German 2313 Northern Myths and Legends • • • • Welcome to German 2313! Northern Myths and Legends No Prerequisites Instructor: Dr. Charles A. Grair Office: FL 260 Charles.Grair@ttu.edu Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 12:00-2:00, and by appointment. • Full text of Syllabus, Course Plan, and Lecture notes are available online. Course Website: http://www.depts.ttu.edu/classic_modern/german/germ2313.php Johann Gottfried Herder 1744 - 1803 A major figure of German intellectual history, he influenced romantic age conceptions of culture and history. Champion of folk culture and folk literature. Jacob (1785-1863) Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm Interested in German history and cultural identity. They studied folk tales, sagas, mythology, and especially language and language history. What is a myth? • From the Greek word mythos, literally “utterance.” • Colloquially, myth often denotes a common, though untrue story. • Originally a traditional story of gods and goddesses in a cosmic setting in a remote past. • An oral phenomenon, often survives in several at times contradictory versions (esp. the case for Germanic myth). • Myth separate from religious beliefs and from ritual practices, though often closely connected • Myths represent a community’s distinctive view of the world, its values and its goals, things of collective importance. What is a Legend? • From a Latin root referring to collecting or reading. • Traditional stories of mortal heroes instead of divine figures. • Legends usually regarded as “history” by preliterate peoples, often have actual historical basis (though greatly fictionalized). • Legends celebrate people at the top of a society, such as heroes, kings, dynasties, and are usually linked with specific places and times. What is a folktale or a fairy tale? • Folktales generally refer to stories about common people, such as peasants and villagers. • Fantastic elements are common, but feature only lesser figures of popular imagination, witches, giants, trolls, elves, dwarfs, etc. • There is no historical basis to folk tales; the events are “timeless” and set in a land far far away and long long ago. • Folk tales represent a peasant perspective rather than the heroic perspective of legends or the cosmic perspective of myths. What is a saga? • Collections of long narratives about a particular individual, enterprise, locale, or family are often termed sagas. • A more precise definition refers to the prose tales composed in Iceland from 1150 to 1450 CE, based on traditional oral sources. • Many different kinds of sagas were written in Iceland, such as sagas of kings and saints, or of ancient heroes. • Icelandic family sagas are based on local history passed down from the Viking age. What can we learn from a myth? • Myths provide a basic foundation for religion. • Myths provide a context for cosmic and social order. • Myths reveal what is important or sacred in a society. • Myths provide continuity in belief and social stability, thus also a legal or constitutional function. • Myths provide the structure for rituals that define and maintain identity. • Myths thus help to guide behavior and give meaning to life. How can one interpret a myth? 1. Anthropological Perspective This approach examines the functions the myths play in the lives of people in a particular culture. In this context, myths reflect cultural beliefs. • What phenomena or events are explained in myths? • What values are promoted by myths? • What rituals celebrate or reenact myths? • What cultural beliefs are supported or justified by myths? 2. Psychological Perspective This approach focuses on myths as projections of the human psyche, as a way of speaking about the human condition in ways not otherwise possible. Sigmund Freud used Greek myths to describe the processes of the unconscious mind, as a way of dealing with instinctual drives by objectifying them. Carl Jung saw “archetypal” myths, universal characters and themes that recur in the mythologies of different peoples and that reflect ideal and timeless models of the human view of ourselves. 3. Theological Perspective This approach views a society’s myths as their struggle to comprehend the divine. Some theological scholars condemn all mythologies except their own as heretical or demonic, while others view each mythology as simply another facet of the revelation of the divine presence in the world. Comparative mythologists have traced images and attributes of ancient gods and goddesses that are still alive in contemporary religions. 4. Aesthetic Perspective This approach, common in older treatments of the myths, looks at the value of the myths for art and music. Because mythological figures represent the way a society imagines supreme power and perfection, these figures often represent normative standards of beauty. Classical mythology has been a recurring source for artistic inspiration from the Renaissance until the contemporary age. 5. Comparative Perspective Comparative mythologists analyze myths from different cultures and periods to discover the underlying similarities in mythological traditions. Joseph Campbell (e.g. The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949) stresses the formal, literary properties of myths, the fixed narrative patterns or structures that recur in many western myths. The danger in many such readings is the reductionist tendency to ignore the cultural specifics of a myth in order to reveal more general patterns, “mono-myths” or “meta-narratives.” What can myths tell us? Myth and folk stories, legends and sagas will allow us to see how these people viewed themselves, how they envisioned their society, their world and the cosmic order. Rather than reduce the stories into rigid patterns or universal archetypes, we will examine the myths to see what they reveal about the people who told these stories. • What can myths teach us