I hope you all had a lovely holiday – I certainly did! It was great to be home with family for Christmas, and the break zipped by.
Now that I am back on campus, I am experiencing my very first (and very cold!) January term. Only having one class is a new experience for me, but, so far, I’m having a wonderful time. It’s definitely busy – I was expecting slightly less work than a normal semester, but I find that with class every day, I actually have less free time! But it’s worth it, because I’m learning so many amazing things! Plus, it’s great to be back on campus with friends.
For my J-term class, I am taking Nordic Myths and Fairy Tales, which is a fascinating subject. During this first week, we have read and discussed Norse mythology, learning all about the gods and legendary creatures. My favorite story has been “The Theft of Idun’s Apples,” in which the Trickster King, Loki, steals the golden apples that give the gods their immortality. But I also enjoyed “The Lay of Thrym,” in which the great thunder god Thor dresses up like a lady goddess to win back his famous hammer. The Vikings definitely had a sense of humor.
But in addition to being immensely entertaining, the myths reveal just how complex and unique the Nordic belief system was. The Vikings believed the universe was composed of nine worlds, divided amongst three round, vertically stacked discs and connected by Yggdrasill, the Tree of Life. (Also a flaming rainbow bridge, which just sounds awesome.) The worlds were occupied by giants, sea serpents, dwarves, elves, gods, and a variety of other beasties, in addition to the human race. It’s definitely a lot to keep track of!
Yet as complex as the stories are, the morals they teach are relatable and relevant to people of all times and places. They impart universal pieces of wisdom, like “there’s no one so perfect that he has no shortcomings” and “to do good will make you glad.” Because of this, these centuries-old stories still speak to a modern audience, which I think is pretty amazing.
Our class also took a field trip to the Vesterheim museum in downtown Decorah yesterday, which is one of the coolest places I’ve visited during my time at Luther! The museum has tons of genuine Norwegian artwork, clothing, furniture, tools, and even a ship that sailed from Europe to the Chicago World’s Fair! Some of the most memorable artifacts I saw were chairs with children’s baby teeth pounded into the seat (to make sure the child’s new teeth grew in strong!) and some seriously enormous wedding crowns worn by Norwegian brides. Luther is so lucky to have such an amazing resource right in its back yard! The museum is pretty famous – it has been visited by Norwegian royalty and the creators of Disney’s Frozen. I forgot to bring my camera on the visit, but I will definitely be going back, so hopefully I can get some photos then. Until then, there are lots of pictures of the Vesterheim at their website, which you can visit by clicking here.
I have enjoyed my J-term very much so far, and I know that there are many other great opportunities for students during this month. Some of my first-year friends are taking dance workshops or Russian history classes, and others are travelling to Vienna with the Luther symphony! There is such flexibility at this time of year, and it’s a nice change of pace from the average semester.
And now, I must go finish reading some myths.