An Interview with Noah Tetzner, creator of "The History of Vikings" podcast on his new study guide for The Poetic Edda
Noah Tetzner is a military historian interested in medieval warfare, but in particular the Viking period. He has created a wonderfully informative and popular podcast called The History of Vikings which explores everything from Ginnungagap to Ragnarok.
One of his great passions is the mythological poetry of the Old Norse world. He has just released a study guide to accompany the oldest and most famous collection of these poems, The Poetic Edda. His book is a masterwork of concision and clarity - and will be very helpful to anyone wanting to delve more deeply into this rich source of poetry for themselves.
Noah has been kind enough to answer a few of my questions...
How did you first become interested in Vikings and the Old Norse world?
I have always loved history but the Viking Age began to spark my interest around two years ago when I discovered the Old Norse Sagas and Eddas. I knew very little about Norse history and mythology but became enamoured with the literature via the YouTube Channel of Old Norse specialist Dr. Jackson Crawford.
What aspects of the Viking Age particularly interest you?
I have always considered myself an amateur military historian. However, when discussing the Viking Age, I would say that the daily life of the medieval Scandinavians is of more interest to me. The structure of Norse societies, oral traditions, and storytelling, and the relationships had by the Vikings with their gods.
You’ve produced a fantastically concise and elegant study guide to the Poetic Edda. Could you tell us a little about the Poetic Edda itself and explain where it comes from?
The Poetic Edda is a collection of stories and myths written down in the form of poems. The Edda is a key primary source for Norse mythology and it is where we get many of the Norse myths from. The poems encompass many exciting narratives including the destruction of the world at Ragnarok, Odin’s obsessive quest for wisdom, and the complicated love stories of Sigurth and Brynhild the Valkyrie.
Why have you chosen this collection of poems out of all the canon of Norse literature to focus on?
That is a very good question! In my humble opinion, The Poetic Edda is the most important primary source dealing with Norse mythology. The Norse gods and heroes appear in other works of Old Norse literature but the Poetic Edda encompasses such a large array of the myths. It’s an excellent place to begin exploring the Old Norse mythological worlds.
The Viking Age and an interest in the Old Norse world seem to have enjoyed something of a popular resurgence in the last few years. What do you think is so appealing about this world? And why now? Do you think it will last?!
Unlike many time periods in history, the Viking Age is something that we do not know a great deal about. In the minds of many, there is a sort of mysticism attached to the Vikings, their myths, traditions, and gods. There are timeless elements associated with the Old Norse world which, in my opinion, are attractive to people because of their simplicity and primal nature. The idea of telling stories and passing them on throughout the generations, preparing for the winter, honoring and loving one’s family - these are all simple concepts that mankind has practiced for thousands of years. As the world of technology continues to advance many people will search for something more simple and more natural. Because of this, history will continue to become more relevant and the history of the Viking Age will grow in popularity.
Who is your favourite character in the Viking Age - whether god, beast, man or woman! - and why?
My favourite character in the Viking Age is probably the Norse god Njord. He rules over the wind and sea and is called upon to aid seafarers and fishermen. Although we do not know much about him, I know that he must have been a god of great importance to the Vikings as the sea was their key to mobility, trade, fishing, and waging warfare.
You’ve created an extremely popular podcast in The History of Vikings with over 100,000 regular listeners. Could you describe how you’ve managed to get this project off the ground?
The History of Vikings Podcast has been one of my absolute joys since I first created it nine months ago. I would say that my passion for history and ability to spread the word about the podcast are the key elements to its rapid success.
What is next for you? More books? Other Viking related projects?
History is my soul passion in life and it has always been that way. I love doing things with history and have recently launched a second history podcast called Stories of the Second World War. I intend to release a third history podcast this summer of 2019 but apart from my dealings in the history podcasting world, I intend to keep writing. Perhaps I will write another study guide, to the Prose Edda or The Saga of the Volsungs. Stay tuned everyone!
We certainly will! Thanks so much for answering my questions, Noah. Good luck with the book!
You can get hold of a copy of The Poetic Edda: A Study Guide here:
Noah Tetzner is the host of a popular podcast called The History of Vikings. He is the author of a new book titled The Poetic Edda: A Study Guide which seeks to promote the timeless myths and legends of medieval Scandinavia. You can find him via Twitter and his website.