Following on from a recent post on the supposed existence of warrior women among the Vikings, here are three lectures by Professor Neil Price of the University of Aberdeen examining various aspects of the Medieval Scandinavian mind. The first presentation, The Children of Ash: Cosmology and the Viking Universe, is a good introduction to Norse mythology. It includes the most important figures and themes found in the sagas and pseudo-histories, most of which date from 13th century texts composed in Iceland (the Prose and Poetic Eddas).
Interestingly the lecture touches upon the question of the Trolls, an intriguing class of supernatural being found in Icelandic literature. They were almost certainly related to the Jötnar, the traditional rivals of the Scandinavian gods, a name commonly – and somewhat erroneously – translated as Giants in modern texts (in fact they bear a marked resemblance to the Fomhóraigh, the opponents of the euhemerised Tuatha Dé Danann in Irish legend). However the earliest descriptions of the trolls make them exclusively female, gifted in magic, and prone to violence and promiscuity. Their sexual intrigues extended to mortal men but not to the gods, some of whom, like Thor, devoted considerable energy to thrashing them. This marks the Trolls out from their folkloric successors, who became more solitary in nature and of both genders.
A good modern, scholarly examination of the “troll-wives” can be found in the 2005 compendium The Shadow Walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous, edited by Tom Shippey.