nonsense, easy to understand, study guide to the most important source of Norse mythology.
The Poetic Edda can be understood differently depending on the reader’s interpretation of the text and which translation they are reading. What does The Poetic Edda mean to you, and is there a particular translation you centered your book around?
The Poetic Edda is the most important source for Norse mythology. It’s a collection of Icelandic poems that tell of the Norse gods and their human heroes. While writing my study guide, I used the translations of Dr. Jackson Crawford and Dr. Carolyne Larrington. Both of these translations are excellent and I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with both Dr. Crawford and Dr. Larrington on The History of Vikings.
What are some of your favorite passages in the Eddas?
My favorite poem of The Poetic Edda is called Völuspá. It’s a poem that features the words of a seeress who can recall both the creation of the universe and the coming of Ragnarök.
Which audience would you say your book is destined for? Who did you have in mind when you wrote the study guide?
I wrote The Poetic Edda: A Study Guide for novice readers who are interested in learning more about Norse mythology. I hope that it acts as a companion to those seeking to read The Poetic Edda and understand the vast mythological world that it presents!
Is there anything readers should keep in mind while reading your book?
I would like to remind people that The Poetic Edda is a collection of myths and heroic stories written down in the form of poems. These stories and myths existed as oral tradition and are much older than the time in which they were written down. Because of this, there are dozens of characters to follow, family blood feuds, and other plotlines that end up running into one another. I hope my book helps people understand the storylines and poetry presented in The Poetic Edda.
About The History of Vikings Podcast: Looking back on 2019, which were some of your favorite guests to interview?
I have very much enjoyed speaking with Dr. Jackson Crawford (a translator of The Poetic Edda) on my podcast. His Old Norse YouTube channel has helped spark my interest in Norse mythology many years ago.
2020 is right around the corner: What can we expect from The History of Vikings Podcast in the new year, and can we look forward to a new book release in the coming months?
2020 is going be an exceptional year for The History of Vikings. I have already recorded interviews with some of the world’s leading Viking Age scholars and I can’t wait to release them on the podcast! Over the next few years, I would like to write another book about Norse mythology. Perhaps a study guide to The Saga of the Volsungs or another piece of Old Norse literature.
How can Viking enthusiasts order your book or listen to your podcast?
How can fans of your work best connect with you?
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview with Noah Tetzner and will consider giving The History of Vikings Podcast a listen. The Poetic Edda: a study guide is the perfect complement to the Eddas and will greatly be appreciated by the Vikings (and not-so-Vikings) in your life. I also hope that you will check out my YouTube video on my Go-To Norse content where I review Noah’s book.
Until then, stay curious.