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Teacher's Guide for CALLIOPE: Norse Gods

January 2003

Teacher guide prepared by: Gloria W. Lannom, a frequent contributor to CALLIOPE ®.


Let's begin by reading the editor's essay. What modern books draw on Old Norse culture? (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) Which important German opera composer was also inspired by Norse legends? (Wagner) For more information on these works, see page 46.

Imagine yourself in the fabled universe of the Norse gods. Look at the article titled "Welcome to Valhalla." What is Valhalla? (Odin's hall) What would you have to be in order to gain entrance to Valhalla (a fallen god or hero) Who would take you there? (The Valkyries) Who are they? (Odin's warrior goddesses)

Read the article titled "Who Were the Norse People?" The first sentence tells us that the Norse people descended from various Germanic tribes. Now, as you fill in the blanks in the sentences below, check out the places on the map to see how widespread Norse culture was.
The Angles and Saxons lived at the tip of the _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Peninsula in present-day _ _ _ _ _ _ _. (Jutland, Denmark)

The Suevi lived on the _ _ _ _ _ _ coast. (Baltic)

The _ _ _ _ _ were found along the V_ _ _ _ _ _ River in P_ _ _ _ _. (Goths, Vistula, Poland)

The Lombards settled along the _ _ _ _ River in _ _ _ _ _ _ _. (Elbe, Germany)

Then the Angles and Saxons moved west to _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (England); the Suevi and the Goths moved _ _ _ _ _ (south); and the Lombards moved further south to _ _ _ _ _ (Italy).

During the time called the Viking Age in the 9th and 10th centuries, Scandinavians moved west to _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (Ireland) and also to _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ in France (Normandy) and to islands including S_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _, O_ _ _ _ _ _, F_ _ _ _ _, and the I_ _ _ of M_ _. (Shetlands, Orkneys, Faroes, Isle of Man) Find these on the map. In 834, the Scandinavians moved to the continent of _ _ _ _ _ _. (Europe) The Swedes went east to _ _ _ _ _ _ (Russia). Late in the 9th century, settlers moved to _ _ _ _ _ _ _. (Iceland) The Vikings also reached A_ _ _ _ _ _ in the west, S_ _ _ _ in the south, and C_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ in the east. (America, Spain, Constantinople) What is the modern name for Constantinople? (Istanbul)
Name the year:
When was the term "Viking" first used? (about 800 A.D.)
What year did the Icelandic Assembly vote to adopt Christianity? (1000 A.D.)
Speaking of Iceland, what are Iceland's two great books, the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda? (Compilations of ancient Norse myths) When were they compiled? (13th century) Why are they so valuable? (They are the best way for us to know about ancient Norse myths.)

What are other sources of information about Norse beliefs? (rune stones, carvings, and archeological finds)

Who was Snorri Sturluson? (He wrote the Prose Edda in 1220 and he was also a politician.)

What is a sk'ˇld? (9th century court poet for a Norwegian king) In the article titled "Runes: Secrets, Magic, and Understanding," what is the literal meaning of the word "rune"? (secret or mystery) How do we use the word "runes"? (the alphabet used by Norse, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon tribes) When were runes first used? (1st century B.C.)

Look at the runes shown at the beginning of the article. Can you spot the main characteristic of each rune? The answer is on page 18. (The characters are mainly composed of straight lines.) Is that true of the letters in our alphabet? (No, our letters have both straight and curved lines.) How many characters are there in the runic alphabet? (24) How did Odin get the runes and why did he have only one eye? Read the story on pages 18 and 19.

Read the article titled "Yggdrasil, The Sacred Ash Tree," on pages 40 and 41. Look at the illustration and locate each place and object mentioned in the article.

As you have made your way through the pages of this issue of CALLIOPE ®, did you notice how many figures are dressed in armor, carrying weapons, and wearing helmets? What word can best describe the Norse gods? (warlike) What does this tell us about Norse mythology? (It reflected ancient Norse life and concerns.)

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