Norse mythology comprises the indigenous pre-Christian religion, beliefs and legends of the Scandinavian peoples, including those who settled on Iceland, where most of the written sources for Norse mythology were assembled.
Norse mythology is the best-preserved version of the older common Germanic paganism, which also includes the very closely related Anglo-Saxon mythology.
The Norse Gods are the mythological characters from stories shared by Northern Germanic tribes of the 9th century AD. These stories were passed down in the form of poetry until the 11th – 18th centuries when the Eddas and other medieval texts were written.
The Poetic Edda (also known as the Elder Edda) was committed to writing about 50 years after the Prose Edda. It contains 29 long poems, of which 11 deal with the Germanic deities, the rest with legendary heroes like Sigurd the Volsung (the Siegfried of the German version Nibelungenlied). Although scholars think it was transcribed later than the other Edda, the language and poetic forms involved in the tales appear to have been composed centuries earlier than their transcription.
Besides these sources, there are surviving legends in Scandinavian folklore. Some of these can be corroborated with legends appearing in other Germanic literatures e.g. the tale related in the Anglo-Saxon Battle of Finnsburgh and the many allusions to mythological tales in Deor. When several partial references and tellings survive, scholars can deduce the underlying tale. Additionally, there are hundreds of place names in Scandinavia named after the gods.
A few runic inscriptions, such as the Rök Runestone and the Kvinneby amulet, make references to the mythology. There are also several runestones and image stones that depict scenes from Norse mythology, such as Thor’s fishing trip, scenes depicting Sigurd (Sigfried) the dragon slayer, Odin and Sleipnir, Odin being devoured by Fenrir, and one of the surviving stones from the Hunnestad Monument appears to show Hyrrokkin riding to Baldr’s funeral.
In Denmark, one image stone depicts Loki with curled dandy-like mustaches and lips that are sewn together and the British Gosforth cross shows several mythological images. There are also smaller images, such as figurines depicting the god Odin (with one eye), Thor (with his hammer) and Freyr (with his enormous phallus).