Traces the history of one of the most prominent types of geographical myths of the North-West Atlantic Ocean: otherworlds of blessedness and immortality
This monograph traces the history of one of the most prominent types of geographical myths of the North-West Atlantic Ocean: transmarine otherworlds of blessedness and immortality. Taking the mythologization of the Viking Age discovery of North America in the earliest extant account of Vínland (‘Wine-Land’) and the Norse transmarine otherworlds of Hvítramannaland (‘The Land of White Men’) and the Ódáinsakr/Glæsisvellir (‘Field of the Not-Dead’/‘Shining Fields’) as its starting point, the book explores the historical entanglements of these imaginative places in a wider European context. It follows how these Norse otherworld myths adopt, adapt, and transform concepts from early Irish vernacular tradition and Medieval Latin geographical literature, and pursues their connection to the geographical mythology of classical antiquity. In doing so, it shows how myths as far distant in time and space as Homer’s Elysian Plain and the transmarine otherworlds of the Norse are connected by a continuous history of creative processes of adaptation and reinterpretation. Furthermore, viewing this material as a whole, the question arises as to whether the Norse mythologization of the North Atlantic might not only have accompanied the Norse westward expansion that led to the discovery of North America, but might even have been among the factors that induced it.
Chapter 1: North-Western Europe: Scandinavia, Ireland, and the Land of the Living
Chapter 2: The Classical Mediterranean: Rome, Greece, and the Islands of the Blessed
Chapter 3: Eastern Roots?
Chapter 4: Continuity, Interaction – and Westward Expansion?
Appendix: Beyond History