The Prose Edda begins with a euhemerized Prologue followed by three distinct books: Gylfaginning (consisting of around 20,000 words), Skáldskaparmál (around 50,000 words) and Háttatal (around 20,000 words). Seven manuscripts, dating from around 1300 to around 1600, have independent textual value. The purpose of the collection was to enable Icelandic poets and readers to understand the subtleties of alliterative verse, and to grasp the meaning behind the many kenningar (compounds) that were used in skaldic poetry.
The Prose Edda was originally referred to as simply the Edda, but was later called the Prose Edda to distinguish it from the Poetic Edda, a collection of anonymous poetry from earlier traditional sources compiled around the same time as the Prose Edda in 13th century Iceland. The Prose Edda is related to the Poetic Edda in that the Prose Edda cites various poems collected in the Poetic Edda as sources.