about their culture and their world? • In what ways are their perspectives similar or dissimilar to our own views of the world? • What do they tell us about the worldview of their heroes? • What virtues or goals inspire them? What do they fear? • What details seem especially important to the poets and their audience? • And why? Where does Germanic mythology begin? Where did the Germans come from? The term “Indo-European” (or “Indo-Germanic”) is linguistic, and describes the languages that descend from a common tongue (Proto-Indo-European, or PIE). ProtoIndo-European probably originated around 4500 BCE in the steppe region between the Black and the Caspian seas. By 2500 BCE, this language had separated into various dialects that gave rise to a large number of daughter languages. PIE was an inflected language like Latin, Russian, and German. It was first postulated in 1786 by a British judge in India, Sir William Jones, who found systematic similarities between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. Pontic-Caspian Region Indo-European Reconstruction PIE has been reconstructed by comparative linguistics. A good example is the semantic field for a cart or wagon in which terms can be found in daughter languages: *kwekwlos is a reconstructed term that means disk, wagon, circle, or (English) wheel in various Indo-European languages. *rot-eh2- is another term with cognates in Old Indic and Avestan meaning chariot, and with cognates that mean “wheel” in Latin, Old Irish, Welsh, Old High German (Rad), and Lithuanian. Similar terms for axle, thill (harness pole), and “going by vehicle” suggest that PIE speakers bred horses, traveled by wagons and (probably) fought in chariots. Indo-European History PIE was spoken c. 4500 BCE in the Pontic-Caspian region by tribes sharing a linguistic unity with India (Vedic, Sanskrit), Persia, Greece, the Italic languages as well as the Celts, Slavs and Germans. Many IndoEuropean tribes and languages died out in antiquity (Hittite in Turkey, Tocharian in western China, etc.). The oldest texts in an Indo-European language are from Anatolia c. 1920 BCE. Hittite and related languages represent an early branch with few close relatives. The Indo-Iranian and Greek branches separated later; these tribes settled to the east and the west of the IndoEuropean “homeland.” Germanic groups were among the last branches to radiate from the steppe region. European Haplogroups Indo-European Mythology Some parallels between Germanic and Greek myths: • Well developed polytheistic system (Germanic less systematized than Greek mythology). • “Human-like” gods living as extended families ruled by a patriarchal male sky-god. • Competitive and individualistic gods, with ordinary human flaws. • Struggle with monstrous beings (Titans / Frost-Giants) for control of the earth. • Generally favorable attitude toward human affairs, desire prayers and sacrifices, but do not demand exclusive obedience. • Generally amoral, certainly not embodiments of goodness, morality, or transcendent justice. • Not omnipotent, but ruled by fate just as humans are; not eternal. Differences between Greek and Germanic myths: • Greek myths preserved in many written, highly literary works. Homer and Hesiod provided authoritative accounts of mythological figures. • Stable versions of the Greek myths thus preserved. • Germanic myths were rarely recorded in writing. • All Germanic myths were recorded in the Christian era, no longer part of an active belief system. • “Mixed feelings” of writers about past pagan mythology. • Transformation of myth from oral to written literature. • Much of the mythological lore of the Germanic tribes was lost. What makes German German? Germanic languages are distinguished from other IndoEuropean languages by the First, or Great Consonant Shift, which had probably occurred by 500 BCE. Jacob Grimm described the Sound Shift, now named Grimm’s Law. Sound Shift 1,2,3 Germanic and Latin (unshifted) cognates P >F T > TH K>H piscis / fish pater / father cornet / horn B > P D > T G > K lubricate / slippery (better examples in Slavic pairs) dentist / tooth Here, these consonants shift to grain / corn replace the ones “lost” in the first consonant shift. BH > B DH > D GH > G such aspirates (bh, dh, gh) in PIE died out in Latin and Greek as well, though in different ways, so there are no neat word pairs to illustrate this sound shift, though it can be illustrated with cognates from Sanskrit: bharâmi / bairan (OHG) to bear, carry Germanic Languages The Second Germanic Sound Shift separates High German from Low and North Germanic, probably already accomplished by 300 AD. Indo-European P–T–K B–D–G Gothic (first sound shift) F – TH – H (ch) P–T–K SC / SK Compare the following Triads of simple words from Latin, English, and German Hochdeutsch (second shift) V/F – D* – PF/FF* – Z/SS* – K/ch* SH duo – two – zwei tres – three – drei • Word Pairs with (unshifted) Low German and High German: that / das pepper / Pfeffer cake / Kuchen tide / Zeit deed / Tat •Germanic always accents first syllable, as in: Veróna > Bérn This practice led to a sloughing off of suffixes and endings in general, and led Germanic poetry to emphasize alliteration rather than end rhyme. Who are the other peoples in the North? • The Finns, members of a different linguistic group (the Asian Finno-Ugric family), lived in present-day Finland, parts of Sweden, and along the Baltic coast. • The Saami (Laplanders) are linguistically related to the Finns, but have a distinctly different cultural lifestyle. They are “indigenous” European tribes. • The Celts originally ranged over most of Western Europe, but by recorded history had been pushed to the margins of their territory, living in Ireland, Brittany in France, Cornwall and Wales in Britain. They had great interaction with Germanic peoples. • The Slavs inhabit large areas around the Baltic sea and throughout eastern Europe.